How You Can Gain 10 Pounds in 5 Days


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?