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Short-Term Slip-Ups Could Lead to Long-Term Problems

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Iím sure many people can relate to this scenario: Youíre doing great with eating healthy and exercising regularly, and youíre steadily working toward your weight loss goals. Then your week-long tropical vacation arrives, and suddenly all of those newly formed habits are out the window. The most exercise you get all week is walking from your lounge chair to the refrigerator for another drink, and snacks and fried foods are a daily part of the menu. You arrive home a few pounds heavier than when the week began, but you figure its all part of the process. It takes some time, but eventually you get back on track and begin again. A new study says it might not be that simple, because short-term lapses of overeating could make long-term weight loss more difficult.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, looked at 12 men and 6 women in their 20ís who were a normal, healthy weight. For one month, participants were restricted to no more than 5,000 steps per day and increased their calorie intake by 70 percent (eating an average of 5,750 calories per day.) Another group made no changes to their diet or exercise routines.

At the end of the month, participants had gained an average of 14 pounds and 4% body fat. Over the next six months, participants lost most of that weight, but a year later, they still had a noticeable gain in fat mass. This means that some of the fat stuck around even though they lost weight and returned to their pre-study healthy routines. Two-and-a-half years later, fat mass gains were even greater (an average of 7 pounds) for study participants, but there was no change in the control groupís body composition.

"Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that a brief period of excessive over-eating, coupled with reined-in activity, may change body composition and lead to a significant boost in body fat levels. And these changes appear to endure, despite a return to healthier behaviors." Although this study was extreme, since most people wonít become sedentary and increase their calorie intake by 70% for a month at a time, the results are interesting. It adds validity to the theory that yo-yo dieting can make weight loss more difficult in the long run.

What do you think?

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Maybe MOST people won't decrease activity and increase calories over a 30 day period, but what about pregnancy! Most women I know have be trying to lose that "baby fat" for years post pregnancy. Fortunately, today's moms-to-be are pretty wise and get more exercise than yesterday's moms, but they do increase their calories by a bunch, which yesterday's moms didn't do. Wonder how today's moms will fare 20 years from now. 8-) Report
12 men and 6 women is not NEARLY a large enough sample size for this to be a valid study. Even if there were a large enough sample size, the entire premise of this study is entirely correlative and the results could have any number of explanations.

Edit: PLUS they only used 20 somethings at a healthy weight, which means any results gained from this can only be extended to other 20 somethings at a healthy weight. Not to mention, by this same logic, a month long exercise and healthy eating bender should also change your body composite for the long run, if that's just how your body works. Report
Sorry, but I have a very difficult time believing that occasional slip-ups for a day or two, or even a week by themselves will have any lasting effects. The only danger to slip ups is when we start having them more frequently and for longer periods of time. Then the effects can be long lasting. When I take a vacation, I take a vacation from the diet too. I DON'T count my calories and I DON'T force myself to work out unless I want to, and I eat whatever I want. I do however try to be mindful not to overindulge too much. When I went on my last vacation, I did eat steak, burgers, fries, and some other fried food, but I mostly tried to make better choices like opting for fish, poultry, and lean pork instead of beef, and while I did not follow my exercise routine, I was more active simply being on vacation and not chained to a desk all day. I also did some hiking. I actually lost a couple of pounds on vacation without even trying!

To the person who weighed more right after vacation: No you probably don't. I know if I have a binge episode and then weigh myself the next day, I have weighed up to six pounds more than when I weighed myself before the binge. Did I actually eat enough calories to gain that weight? I am guessing that it is physically impossible for a person to gain six pounds of fat in a day. I would have had to eaten 21,000 calories on top of my BMR of 2300 calories in order for this to happen. I don't know how much food 21,000 calores is, but I do know that I have tracked a few of my really bad binge days and they were between 4000 and 5000 calories. The reality is that all that food that you overate is probably still in your stomach, and it has weight. Also going off the diet often means salty foods, and salty foods cause you to retain water. A big binge thing for me is beer. At 12 ounces a piece, four or five beers in your stomach is going to be a few pounds of liquid.

