I used to weigh myself daily, sometimes multiple times a day (why?!). I do think a scale can be a useful tool to track trends and motivate someone with a goal to lose more than a pound or two. I don’t think that all scales need to be banished from society as they have a place in the weight loss world for those looking to get healthier. But if you’re healthy and happy at the weight you are, a scale will likely cause more frustration than cheer. The only time I weigh myself now is at the doctor’s office. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my goal is to feel good in my body and in my clothes, and a number can’t tell me that.
As I have made peace with my body over time, I realized that the number on the scale discouraged me more than it helped. Stepping on a scale after a vacation was one of those times. I have overheard folks report back from a week-long vacation, “I gained 10 pounds on my trip to Italy!” I want to tell them to weight it out.
I’ve learned that it takes about 2 days into a vacation of eating more than I usually do, in both portion size and richer foods and alcohol, to notice that my body feels different. And upon my return it takes me about 4 to 5 days to feel normal again. Most of this extra weight is in the form of water. Remember that to gain a pound of fat you have to eat 3,500 calories more than your body needs to burn to function.
Consider a vacation to a big city where you might walk five miles a day sightseeing, visit a hip new fitness studio once during the week, and go for one run while you’re there. You are likely burning 2,200+ calories per day. That means you’d have to eat 2,200 PLUS 500 calories more every day to average a single one-pound weight gain on your trip.
If you came home from your Thanksgiving trip five pounds heavier on the scale, you likely didn’t eat 17,500 calories above maintenance in a week – that would be an average of about 4,850 calories per day! Now I know I’ve probably come close to eating that number in one day before, but not seven days in a row. I find that my body usually wants to eat less the day after I eat a lot. #balance
The reason for the five pound “gain” is water weight. Not only do certain rich foods leave you retaining water, but you also have the physical weight of the excess food traveling through your system for at least 48 hours or so. Kind of gross, but it’s in there!
Once you’re home, just slip back into your healthy routine (you’ll probably want to!), stock the fridge with fresh produce, and wait it out. Do not weigh yourself. Wear your stretchy pants (so as not to get discouraged by tight jeans) and see how you feel a few days later. I bet the jeans fit perfectly. I used to feel more self conscious about my post-vacation bloat, but then I realized that no one else can tell. It’s more about how you feel than how you look. And the squiggly line effect will take care of the rest.
So relax during Christmas. Knowing the math and how my body operates helps me truly embrace the holiday (note I didn’t say holiday season – that’s a formula for a few extra pounds for sure!). Remember that just a few days of healthy eating is all it takes to counteract a few days of overeating.