- One day of binging is unlikely to contribute to permanent weight gain.
- Eating foods with high levels of sodium and carbohydrates can increase your water weight temporarily.
- Snacking on high-fiber and high-protein foods can decrease the chances of binge eating later.
Directly after overeating, or binge eating, you may feel sluggish and your clothes can feel tighter. Light movement after eating can help you feel more comfortable and help digestion.
Many people wonder if one day of binge eating can lead to weight gain. This article will review how certain foods can temporarily increase your weight, and offers suggestions on how you can reduce the chances of a binge episode.
The Reason Weight is Higher After A Binge
There are many factors for a higher weight after binge eating. When you overeat, you eat more calories, but also you consume more sodium and carbohydrates.
The scale reflects what you have accumulated over that time frame: water weight, undigested food, and bulk waste that has yet to leave your intestines. A small percentage of that number is likely actual weight or fat gain.
Salty Food Increases Thirst and Water Weight
After an abrupt increase in salt or sodium intake, the body compensates by increasing thirst and fluid intake. Studies show that there is no increased urine output.
The extra fluid stays in the body to balance out the sodium intake. It takes several days for your body to regulate and shed the excess water weight.
Carbohydrate-Rich Food Leads to Water Weight Gain
Carbohydrate means that the carbon molecules are “hydrated” with water. These carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
When glycogen is stored in the muscles, 3 grams of water is stored for each gram of glycogen. Eating 300 grams of carbs would roughly convert to 900 grams of water (or about 2 pounds of water weight).
Undigested Food and Pending Bowel Movement
All food that enters the body must be digested, nutrients will be absorbed, and eliminated.
This process takes about 24 to 36 hours in a healthy individual incorporating adequate fiber. Some people need five days from the first bite to bowel movement.
If you weigh yourself within 24 hours of overeating, that number reflects your “processing” food.
Actual Weight Gain
The true value of actual weight gain is surprisingly low.
A small study on 15 healthy young males eating 6,000 calories for one day revealed a total weight gain of 1.87 pounds.
This calorie level is extremely difficult to do regularly. Remember, some of this weight gain would be water weight and some undigested food.
More concerning results from this study were the impaired ability to manage glucose and insulin levels after overeating for one day.
The researchers hypothesize that repeated binge eating can further impair glucose and insulin control, predisposing individuals to diabetes.
Tips to Prevent Binge Eating
Overeating occasionally can fit into a healthy lifestyle. You can manage a couple of higher-calorie days per month when paired with balanced eating and regular physical activity.
Here are some prevention strategies if you find yourself overeating regularly.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry
Many people will eat minimal calories or fast all day to allow themselves to indulge at a special event or holiday like Thanksgiving.
You may be so hungry by the time you start to eat that you eat more than normal.
Sitting down to eat while you feel ravenous leads to uncontrolled eating, also known as hyperphagia. This is the feeling of extreme, insatiable hunger.
Researchers think that repeated episodes of allowing yourself to get that hungry and overeating in response rewire your brain to continue this behavior and predisposes you to obesity.
Plan for High-Risk Situations
If you have an event or social setting where you will eat higher calorie, sodium, and carbohydrate foods, plan accordingly.
Try to eat two meals earlier in the day with lean protein and fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes.
These choices will provide nutritious and filling foods.
The fiber and protein in your digestive system will break down slowly, which will help stabilize blood glucose levels.
You will be less tempted to overeat as you are not arriving ravenous. Enjoy your favorite special event foods in moderation.
Focus on the Social Aspect
We often overeat with friends and family in social settings, compared to eating alone or with our daily tablemates.
This is known as the social facilitation of eating.
If you notice you overeat around certain people or in certain situations, take some time to evaluate why.
Then think about other aspects of that social setting you enjoy outside of food.
Prioritizing personal relationships can help you to prevent overeating. Focus on enjoying conversations and quality time with those people.
Savor the conversations and take your time enjoying the food.
When Binge Eating Becomes a Concern
Binge eating regularly has negative consequences physically and mentally.
Consuming more than your body needs will eventually lead to weight gain. Sometimes the term “binge eating” incorrectly describes occasional overeating with friends or overeating around the holidays.
By definition, binge eating is consuming significantly more calories in one sitting or meal, generally at the 1,500 to 3,000 calorie level.
This level of overeating is classified as an eating disorder when accompanied by a feeling of loss of control by the individual.
Other features that distinguish binge eating from overeating are as follows:
- This type of overeating is a recurrent behavior, usually at least once a week for three months.
- Eating faster than normal.
- Eating until uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts even when not hungry.
- Feelings of shame, disgust, or embarrassment after binge eating.
Someone struggling with repeated binge eating episodes will gain weight rapidly.
Frequent overeating negatively affects the way your body manages glucose and insulin levels.
This leads to metabolic disorders like diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hypertension.
Binge eating has a negative mental toll that requires professional counseling.
Binge eating may contribute to temporary weight gain if you eat high sodium foods, or foods rich in carbohydrates.
It is unlikely that a single binge will contribute to permanent changes in your weight.
You can learn strategies to help decrease the chances of a binge.
Choosing high fiber and high protein foods can help moderate your hunger levels, and focusing on socializing can decrease the chances of overeating.
Regardless if you struggle with overeating or binge eating, getting compassionate and practical help from experts is a great first step to gaining control of your eating.
A registered dietitian (RD) is a trained health professional who can facilitate nutrition changes to help you stop overeating.
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