Effect of Diet-Binge Cycle on Weight

By October 25, 2012

If you have been on a low cal diet for about half a year and you binge on thousands of calories for a couple of days, how much does this affect your weight (in those days)? I was wondering how much weight this will cause you to gain in those two days? – T.

Dear T.,

You’re asking a question that might seem simple on the surface, but the answer is quite complicated. Weight fluctuations from dieting, re-feeding, exercising, bingeing and purging are not all due to fat. Our bodies are made up of 55-75% water, so a lot of the rapid changes we see when we lose and gain weight are due to fluid shifts.

If the diet you were following was a low carb diet, you could have lost approximately 5-10 pounds of water when you started, and this weight would have returned quickly when you ate even an adequate amount of carbohydrates again. So if you were alarmed by a rapid weight gain after a couple of days of bingeing, this could have been part of the cause.

Aside from the low-carb factor, however, if you had seriously underfed your body for a period of time, once you binged, you could have experienced “rebound edema.” With this condition, the body temporarily holds onto more fluid than it needs as it readjusts to re-hydration of the muscles and circulatory system, along with digestive changes.

It takes 3500 extra calories above what we need for fuel to make one pound of body fat. So, the amount of weight you gained as increased fat storage would have depended on your activity level and the extent of your binge. Read the article “Heaviness and Weight Gain – Explained” for more information.

I have to admit that I am disturbed by your question. It seems that you are more worried about a few extra pounds than the seriousness of binge eating. Please read through the articles in the “Disordered Eating 101” section of this site. I don’t know if this diet-binge cycle was a first for you or if it’s been a chronic struggle. Dieting definitely sets you up for what’s called “deprivation-driven bingeing.” When we eliminate favorite foods, we begin to crave them and once we get a taste again, we are vulnerable to uncontrolled eating.

I strongly urge you to see a therapist who specializes in disordered eating before you become more entrenched in this perilous pattern and further compromise your well being. My hope and prayer is that your visit to our site will be the beginning of a more positive journey.

With concern,