After a binge episode, it takes two, sometimes as much as three days for my weight to return to the pre-binge level, and just like I believe it's impossible to gain 6 pounds in a day or two, it is impossible to lose it in a day or two as well.

One thing to remember, is when you do not track your calories, you will consume way more calories than you realize. And believe me they add up really quickly!!! So the secret to staying strong is be mindful of your calorie intake and take a small journal with you on vacation to help keep track of what you eat while on vacation! Report
These articles made weight seem like herpes, you have it flare up occasionally and have to be super-vigilant against it, and it never goes away. As we lose weight we have to work out more to burn the same amount of calories, and cut calories even further. It seems like there will never be a break, just hard work and lots of time dedicated, while our (thin) fellow humans who are not afflicted with this disease continue to wonder why we can't just lose the extra pounds, it looks so easy on TV! Sad. Report
Very interesting article. Explains a lot!! Report
One bad month of eating can add fat for life? Jeez! Report
I think people are forgetting the point of this blog! Yes, we get it: a "slip-up" doesn't exactly add 3,000+ calories to your diet everyday and doesn't last for a month, but a slip-up DOES hinder your chances @ success! I know this firsthand!

I have done really great since about December 1, 2010, losing weight and inches. This past weekend I was bad from Thursday-today, telling myself that "tomorrow" I would eat better. Well, tomorrow came (and went) and getting on the scale this morning not only sucked, but also made me feel bad about the stupid stuff I ate for days in a row!

We all have setbacks sometimes and I like this study because people DO think that a little slip-up means nothing. In reality, a slip-up could cost you everything! Report
People are right saying that one month isn't a short-term slip up. It's a regain, not a relapse. Plus going from an active lifestyle and calorie range to sedentary and overeating is ridiculous.

Anyway, please don't be discouraged by this! You CAN have time off (a few days at most) and come back. Yes, gaining weight increases the number and size of fat cells, but losing weight decreases their size. You'll have a greater number of cells but if they're all small then what difference will it make? You'd only notice if you started to regain (more fat cells makes it easier to do so), but you shouldn't be doing that anyway.

I slipped up last week for one day and ate at least twice my usual calorie intake. I still reached my goal weight for this week, but days EARLY. Report
Waitaminute-- Average 5750 calories a DAY?! People, that's not a slip-up, that's a landslide!

A slip-up might be 2000 calories instead of 1500 for a couple of days. If you were one of the people who found this depressing or discouraging, realize that probably nothing you are doing is as extreme as this -- 5000+ calories/day for a whole month. Report
This confirms something I have always thought based on a LOT of experience--that it is oh so easy to let a few mistakes turn into a long-term negative change. Those griping about this article should take it in the spirit is intended rather than argue with the science (which may indeed be flawed). The underlying (and I believe true) argument is that short-term indulgence can turn into long-term problems--a very good reminder during this holiday season to keep us on our toes and working our program regardless of the cultural push to do otherwise. Report
I shudder to think anyone got paid to publish such a "study" whose methodology would hardly hold up in basic science class. 18 people? 70% increase for a month? And that is given the discouraging & misleading "slip up" heading? Good grief.

I'm usually a big fan of Coach Jen's blog & info, but this is the first time a piece has felt like a total waste of time & a bit of an insult to readers' intelligence. Report
I shudder to think anyone got paid to publish such a "study" whose methodology would hardly hold up in basic science class. 18 people? 70% increase for a month? And that is given the discouraging & misleading "slip up" heading? Good grief.

