How did I lose weight by eating MORE and exercising LESS?
July 24, 2006 5:23 PM   Subscribe

How did I lose weight by eating MORE and exercising LESS?

I'm just been in hospital for a week [nothing serious, mind. I was only in for observation for something I turned out not to have at all -_-], and to my surprise I've gone and lost noticeable weight - approx 2inches from my torso alone. What's really perplexing me is, while I was in hospital I ate like a *pig*, like, at least three times what I usually eat at home. Plus I was bedridden for the whole week and *still* managed to drop the inches.

At home, meals looked like this:
Breakfast: 2 buttered toast, tea.
Lunch: Instant noodles.
Dinner: Can o' microwaveable stew or frozen pizza.
Snacks: 2 granola bars

In hospital, for seven days, my meals were thusly [this is what all patients were given. I cleared my plate at every meal]:
Breakfast: Bran cereal, 2 toast, marmalade tea.
Typical Lunch: Chicken breast/Shepard's pie/fish fillet, scoop o' mash, veg, gravy, dessert [anything from icecream to cheesecake to fruit salad to tart], 2 slices o' bread and butter, tea.
Typical Evening Tea: Mixed grill [2 rashers, 2 sausages, pudding, grilled tomato] OR beans on toast OR scrambled eggs on toast, 2 slices o' bread and butter and jam, tea.
Snacks: The possibility of THREE more teas/coffees throughout the day.

I should also add that I was on no werid medication other than the odd Paracetamol. I've a feeling the weight loss has something to do with complex carbohydrates or... something...

Anybody got any insight? It's rather obvious now that my "home" diet was... um, very bad indeed -_- I fully intend to use this "hospital diet" as a what-to-eat guide and since I've been home a few days, I haven't suddenly piled on the pounds. I have more energy [as much as can be expected after a week in hospital] and my hunger is on the strict schedule of 8am, 1pm, 6pm, like in the hospital.

Am I going to wake up one morning as Jabba the Hut though? I feel all the extra food from that week is going to amush me in the future. No, I'm not exercising now either. Yes, that amount of hospital food everyday seems piggish to me.
posted by Chorus to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Quite often disease fiddles with your metabolism. A high fever requires a huge number of calories to sustain.
posted by Riemann at 5:27 PM on July 24, 2006

Well, what are you in the hospital for? Whatever it is, it's obviously the source of calorie drain.
posted by cellphone at 5:27 PM on July 24, 2006

Sorry, misread the beginning.
posted by cellphone at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2006

My guess is water retention.
posted by cellphone at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2006

posted by mattbucher at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2006

It looks like your at-home diet has a lot of salt in it. You might just be retaining less water. Also, don't underestimate how many kilocalories are in that frozen pizza or those instant noodles...
posted by mr_roboto at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2006

I have no idea, although your previous diet *was* awful.

Maybe since you were recovering and completely bedridden, your body shifted into "utilize all possible nutrients now" mode? Once you're going about your daily routine, it might catch up with you.

Friends of mine have found that even brief walks can cut down on their weight immensely. Place them so you can't avoid them, though (like taking the subway one fewer stop than you need).
posted by ®@ at 5:30 PM on July 24, 2006

Your hospital diet did have more protien. There was a study that showed that it is high protien (not low carb) which helps people lose weight.
posted by jb at 5:33 PM on July 24, 2006

How much do you exercise when at home? It isn't uncommon for me or the marathoners I know to drop weight AFTER the marathon as training volume and calorie burning goes down and the body gets less greedy about holding onto calories. (At least I've always assumed that's the mechanism.)
posted by OmieWise at 5:35 PM on July 24, 2006

Also, do you drink much? A couple of beers a day can make a big difference.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:38 PM on July 24, 2006

My guess is that there's enough fat in your normal diet to feed a small island nation for a week. One brand of instant noodles for example I think have 30g of fat, which is more than enough for a whole. Pizza, oh my goodness, enormous fatty cheesy deposits yum.

Hospitals tend to serve cold toast, which means the butter doesn't soak in, and therefore you use less. Each of the meals served probably used a lower fat alternative (if your hospital had a nutritionist, which I suspect they would).

So my answer is, much less fat.
posted by b33j at 5:47 PM on July 24, 2006

Less fat does not mean weight loss if the total number of calories is the same or goes up (which does seem to be the case here).
posted by Riemann at 5:49 PM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Hmm.

- I never drink.
- Nope, not tapeworm.
- I don't take very much exercise... -_-. Okay fine, none. Shut up.
- I thought of the protein angle, but a slab o' cheesecake in the middle of the day for dessert? Three pats of 100% creamry butter a day? That doesn't sound right.

I personally wasn't ill, just in for observation and tests. No fever, enemas, vomiting, sweating...

Gotta love dietary mysteries. Maybe my body tasted "real" food for the first time in years and decided to reward me.
posted by Chorus at 5:49 PM on July 24, 2006

Your old diet was primarily carbohydrate, whereas the hospital's food was high in protein. With fewer carbohydrates, the body stores less energy as glycogen, and the body sheds the water that was previously holding the glycogen to your muscles. A change in diet of this sort, depending on your size, can result in 10-20 pounds of weight loss within the first week. (Ever hear about how much people lose on Atkin's the first few weeks? It's exactly because of this. Pity it's not fat.)

