“Today is the day I stop ordering takeout and eat some kale for dinner,” says everyone constantly. We hear you: Our lives are basically an endless string of happy hours, snap-judgment fatty food choices, and stress eating. (What, sometimes a Snickers bar after a 12-hour workday is THE ONLY THING WE WANT.) But we know you’ve wondered, because we’ve wondered: On a particularly indulgent week, how much weight are you actually packing on?
It’s long been believed that approximately 3,500 calories is what a person would need to consume to gain a pound of weight—but that’s not necessarily true. A “calorie” doesn’t mean the same thing across all types of food. Sugar-loaded candies have empty calories, which get stored immediately as fat, whereas natural foods (vegetables, fruits, lean meats) have essential vitamins and nutrients that are burned and used throughout your body, says Keri Glassman, R.D., founder of Nutritious Life. Plus, everybody digests and metabolizes foods differently—which is why there’s always that one friend who can eat an entire shepherd’s pie solo and be like “what?”
And then there’s the double-edged sword: exercise. While you burn calories and fat during a workout, people tend to overestimate their gym efforts and consume more calories as a “reward” for just being active (guilty).
So here it is: If you live an entire week avoiding nutrition labels and making gym excuses, you can expect to gain about four pounds—one to two pounds of water weight (bloating) and one to two pounds of actual fat, Glassman says.
While your bloating will eventually subside, you have to clean up your plate to melt off that fat. The good news is that healthy, normal weight loss equals about a pound a week. So even if you eat all the Snickers, you can always make up for it next week. Booyah.
You should also check out:
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
18 Foods You Can Eat at Night That Won’t Make You Feel Bloated in the Morning
Is Waist Training Actually Healthy?