I'm usually a big fan of Coach Jen's blog & info, but this is the first time a piece has felt like a total waste of time & a bit of an insult to readers' intelligence. Report
Just another testimonial / reasons why to join The No S Diet, see my SparkPage for team icon if interested. Report
The study seems ok, but the intro seems to have entirely misrepresented it (something seen all too often in popular science news pieces). As other have pointed out, the experimental group was under conditions that most people would NOT describe as a slip. This may be unnecessarily discouraging for some. You need a better science editor. Report
I would love to see more on this. Thanks SP for posting timely topics! Report
rather disheartening - to think some of this may never go away - Report
This could really explain a lot. I am just recovering from a serious broken leg. I have been very restricted in my activity to the point of sedentary for 3 months. Although my eating habits didn't change as much as the study group, I ate more and more often out of frustration and boredom. I am carrying noticably more fat around my hips and behind and around my abdomen. Lots of work ahead of me. Report
I think I need more proof. I'm sure it's possible but I need a larger section of population studied before I take it for what it is. More science please. But it sure does make me not want to slack off ever again. Report
This article is as bad as the ones you read on yahoo. The title alone is misleading. "Short-term slip ups could lead to long-term problems".

How is taking a MONTH away from healthy practices (the folks in the study ate 5,000cals/day and moved the least possible) a "short-term slip up"? I've always lived under the assumption that it takes a month to set a habit (good or bad) so wouldn't "being unhealthy" for a MONTH be a lifestyle change (for the worse) not a "short-term slip up".

Like others have said, this article is discouraging and really goes agains the vibe of Spark. Report
OMG!!!!! This is the story of my life. Sounds like there's not really any point in making all this effort. Is it just a theory - or is it really set in stone? Report
I think I'm totally now frustrated as I just got back from vacation last week with an additional 5 pounds. I ran 5 days, but didn't track at all as I had no computer access and need to be unplugged for 10 days. Tomorrow is another day... Report
I went on a six-week vacation in July and August to visit my family. I am pre-diabetic, but have all my numbers in the normal range, just through diet and exercise. I had taken off 20 pounds,and the last few months have been at a plateau.

But I was a bit worried if I would be able to keep up my "healthy habits" while on vacation. I was very faithful to daily exercise, and tried to eat correctly, even ordering fish or chicken dishes when we went out to eat.

I did gain four pounds, so when my sister invited me to join SparkPeople, I did, and I've already taken off those pounds- and I had blood tests yesterday, and my A!C is better than ever - down to 5.3!!! So I am very happy!!! I plan to continue with SparkPeople, and mu goal is to take off another 25 pounds by April.

So, yes, it is possible to have a good vacation, occasionally splurge at meals, but with regular exercise, not fall back! Report
Wow! That means when I go on vacation in Nov. I'll have to stay on track. I can't believe it makes that much difference. Report
I think only a robot could never deviate from their healthy diet and not go into vacation mode on occasion. Report
Are you serious? I can't believe how much press a study of 18 people is getting. What is the margin of error on that? Report
Yikes, truth hurts I guess! But it's a good reminder to stay mindful, even though we're all going to slip up from time to time. Report
eeek do you think pregnancy weight counts? we hate this article!!! Report
True or not this article above is not supportive. It undermines optimism. You have just placed a negative thought in all your reader's minds. Certainly your reader's here can try to forget this article but negative thoughts are stronger than positive thoughts. Thus, you have inadvertently set each of us up for failure. Now you need to counter act this article with something positive.
~penn Report
I can't believe that this would be true, but if so, how depressing. Why even bother with healthy living if you can't even slip up for a short while. I don't think there are any of us that don't relax our diet/exercise/good habits somewhat on holidays, certainly not to the level of this study, but to some degree. However, one good thing, the study appears to be so tiny, I wonder if it is reproducible on a large scale using more realistic numbers. Report
Seems hard to accept that a one week slip-up could still be with you a year later if you return to your diet and exercise routine. I guess I don't want to find out, so I'll be more careful when I am on vacation. Report
I just cannot beleive how this is considered a legitimate scenario, no one takes a month off and does not expect these results. I am simply discounting reading this one. It is like the diet industry itself is again trying to cofuse us with thi.e kind of studies using a very small number of participants. Report
I think that is an awfully small sample number to be making any sorts of claims like that, though I believe there probably is some truth to it. Report
Awesome. The truth hurts. Taking a week off of being smart is going to show. I would rather know these kinds of things ahead of time and do something to prevent it from happening, than end up having to try to correct lazy behavior. Thanks for always telling it like it is, Jen, even if it's something we don't like to hear. Something I learned on spark is that if I don't like hearing it, it's probably because I really need to listen to it. Report
This study also proves you can't take a vacation from "thinking healthy". I frequently leave home to participate in this or that, but I take my laptop with me to track my intake and get a travel pass for the gym and I MAKE myself go.