If you switch back to a high-carb diet, you'll see a sudden spike in your weight as more energy is stored as glycogen, and your body holds onto water in order to do so.

If you eat sensibly with the new diet, you may be able to lose that water weight "for good." You should be concerned that if you end up with more calorie intake than your old diet, you'll find that water weight has been replaced with fat (which takes quite a bit more time to appear and disappear than water).

posted by I EAT TAPAS at 5:50 PM on July 24, 2006

Is it possible to lose this much muscle mass from being bedridden for a week?
posted by lunalaguna at 6:14 PM on July 24, 2006

The exact same thing has happened to me on a few occasions (which was worrying, as my being very thin was a contributing factor in the lung collapses that put me in hospital).

My non-hospital diet isn't great (though I do eat, you know, actual real food ;-)) but unlike you the hospital rations, which were almost exactly the same as yours, were nowhere near enough and I had to have visitors bring me sandwiches and snacks for between meals... and I still lost weight. When I quizzed the doctors about it, they put it down to less carbs, more protein and more roughage, but also the possibility that the regularity of meals made a difference - ie, in hospital I wasn't going hungry for a couple of hours because I was too busy to eat, then stuffing my face later with quick fix high energy foods in order to 'catch up'.

(Dunno if that would apply in your case, though, since you hardly eat at all outside hospital.)
posted by jack_mo at 6:50 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

At home you load yourself with simple carbohydrates. This can cause blood sugar swings which boost your appetite once the carbs are digested.

In the hospital you ate a diet rich in complex carbohydrates which don't swing the blood sugar so much, and also tend to be packed with fiber which fills you up yet doesn't make you fat.

Fill yourself with fiber and complex carbs, plus some protein and not much fat, sugar or simple carbs. This provides nutrients, and satiety, without excess calories. Think veggies, fruit, soy, soy, soy, low fat cheese, low carb tortillas, beans, beans, beans, tuna, chicken, fruit, veggies, fruit, veggies, low fat yogurt and cottage cheese, etc.
posted by caddis at 7:06 PM on July 24, 2006

The hospital diet looks like it would be released into your bloodstream more gradually than your normal diet. The quicker release of your normal diet means blood sugar "spikes" that your body responds to by storing fat.

The fiber, vegetables, meats, and moderate fats likely had a lot to do with it.

See Glycemic Index for more information.
posted by concrete at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2006

Sorry, caddis, missed your comment on preview.
posted by concrete at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2006

My mother has a horrible diet. In a day, she'll eat nothing but a box of cookies (OR crackers OR mini donuts, OR a big mac, etc.) and a bowl of cereal. She gains weight fairly steadily. I keep telling her she should go on weight watchers to learn how to eat a balanced diet and lose weight, but she insists that she'll gain weight if she eats as much as weight watchers has its dieters eat.

The point she is missing is that a box of cookies (OR crackers OR a big mac) and a bowl of cereal don't seem like a lot of food in quantity, it is an absurd amount of calories, fats, sodium, etc. Yet, she doesn't think she eats much because she isn't eating meals.

I have a feeling that this is what is going on with you. Instant noodles, for instance, don't seem like much trouble. What could be wrong with it, right? Noodles+broth should = good-for-you food. But it doesn't. Instant noodles could possibly be what satan serves hell-goers for meals morning noon and night. Serioulsy, bad stuff. High sodium, really really high sodium, high fat. . . . did I mention sodium?

Canned stew or microwave pizza? Again, fat. Sodium. Granola bars? Fat. Sodium. Might as well be eating a hershey bar, only with less satisfaction.

Sounds like the hospital had you on a balanced diet, probably made with mostly real ingredients. Your sodium and fat intake probably dropped in dramatic amounts. Even though you ate more, you probably consumed less sodium, fat. chemicals and calories. That is why you lost weight.
posted by necessitas at 7:30 PM on July 24, 2006

They obviously hypnotized you, and made you think you were eating, while instead your body was starving itself to death.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:34 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just eating a regular diet (3 squares a day) can help you lose weight, even if it adds up to more food. I did that for a while and it worked. Once I started eating irregularly again, I gained the weight back.
posted by BradNelson at 9:45 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

lunalaguna: muscle mass loss couldn't take weight off two inches off of a waist. For how heavy it is, muscle tends to be rather small (and is a reasonably small fraction of one's body mass, dwarved by bone and water).

The rest: this isn't less fat. On the average man, two inches off the waist is ~20 pounds. Nobody can lose 20 pounds of fat in a week, period -- that's cutting back 10,000 calories a day. Come on, people.

The only other thing, assumed that they didn't sneak him into the operating room and remove a tumor in his belly and/or a number of ribs, is water weight, which is primarily controlled with carbohydrate intake (although agreed that changes in sodium may affect that as well).
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 7:17 AM on July 25, 2006

Besides the more protein and less fat/salt that others have suggested - the hospital food may have had less transfats - IE, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and the like.

Not to mention less hyperdense refined carbs like sugars and high fructose corn syrups.
posted by loquacious at 7:46 AM on July 25, 2006

I EAT TAPAS is correct here, the only way you can lose that much in that short an amount of time is water rentention. You simply can't burn that much fat or muscle that quickly (particularly without exercise). The reasons why your change in diet caused the water loss have been well described in this thread already.
posted by shelleycat at 7:18 PM on July 25, 2006

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