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How You Can Gain 10 Pounds in 5 Days

It's been one of those weeks.

Charlie Martin


June 29, 2013 - 9:40 am


I’m starting the column late, and it’s going to be a little disorganized, because it’s been one of those weeks. I’ve got my two new columns running (science on Thursdays and Buddhism on Sundays, both here on PJ Lifestyle) and had another article up as well, all on a week where I had big demos and deliverables at my day job. And I finally bought a car to replace the one I broke in April.

Other than that, nothing much happened except that I gained ten freaking pounds in five freaking days!

On 23 June I, weighed 268.6, a new low. On 28 June, I weighed 278.

Hmph. Words fail me.

Now, rationally I know this isn’t something that could possibly be a “real” weight gain. I mean, c’mon, 7000 kcal extra a day for five days? Plus, I hadn’t actually eaten anything unusual, except that 24 June was a splurge day. I was craving Oreo cookies, my secret vice that I hadn’t indulged since, probably, before my mother’s heart attack, she having been my Oreo cookie enabler. So I bought an 8oz bag of those little tiny Oreos, and over the course of the day ate it all.

Wheat, sugar, I tell you, it had it everything.

And it tasted wonderful for the first few cookies. By the end of the bag, I was a little tired of the things, honestly, but I wanted to finish the bag because I knew if I didn’t, when I got back on the wagon they’d be sitting there in the cupboard or the freezer, taunting me.


In science and philosophy of science, there’s something called a “just so story” or “pourquoi story,” or, more formally, the ad hoc fallacy: a fanciful story that explains some event. “Just so story” of course comes from Kipling’s Just So Stories, like “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” In science, it’s used to make fun of hypotheses that seem to explain some past event, but which are for one reason or another impossible to verify.

Explaining this weight gain based on the Oreos would be a just so story; there are too many other things that can account for weight gain, none of them very satisfying.

  • Water weight. This one is the most probable, if only because it’s just about the only thing that seems to have any physical possibility whatsoever. But 10 pounds is 10 pints is a gallon and a quarter of water.
  • “My time of the month.” I’m not joking, actually; over the eight months of these experiments I have noticed a periodic upswing about every 4-5 weeks. And I am half woman (on my mother’s side of the family). But that really reduces to the water weight.
  • Glycogen storage. This is one I get offered fairly regularly on the Facebook page, the notion being that after a low-carb diet, the first carbs you eat get taken directly to your liver to be stored as glycogen — which also requires a lot of water to make. This one I find really unconvincing, and here’s why: go to the grocery store and look at a pound of liver. (You may have to go to the freezer section nowadays.) Stack ten of them together and you’ll see that’s a pretty large piece of liver. It seems pretty unlikely that you could add that much liver in five days without some drastic growing pains at the very least.

So really, all I can say is to note the fact and move on.

Here’s where the 13 weeks thing comes in. I’d gained ten pounds after a relatively small indulgence (1100 kcals, 170g carbs, that’s relatively small, right? I mean, I used to eat a pound of spaghetti at one meal). That is the sort of thing that could knock anyone off a diet. But the terms of the experiment are 13 weeks, see what happens, dispassionate experimentation. No blame.

So I just kept on.

Now, there were some other funny things about it — although my blood sugar spiked to 160 or so on The Night of the Oreos, I was back to 102 the next morning, and down to 95 the morning after that. That’s also a new morning low, certainly in this 13 week experiment and I think back through the whole thing.

I also found the fast days to be particularly hard, but on the other hand the slow days were oddly easy. I wasn’t very hungry, I kept eating things like just a salad at lunch, and while I’m not keeping a food diary any longer I’m pretty confident that I ate less than normal through most all the time I was gaining that 10 pounds.

Here’s another just so story for you: maybe the fasting and the extended dieting are restoring some of the self-regulation. Maybe I was less hungry because my body is responding to the weight gain more like a non-obese person.

In any case, I went back to the regular diet on the 24th, few carbs and those slow.

Since yesterday, I’ve lost 2 pounds.

Must be this great diet, right?

