How I Gained (And Lost) 21.4 Pounds in 10 Days

It must have been the nachos.


The beer?


The cinnamon buns?


All of it.

And the rest of the junk food and alcohol somehow shoveled down my esophagus that led to a net 21.4lb (9kg) weight gain in ten days.

That’s the answer to: What happens when a guy with the appetite of a competitive eater—that normally takes his nutrition seriously—is let off of his leash?


The pre-pictures were taken the morning I left for vacation. My bodyweight was 193lbs (87kg), which is very light for my height—the lightest I’ve weighed in years. (I weighed 232 in 2009 for some perspective.) For this, I blame the summer.

I intentionally go through periods of less focused training and nutrient deprivation to give myself a “break” so to speak. (This isn’t really all that “negative,” really. See Why Training for Muscle Year Round Might Hurt Your Gains. Being lighter also helped my tricking, which I re-started this year, albeit half-heartedly.)

The after pictures were taken the day after I returned from vacation. My bodyweight was 214lbs (97kg).

Suntan not included upon binging. Neither is bed-head.

And I should also note, I ceased all training during this experiment.


Part of me thinks I have a shot at a competitive eating career. My face is plastered on a few local joints for conquering their “eating competitions.” So going “all out” for ten days was quite the spectacle.

Be prepared to be jealous of the following pictures, but they gives the clearest glimpse of the food I ate. I have a day-by-day, hour-by-hour transcription of what I ate, but that isn’t as visually gratifying as the food pornography below.



I had a few goals in mind when I set forth with this experiment that I listed in Foregoing All Nutrition Habits. They are listed below with my reflections.

1. I want to see the extent of damage that can be done in ten days.

I normally “let loose” a bit on vacation. Gaining ten pounds is pretty standard. Twenty pounds, however, is extreme and certainly wasn’t expected. Now, I understand “some” of this weight was bloat and water weight. But twenty pounds is a pretty hefty number.

2. I want to see how well an experimental cutting template of mine works. (AKA: Work for my upcoming eBook that will accompany both the Athletijacked and Skinny-Fat resources.)

Knowing that the first few pounds were water retention and whatnot, I started to fiddle with some things once my weight loss plateaued. Going low carbohydrate is effective for two or three days, upon wherein I hit a wall. So on the fourth day, it doesn’t matter if I go low carbohydrate or high carbohydrate, I’ll end up looking the same on the fifth day.

To clarify:

  • Two consecutive days of low carbohydrate = good.
  • Three consecutive days = iffy.
  • Four consecutive days = ehhh.

I might expand this generalization into “low-calorie” instead of just “low-carbohydrate” too.

In other words, traditional “cutting” sucks. (As does traditional “bulking.”)

This was something I already had known from experimenting with client’s nutrition plans, but I wanted to see the workings for myself. The details of this will be used for my upcoming book: The Clean Bulk That Actually Works: Nutrient Autoregulation.

3. I want to see how long it takes to reverse ten days of bad habits.

You would think that after ten days of pigging out, it would be easy to get back on track.

Not quite.

I’ve yet to have a “normal” week again. This is less of my fault and more a result of other circumstances (moving, birthday parties, celebratory parties for winning championships in my sport’s leagues).

But it’s safe to say I’ve had one too many recreational beers. Perhaps one too many pieces of pie too. The good news, however, is that it hasn’t made a huge dent in my progress back to normalcy. See below.

4. I want to see how long it takes for me to get back to “normal” body composition.

This is a tough one since “normal” is ambiguous. I will say, however, that I’ve yet to touch 193 again, and wouldn’t expect to without two months of total work (I would estimate it would take me another two weeks to get down there, which sounds about right for a ten pound weight loss). I’ve hit mid-high 190’s though, even despite a sub-par lifestyle since vacation. The follow picture was taken the day after eating southern barbecue, macaroni and cheese, and wine.

But I will say that my strength returned back to normal in less than a week — something that doesn’t usually happen after an extended layoff. This, I imagine, is because of the Nutrient Autoregulation and not being on a deficit 100% of the time. The calculated higher calorie pulsations help the body thrive on “less” nutrients.

5. I want to be reminded of how difficult it is to reverse ten days of bad habits.

This game of athletic fitness is all about habits. The old quote about becoming what you repeatedly do is pretty true.

