As a health coach, I am often the barer of bad news.
Letting people know what an actual serving of nuts or nut butter is, informing them on alcohol’s effect on fat metabolism or helping them realize that their morning Starbucks drink is basically another meal’s worth of calories.
So when I get to be the barer of good news, it’s pretty exciting!
One “cheat meal” or day of extra holiday “treats” doesn’t effect you as much as you think.
Let’s go through an example.
Meet Sara. Let’s say she’s 35, 5’8 and 160 lbs. She does 1-2 workouts per week and gets about 6-7,000 steps per day.
I would estimate her maintenance calories to be about 2,000. (Meaning she would maintain her weight of 160 if she averages 2,000 most of the time.)
Let’s say Sara has a day where she has a holiday lunch out with friends, goes out to dinner with her husband and comes home and has sugar cookies with her kids. This day she ends up eating 4,000 calories.
This is 2,000 calories over her maintenance. Keep in mind there are 3,500 calories in a pound. If the body were an exact science machine she would “gain” 0.57 lbs. the next morning. (Often after a day like that the body is up more than 0.57 lbs. and I’ll explain why below.)
Let’s say the next day Sara has more holiday events and eats 3,500 calories. 1,500 over her maintenance. Now, from those two days, she has finally eaten enough over her maintenance calories to gain the equivalent of 1 pounds.
But the scale is up 4 pounds and Sara is bummed.
Why did Sara gain 4 lbs, not 1 lb? Possible reasons:
- Extra weight of the food itself in her digestive system
- Extra water storage due to salt
- Extra water storage due to carbohydrate
- Extra storage due to (a small) amount of fat
If Sara goes back to eating 2,000 calories the next few days, here’s what will likely happen:
- Sara’s body will get rid of the extra food weight in her digestive system
- Sara’s body will get rid of the extra water storage from salt and carbohydrates
- Her body will slightly increase her metabolism because it loves homeostasis and actively tries to maintain a normal weight range for her
If Sara freaks out and eats 800 calories for the next few days, here’s what will likely happen:
- Sara’s body might get constipated because there’s not a lot of food volume to keep digestion regular
- Sara’s body might go from high salt and carbohydrate to low salt and carbohydrate causing the body to continue to retain water
- Sara’s body might hold onto fat because of the inconsistent supply of food
- Sara’s body might hold onto fat because she feels lethargic and tired eating 800 calories and doesn’t have the energy to be active or fuel a good workout
- Sara feel super restricted and hunger after 1-3 days and compensates by making her crave anything and everything so that she way overeats and then repeats this cycle
Stop the madness.
If you eat extra calories for a few days, your body can handle it and it won’t effect you very much in the long run. You just need to stay away from the scale and not freak out that your body is holding onto excess weight (that is likely not fat).
The thing that leads to problems is when you eat a little extra, then over restrict, then overeat because you were restricted, then restrict and the cycle continues forever.
Did this help you? Do you understand the science behind weight a little more now? Let me know in the comments below!