Everyone is going to have "naughty days", and have periods where it's just plainly and simply too much doggoned work. Heck, I do it. Everyone is human, but it's about learning to forgive yourself and get back on the horse that threw you as soon as possible and show it who is boss!

A healthy lifestyle isn't a matter of convenience. If you want to lose the weight and are serious about it, then it deserves a committment to follow it as closely as possible as much as possible. If you go on vacation, maybe make a contract with yourself to go for an extra-long walk or spend some time in the hotel gym a little longer if you have that one dessert. No one says anyone has to have dessert EVERY night. Report
I am sooo depressed reading this that I'm going to forget I ever saw it. Report
Thank you MDMNINA... I was blown away by this article, but what you said put it back into perspective! I have trouble especially when I get to a "milestone" like a 10 increment in the scale... and go up and down for a few days before I settle in at the lower number... maybe my body is a rebel ! The article at least helps me to realize that I need to STICK TO IT with my new habits and if I backslide... let it just be for a meal, rather than a MONTH! Report
ugh...nothing like a little reality to start the day....although i feel pretty good about the knowledge i have as far as food and vacationing, so i tend to make smarter choices, and i can't even imagine consuming over 5,000 calories a day.....ick Report
Wow, this is discouraging.......I am going to try anyway even though according I have little to no chance of succeeding. I have gained and lost for years. I still have to try2keepgoing! Report

Sounds like Cheat Days are even worse than expected!! Report
I was on the Atkins diet a number of years ago and belonged to some online support groups. I heard the "golden shot" theory there. This referred to the fact that people seemed to have only one chance at making this diet (or lifestyle change) succeed. There were reports of people who deviated from the lifestyle and could not lose the weight again even after resuming the Atkins way of life (which is low carb, of course). Maybe this is true across the board, but then how do you explain the fact that there are people who have lost weight, put it back on, and then managed to lose it again. Report
I can see that others found this discouraging as well - true, this is a lifestyle change but this seems to say that short slip ups have extremely damaging long term effects. Statistical significance is also an issue. I'd really love to know what Jen wanted us to take from this that is positive. Report
If I was normal weight, took part in this study, and was in the group they set up to gain weight, I would be ticked!!!!! Report
I find this very interesting because I think it has happened to me! I have maintained my goal weight now for over 5 years. However, 2 years ago, we went away for a week vacation (in the tropics!) and I had drinks and dessert every day - came home two pounds heavier and at least 1 point higher in body fat and could NOT get rid of it over the next year, this year, I gained another pound on the same type of vacation and my body fat percentage is 1 to 2 points higher. I eat right and exercise regularly and the gain is annoying! Report
Did the blogger know they were writing an article for a weight loss site? Disappointing article ... and the study was flawed. I have higher expectations. Report
While the sample is certainly too small and the study is otherwise flawed, the blog simply emphasizes the fact that our habits (both short and long term) have an enormous effect on the way our bodies function. Sparkpeople advocates lifestyle changes, remember? Why not focus on the overall message here? Nobody is going to eat healthy 100% of the time or exercise every day, but the message for me is that we need to keep the slips few and far between so that they don't become habits. Report
While the study may have been extreme, I think there is value in it. I know from experience how hard it is to get back on the wagon after even one week off. Seeing it in harsh terms makes it "stick" in my mind and maybe then it will serve as a better reminder. And to those of you who find it depressing, TURN THAT AROUND! Look at it as motivation to work hard and NOT give up. I too have been a binge eater all my life (I'm 53) and I am now more committed than ever to making this work! Report
Well, THAT was depressing! Why bother? Report
Getting those accumulated fats off is the chore. I am almost there. Report
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