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Who doesn’t love a good food binge every now and then? Whether it’s the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or vacations with all-you-can-eat buffets, most of us have, on occasion, given in to our appetites and gorged on everything in sight. What’s the harm? We figure we’ll shed the extra weight once we go back to eating our normal diet.
But according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, short stints of gluttony can have long-term effects on body weight and fat storage -- even if we lose all the weight we may have gained from the food spree.
For the study, researchers selected two groups of volunteers averaging 26 years old with a normal body mass index (BMI) of less than 25. Half of the volunteers were then asked to double their calorie intake for four weeks by adding fast food to their diet. They were also told not to walk more than 5,000 steps per day. Public health guidelines recommend 10,000 steps -- or about five miles -- per day. Previous research shows the average sedentary woman takes about 5,000 steps daily. The other half of the participants, which served as the control group, was advised not to change their eating habits or activity levels.
After four weeks, those who increased their calorie intake gained an average of 14.2 pounds, while the control group gained none. Even though the participants lost most of that weight six months later, they still showed an increased amount of body fat compared to when they started. When researchers followed up with them one year and two and a half years after the initial experiment, they found their body weight and fat storage was higher than it had been at the beginning. Meanwhile, the control group that did not binge had no significant changes in body fat or weight.
The study’s lead author Åsa Ernersson, professor of health sciences at Linköping University in Sweden believes their research provides new evidence that even a short period of excessive eating and a lack of exercise can potentially change an individual's physiology, making it harder to lose weight and keep it off.
Kind of makes you wonder how Morgan Spurlock’s doing after his 30-day McDonald’s-only diet for Super Size Me. As an ex-boyfriend of mine used to say (after he found himself clutching the toilet one night from partaking way too much in a German smorgasbord), “Eating is not a game.” After this study, I think I may have to make it my motto as well.
How often do you fall off the portion-control wagon? Chime in below!