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I just got back from vacation where I overate on several occasions. However, I also worked out on a treadmill and weight trained while away. How long will it take before my vacation-eating binge might show up on the scales? — Marj, UT

Rachel Johnson



Body weight is based on the principle of energy balance. To maintain a weight, "energy in" must balance "energy out". In other words, your calorie intake from food and beverages must equal the calories your body burns. To either lose or gain weight, you need to tip the energy balance equation. Although you may have overeaten during your vacation, you probably prevented your body from being in positive energy balance (when energy intake is greater than energy output) by exercising more than usual. One pound of body fat equals approximately 3,500 calories. So, gaining a pound requires an excess of 3,500 calories. But, you can compensate by burning these extra calories. One mile on the treadmill burns about 100 calories. If you were going to gain weight, it would have occurred fairly quickly after the excess calories were consumed. If you have not gained weight yet, you wisely compensated for the unusually high food intake during your vacation with additional exercise.

About Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson, RD, MPH, PhD is Associate Dean of Research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont. Dr. Johnson earned a Ph.D. in Nutrition from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Hawaii. She's a member of the USDA/USDHHS Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee, American Dietetic Association (elected member, Commission on Dietetic Registration), and the American Dietetic Association Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group. Dr. Johnson has served as the chair of the sugars subcommittee of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (2000 edition). Her research expertise is national nutrition policy, nutrition and young children, dietary intake methodology, and energy metabolism.

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