The Morning After Diet

food diet

You pigged out. You gained weight. Here’s how you undo the damage and make sure those pounds don’t become permanent.

One huge meal can wipe out weeks of eating sensibly. Who hasn’t gone on a food bender (someone had to finish your son’s birthday cake), only to wake up the next morning a couple of pounds heavier?

But one binge won’t automatically turn you into a blimp. Many people go overboard one day, and then assume they’re hopeless and just give up trying to eat well. So don’t waste time berating yourself the morning after a binge. The smart thing is to get your diet – and your mental outlook – back on track.

Weighing the damage

After a meal your body digests the food, then stores any calories it doesn’t immediately need. There’s no saturation point at which the body decides it has enough calories. Instead it stockpiles as many carbohydrate and protein calories as possible (the body has limited space for these), and then converts the rest into fat and stores them along with any fat calories you consumed that weren’t used for fuel. Unfortunately, there is always room for more: fat cells are capable of expanding and during certain periods in your life such as pregnancy, can divide themselves to create more storage space.

Even so, we probably overestimate the consequences of a day of debauchery. Keep in mind this equation: one pound equals 3,500 calories. That means you’d have to down two doughnuts, two slices of pizza, two cups of fettuccine Alfredo, a Caesar salad, and a piece of chocolate cake with a cup of premium ice-cream – in addition to what you normally eat in a day – to gain a pound of body fat.

You can weigh 2 -4 pounds more the morning after a binge even without eating all that. A good portion of this extra weight is water. When you eat more than usual, you inevitably consume more sodium, which causes water retention. Also, a binge is often made up primarily of carbohydrate calories, which are converted to glycogen or fat for storage. And every ounce of glycogen in the body is packed with three ounces of water (which is why you lose pounds at the beginning of a diet: deprived of incoming calories, the body turns to its glycogen stores for fuel, which causes the accompanying water to be released).

Certainly it is possible to put on real (not just water) weight after a single day’s overeating. And what you binge on affects how much you’ll gain.

Losing the evidence

Some people will effortlessly shed the extra pound or two the next day, and some people won’t, as genetic factors are partly responsible.

For those who don’t lose weight automatically, fasting or drastically cutting calories after a binge often backfires. Its when you really restrict your eating that cravings set in and lead to binging.

Even worse, “if you get into a continuous cycle of bingeing and strict dieting, your body will become more efficient at conserving energy by slowing down your metabolism”. This makes it even harder to lose weight.

Eating less than 1200 calories a day may also jeopardize your nutritional well being. What should you do?

  • Cut back on calories wisely. You don’t have to make up for your binge in 24 hrs. if you cut down 200 calories a day for 5 days, that’s a thousand calories, and you won’t even miss them.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. It might seem silly to do this if you’re retaining water, but water actually causes body to process and release waste fluids. Avoid temptation to drink juice instead: its carbohydrate content can start the water-retention cycle all over again.
  • Exercise: you’ll sweat off some water weight, but ore important, your body will have to tap into glycogen stores for fuel.
  • Get an attitude adjustment. It’s important to keep a binge in perspective. The best thing you can do after an eating spree is to get back to normal routine right away which will reinforce that the pig-out was a fluke and make it less likely for you to binge again.