Have you ever had one of those weekends? You’re running errands and you get hungry so you run through the drive through for fries. You smell the pretzels or the cookies while shopping at the mall, and you have to have one. You’re watching the game with your pals eating chips and drinking too many sodas, beers or wine. You have a great weekend.
And then you step on a scale.
Why is it that it is so easy for us to gain weight and SO hard to lose it? Putting on weight is no problem for most of us but losing it is a huge struggle. How can we gain several pounds in one short weekend of poor food choices? And how come if we balance that off with two days of healthy eating and exercise, we are never back at our starting weight? Why does it seem to take more work to lose the same two or three pounds than it did to gain it?
Well, one big reason it is easier to gain weight than to lose it is because eating more is easy. Adding 200 calories to your daily food intake is no big deal, but take away 200 calories and you might feel hungry and cranky. Food is good, and junk food is especially inviting and convenient, and many of us are not really aware of how many calories are in those little indulgences. There are many stumbling blocks out there- convenience stores, fast food restaurants, those kiosks in the mall, and even the grocery stores can all have calorie-laden choices.
A second reason that it is difficult to work off our weekend indulgences is reflected in a study conducted by Dr. Jules Hirsch at Rockefeller University. He found that our bodies slow down their caloric burn rate after we’ve been losing weight. We actually have to eat less to keep from gaining weight. If you go back to eating the way you did before you lost weight, you may gain more back than you started with- even though you are not consuming any more calories. It doesn’t seem fair, but that is the way our bodies are made.
Gaining weight is a survival mechanism. As people evolved we had to endure lengths of time with unreliable food sources. Our bodies became very good at storing and keeping fat that would be needed for energy when there was nothing to eat. When you’ve been reducing your fat stores by losing weight, your body worries that there might not be food coming, and so when you have a wild weekend, it is eager to store up fat, just in case there’s another famine.
Another aspect of your weekend weight gain might be water weight. Salt and carbohydrates can make your body hold onto water. So if your favorite weekend indulgence is a bag of potato chips, guess what? You could be retaining water, and that will show up on your scale. Many of us get discouraged by our water weight gain, but keep in mind it can take several days to lose water weight.
Bottom line – losing weight is much harder because it is work. You have to work on your diet, work on your exercise and work on your lifestyle! Try not to go hog wild every weekend so your body doesn’t grab back those pounds, and you don’t have to work so much harder to lose what you have already lost once.
photo credit Niklas Bildhauer