A healthy weight loss plan involves eating nutritious, low-calorie foods while burning calories through physical activity. If we burn more calories than we eat, we’ll lose weight. But nobody’s perfect, right?
A vacation, holiday, coorporate event, or unexpected illness can derail our weight loss plans in a hurry. We overeat and don’t get enough exercise—but we tell ourselves it’s temporary and we’ll be back on track soon. However, a new study suggests that even if we get back on track, temporary binges and weight gain could have long term effects on our weight loss goals and body composition.
A Swedish research team studied 18 normal-weight people who were asked to increase their caloric intake and decrease their physical activity. For one month, the subjects consumed 70% more calories than normal and limited their activity to fewer than 5,000 steps per day. A control group that did not change their diet or activity habits was also monitored.
After one month, the overeaters gained an average of 14 pounds. Their body fat percentage increased from an average 20% to about 24% of their total body weight. The participants were then allowed to resume their normal habits. After six months, most of the excess weight had been lost.
However, researchers noted that even when weight was lost, body fat percentage remained elevated. Subjects retained an average three pounds of extra body fat one year after the feasting ended. More than two years later, participants had actually gained an average of four pounds of fat. The control group saw no long-term change in weight or body composition.