Nadia Sawalha’s ‘delayed fat’ theory – how long does it really take to gain weight?

Nadia Sawalha revealed she was horrified to have suddenly piled on the pounds - weeks after indulging over Christmas.

Of course, we've all overindulged during the festive period. As soon as you’ve finished your Christmas roast dinner you can’t help but think you’ve immediately gained a few kilos in weight.

But, how does overindulgence affect your body and how long does it take for your extra calorie intake to cause weight gain.

Loose Women presenter Nadia Sawalha revealed yesterday to the Loose Women panel that she’d had “such bad news” gaining “delayed fat from Christmas”.

Nadia said, “I’d got such bad news…I’ve got really bad news. The day before yesterday I put some trousers on, right, and did them up. This morning I put them on and I could not do them up at all. So I’d gone into makeup and I was telling Donna and Simone. Donna said, ‘Well you know what that is, it’s delayed fat from Christmas’.

“So basically, I could get those on the day before yesterday. Apparently what happens, well I thought I’d reached optimum, but apparently it’s still coming. It’s backed up and it’s arriving right until the end of net week.”

Carol McGriffin in disbelief replied, “That is impossible, where is it then? You’ve already eaten food.”

Nadia responded, “Yeah but the food hasn’t turned into lumps of fat yet.”

“I’m going to use that line every week, it’s delayed fat baby”, Judi Love joked.

So, does this mean what you eat or don’t eat makes you instantly gain weight, or is there such thing as “delayed fat”?

As with anything relating to the human body, the amount of food we eat before it turns to additional body weight gain depends on the individual person. But, you’ll be please to know that what you eat does not immediately turn to additional weight gain, rather how much you consume over a few days can result in weight gain over time.

How long does it take to put on weight?

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology, a short period of overindulging may register as more of a slight glitch to your body rather having a major affect on your weight. The study examined a group of eight men on a high-calorie diet for five days and then 28 days.

The five-day food binge didn’t have much effect on their weight gain, and made no difference to their at fat mass. However, after 28 days of over-indulging, their fat mass increased by 3 pounds, and their weight gain was 3.5 pounds.

So, while the rate people gain weight differs for each individual, weight gain does not happen over night.

Nutrition experts Jenny Tschiesche from the Lunchbox Doctor told GoodtoKnow, “It is possible to weigh more one day and less the next due to reasons unrelated to the quantity of food consumed. In theory you might think you’ve gained weight one day when you haven’t.

She continued, “Simply consuming too much salt can lead to water retention for example. Not eating enough fibre or drinking sufficient water can lead to constipation which might also show up as weight gained.”

How much do you need to eat to gain weight?

The general rule is that you need to eat more calories than you burn to gain weight.

“Weight gain simply happens when we have an imbalance between the kilojoules we’re eating and the kilojoules we’re burning off,” dietician and nutritionist Jemma O’Hanlon told HuffPost Australia.

Generally, an individual consuming an extra 300–500 calories per day above their ideal daily intake of calories will gain weight slowly. An individual eating an extra 700-1000 calories per day will gain weight faster.

A pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories, so if you consumer 3,500 more calories  each week than your recommended calories intake, you’ll most likely gain a pound of fat.

Can you gain weight in a day?

This might be something you’ve thought about right after a day of going overboard on calories, but you’ll be pleased to know it’s near enough impossible to gain weight in just one day.

Jenny tells GoodtoKnow, “There is a limit to how much we can even eat in a day due to stomach size and certainly how much we can digest due to the amount of enzymes we can produce to break down food.”

Samantha Cassetty, R.D., M.S., nutrition director told Women’s Health, “It’s virtually impossible to gain weight overnight, even if you really blew it on bar food.

“The reason comes down to calorie math. Though it’s not 100 percent precise, the basic principle stands true: In order to gain weight, you’d have to eat 3,500 more calories than you typically eat and burn off to maintain your figure.”

So, a woman’s recommend daily calorie intake is 2,000, you would have to consumed an additional 3,500 calories (that’s the equivalent of 25 slices of pizza from Dominoes) to gain one pound, and that’s without taking your physical activity into account.

Jenny further explains, “If you do gain weight in a day it will be mostly water but perhaps also some fat, certainly not muscle mass because that takes longer than a day to accumulate.”

If you put on weight quickly, can you lose it quickly?

Unfortunately no. While we would love to tell you that you can lose weight just as quickly as you gained weight- this is not the case.

Weight loss depends on the person and their lifestyle, but it’s true you’ll gain the weight back a lot faster than you originally lost it.

Nutrition scientist, Dr Tim Crowe, told Cosmopolitan that the reasons we gain weight quickly after losing weight is because of the hunger we expose our bodies to while we are consuming fewer calories.

Dr Crowe explains, “The influence of hunger on weight regain is three-times stronger than a slowing of metabolism. Add the two together it appears almost inevitable that the lost weight will creep back on again for most people.”