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

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Top Rated Comments   
Oh for Pete's sake. We're talking about one 8 ounce package of cookies. That's like 6 full sized Oreos. The point is that it wasn't that big an indulgence, and no explanation fits 10 pounds except for the water retention thing -- and the "oh it's just water" is always a fine explanation for why one loses weight quickly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (42)
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I had a totally unscientific thought about plateauing this morning. When I was younger (I'm 57) I used to be able to lose weight at a steady rate of 1-2 pounds a week. Now that I am older, I find that I plateau for a week or two and then lose 2-3 pounds. Perhaps when we get older our bodies need more time to become accustomed to a change in weight. Just a thought.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Been on a Taubes-esque diet for 16 months. Lost about 20# in the first 3 months. Then plateaued roughly at 205. Since then, I have been playing around with the edges of what kicks me out of ketosis, as demonstrated by an overnight 3 - 6# gain that takes a day or two to remove once I go back into ketosis (lo carb). Yesterday was a combination of two bowls of a lower carb rhubarb crisp (standard crust), handful of chocolate covered peanuts, and 3 tacos (taco shells are the culprit here). Can normally get away with any single item on that list each day. OTOH, doing all 4 in the same day kicked my sorry carcass flat off the train with a brand new 5 additional pounds when I got up this morning. I think the only things I really miss are pies and MexTex food (tamales, enchiladas, burritos, etc). But I don't miss the cravings or the hunger at all. Dieting used to be work - unpleasant and uninteresting. Lo carb is easy, and moderately interesting as I figure out reasonable substitutes for what I used to do. Have been experimenting with lo carb MexTex by substituting soy flour for flour and splenda for sugar. Hang in there. Your body is teaching you what the new limits are. Cheers -
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1) When are we going to try my way?
2)Are you going to be back in denver soon?
3) I feel guilty using your samples. (But, not very guilty)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've discovered if you eat less and exercise for two or more hours a day, you get back down to normal relatively quickly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
(1) That's the standard advice, which has a success rate with actually obese people of less than one in twenty
(2) I have a day job, I write, I even have a social life, vestigial as it may be. Two hours a day just aren't available.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your scale is screwing with you!
Remember the one about the guy whose friend kept adding gas to the guys tank every night? Then, he took some out every night. Well, his friend is now working on your scale.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
ROFL. That must be it, I'm back down to 272 today.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"I wanted to finish the bag because I knew if I didn’t, when I got back on the wagon they’d be sitting there in the cupboard or the freezer, taunting me."

That's why garbage disposals were invented.

No, seriously. I talked to the inventor and he said that's what he had in mind - leftover Oreos.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hello Charlie,

I'm sorry you had such a difficult week. I know from personal experience how discouraging it can be to see the scale go in the wrong direction and not know why.

Reading your posts have been quite encouraging to me as I've been on my own weight loss plan. I had gotten up to 125 pounds, which is the most I have ever weighed. The last straw was looking at myself in a full length mirror and seeing that my "fat" jeans were getting too tight.

Since the day after Easter, I have lost 19 pounds. I did it by strictly controlling portions and not eating between meals. I don't read diet books and did not intentionally go on a low carb diet, but since most of what I had been eating between meals were high carbohydrate foods, I have ended up eating considerably less carbs. Most of the time at dinner, I skip the carb and focus on meat and vegetables.

Most of the time, I'm not hungry, except for late in the afternoon, which used to be my prime snack time. Also, my doctor has me on a regimen of vitamins and minerals, because even before I started dieting, my levels of some of them were in the low normal range.

The only thing I haven't done is start an exercise program, which is something I need to do, not so much for weight loss but for osteoporosis. Thanks for writing about Fitocracy. I need to go back there and get started.

Charlie, your move from a low carb diet to fasting two days a week concerns me. Did you talk to your doctor before you did this? They don't know everything, but they can be very helpful. Plateauing can be very discouraging, but is your overall goal losing weight or achieving better health?

Thanks again for your blog and I hope that this week goes better. Don't give up!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While I have no personal issues with weight, diet, or Diabetes, thank you; I have learned a great deal about the topic here. Excellent discussion (warts and all).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It seems like at some point a physically addictive state is achieved:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Charlie, I love your scientific approach and your refusal to accept glib explanations that simply don't add up mathematically. As for the "hot weather causing water retention" hypothesis that Narniaman mentioned, it is consistent with my experience when returning to coastal California from visits to Phoenix. I may find my weight has increased by up to 3 pounds from its usual 160, but then returns to normal after I pee it out over the next couple of days. I think I have seen this in both winter and summer, so the cause may be the desert dryness more than the heat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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