So You Got Sick And Lost A Few Pounds?
It's that time of year again. Coughs and colds, not to mention head-spinning vomit scenes from the Exorcist cutting room floor if you're unlucky enough to be hit by a real flu. Hooray for winter!If your little one has recently started daycare or school you can expect several viruses in your first year, and unless you intend to stop cuddling each time she gets the sniffles, chances are you'll come down with a few sniffles yourself.
When you do get sick, you'll probably drink, eat, move, and accomplish less in general. Even if you aren't sick yourself, caring for little people as they excrete their bodily fluids all over you and your home can be almost as demanding on one's appetite, schedule, and mood as getting sick yourself.
Upside? You might lose a few pounds. (This is only an upside if you are actively trying to lose weight, of course, but it's one our clients regularly mention; for pregnant mommies and all others seeking to maintain/gain weight, see below.)
Downside? Seriously, do we have to revisit the whole vomit thing?
Now, getting back to that pound or two you lost. When you are sick, it is normal to lose a bit of weight as you’ll generally consume fewer calories, and less fluid, than you would normally consume to maintain your weight. If you are ill for more than a few days, this can be a marked weight loss. Sick for a week, it might be as much as 4-5 pounds. Sick longer and you should really be speaking with your doctor, not your personal trainer.
If you’ve been sick and you’re not interested in losing weight, increase your calories for the week after an illness and you can easily regain any pounds lost. But if you’re happy to see the number dip down on the scale a bit, you might be wondering whether you can maintain that “sickness weight loss”.
Before we go any further, you should know that approximately half of the weight you’ll lose when sick is fluid weight, so you can expect to gain back about half of what you’ve lost within a day or two of recovering. Being sick is not a way to lose weight. That's just dumb. Being sick is terrible, but in our experience, people tend to embrace the loss of a pound or two and use that encouragement (as well as the desire to FINALLY get out of bed and do something more than blow your nose and watch Netflix) as a launching pad for further weight loss, if that is one of your goals.
Here are a few tips if you’d like to hang on to that lower weight and you’re feeling back to your old self.
Head to the gym. Or to BB.
Or out for a walk or jog. Or do one of the various home workouts available on our site. Your body is fatigued, maybe a bit weak and probably a little stiff. Ease into it but begin exercising immediately, and focus especially on cardiovascular activities during the first 1-2 weeks to help you build your endurance back up and strength training to wake up those stiff muscles and rev your metabolism back up from its previous zombie-like levels. Not feeling up to much? That's okay! Small daily workouts will do you better in the metabolism department than a couple of strenuous 2-hour gym visits, anyway. Consistency is key as you get active again.
Get your fluids.
If you weren’t eating, you likely weren’t hydrating well enough, even if you were drinking water, juice, tea, Gatorade – whatever you were thirsty for while sick. The truth is, a major portion of our fluids come from healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Incorporate hydrating foods like soups, green smoothies, yogurt, and lots of citrus fruits, melon, and fresh vegetables that have a high water content. These foods will not only hydrate you, they tend to be relatively low in calories while still high in nutrients, so they’ll help satisfy you, hydrate you and keep your calories low enough to maintain that weight loss.
Watch your binge reflex.
After not eating much for a few days (or more) you may find your appetite is smaller than normal. On the other hand, you may find you are ravenous and find it difficult to control your eating as your body tries to recoup calories lost. Ease yourself back into a full, healthy diet and focus on nutrient-rich but lighter fare like salads, soups, lean meats and fishes and fibrous veggies, fruits and nuts & seeds (which can also help get your digestive system moving happily again if you’re feeling a little, um... backed up). Eat to your hunger level, not to your cravings. Eat frequently and aim for smaller meals, as your stomach has probably shrunk a bit. You’ll be more comfortable and more likely to keep off those pounds lost.
Just a note here: if you are suffering an extended period of illness and losing a great deal of weight or are experiencing very rapid and unintentional weight loss, please consult your doctor immediately.