A number of us have experienced it. After a weekend of indulgence, we step on the scale on Monday morning and find that we’re had a considerable weight increase. We then start to resent the choices we’ve made on the weekend and a swear that we’ll make better choices for the week coming.

However, is this really true weight gain? Are there other factors that could have lead to this weight increase?

Though it’s not 100 percent precise, the basic principle stands true: In order to gain weight, you’d have to eat 3,500 more calories than you typically eat and burn off to maintain your figure.

So let’s say you eat 2,000 calories per day on a normal day. You’d have to eat 3,500 additional calories, totaling 5,500 calories, to gain a single pound.

To get 3,500 more calories, you could eat your regular diet and then also have three glasses of wine (370 calories), two chicken wings (110 calories), some onion rings (340 calories), a portion of chips and queso (290 calories), one burger with the works (860 calories), and a slice of chocolate cake (795 calories). That’s a lot of food—and you haven’t even hit the mark yet!

There’s even more scientific evidence that it’s pretty hard to gain real weight after one day of overeating. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that although people often say they gain five to ten pounds over the holiday period, most people actually just gain one.  Fewer than 10 percent of the study participants actually gained more than five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

If this is true, what is actually accounting for that short-term change in the number on the scale? I took this experiment into my own hands to see how much my weight changed after a meal, a washroom movement, exercise, etc.

I weighed myself a number of times on the morning of July 28th. See the results below.

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7:00 AM: This is my weight after waking up. Note: prior to any eating or bathroom movements.
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7:20 AM: This is after having some coffee and emptying my bladder and having a ‘movement’. I was surprised to see how much that stuff weighs…
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8:00 AM: I had a breakfast of Greek yogurt and pecans. Actually surprised to see that only moved the scale up .2 lbs. Then again, it was a fairly low carb breakfast.
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11:00 AM: Just came back from a 10 K run and sweat ++. About 1.6 lbs of sweat, to be precise. I also haven’t eaten in 3 hours.
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11:30 PM. I showered, rehydrated and got ready for the day. I think it’s time for lunch…
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12:00 PM: My highest weight in the day! It was after I had a wrap for lunch with veggies and chickpeas (high in carbs vs my breakfast). I also continued to drink a lot of water.

 

     In just 5 hours, I watched my weight fluctuate 2.4 lbs!

It is physiologically impossible for this to be true weight gain. Let’s consider the factors that lead to this weight change, along with additional factors that can also influence a change on the scale:

  1. A sweat session
  2. A bowel movement
  3. A carb-heavy meal, which causes your body to hang on to more water than it would otherwise
  4. Water consumption
  5. Hormonal fluctuations
  6. Water retention/ bloating
  7. Certain medications, including steroids

The next time you see a dramatic jump in the scale, consider if any of these factors could be influencing that number. You also may want to ask yourself how reliable the scale really is as a tool to track weight/progress.  This article has a few more suggestions about how to track progress.

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