I think it’s common among fitpros and fitness enthusiasts to forget that their habits and current state have taken years to solidify. Their motivation and attitude are cultivated over time, and getting off the wagon for a day or two is easily correctable — even necessary, sometimes, to remain on the right path.

This is something JC and I talked about, and something that even provoked an e-mail response from a reader:

Something that stood out [in the interview with JC] was developing that desire to WANT to train for the sake of training and having it as a part of your life, not as an aside….I guess the key would be how would someone like yourself or JC get the general populous to start thinking as training as part of their lives as opposed to a painful part of their day and separate from their life?

So above all else, create strong habits. Ten days may seem like a long time, but it’s only 3% of the entire year. And 3% isn’t going to outdo 97%. It will take some time to readjust, but the solidified habits will prevail if you make the effort.


While there’s no doubt I “felt” different, the before and after pictures show that the true amount of “fat” gained was definitely not 21.4 pounds. I dropped ten pounds within a few days of returning without much effort.

I’m left with the following thoughts:

  • Your friends and family don’t care how you look. If you’re in the athletic fitness game, you have to be in it for  yourself.
  • Maple bacon donuts aren’t as good as I thought they would be.
  • At one point, I think cheese comprised 30% of my body weight.
  • No matter how ill I can feel after a binge, I’ll always be ready for another one the following day.
  • Not being able to tie your shoes on account of being overstuffed isn’t an enjoyable feeling.
  • Dragon’s Milk is my favorite beer.
  • Ten days of bad habits can be undone in about ten days. Reward yourself a little bit here and there if you deserve it.
  • Combing your hair is overrated.


I can’t remember the exact day things started to decline, but somewhere between day “zero” and day ten, my stomach started to inflate. The forever bolus of food in my stomach made it difficult to tie my shoes at times. Aside from vomiting one night from an absurd consumption of alcohol, every last bite of food mingled with my innards.

The experiment was certainly delicious. But I’m glad to be back. And after a thorough review of the pictures above, I think it’s time to put on some “clean” weight. Let’s get jacked, shall we?

P.S. If you ever forego your nutritional habits, be sure to take enough psyllium husk. As for what “enough” is, err on the side of more. Trust me on this one.


Not to encourage this type of “experimentation,” but have you ever “let loose?” How did your results compare to mine?

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Daniel Wallen August 27, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Damn, bro. Epic experiment. I haven’t “let loose” intentionally, but back when I struggled with my weight, I managed to lose around 30 lbs in junior/senior year of high school. I did this by playing Dance Dance Revolution for hours on an almost-daily-basis (yes, you have full permission to laugh at my geeky ass).

    But… then I went to college, where there was a “buffet-style” meal-setting THREE TIMES A DAY. Of course, there was a salad bar and healthy options, but when you’re young and stupid, it’s difficult to ignore all of the pizza/cheeseburgers/chicken fingers/etc.

    As I told myself I was “far too busy to workout” (ugh), I gained every pound I had previously lost in around a third of the time it took to lose it. WTF, right?

    I’ve often wondered why it takes much longer to LOSE weight than it does to GAIN weight. Do you have any insight on this? I assume it’s the simple nasty nature of processed/sugar-filled foods, but you know what they say about “assuming.”

    • Anthony August 27, 2012, 11:31 pm

      No, but it is a good question.

  • ChrisArm August 27, 2012, 2:57 pm

    Good job, good effort. Damn you can really put some size on if you want to, you certainly have a competitive eating career in the bag if you want it.

    Although you look a lot bigger in your post-vacation photos, it just seems like you are hugely bloated. Water weight is a really intrusive variable in body composition and for that reason i’m starting to become more accepting of it when there is any kind of indulgence. I’m realising fat-loss is a journey, while water-weight bloats are simply minor obstacles along the road.

    Looking forward to reading about this new cutting strategy.

    • Anthony August 27, 2012, 11:31 pm

      Yeah, that’s a pretty decent way to look at things, Chris.

      And glad to hear you’re a bit excited.


  • Phil Isabella August 28, 2012, 1:33 am

    If I sit and look at just one of those meals. The look like they deserve a devouring. After I coasted past all of them, i was like ewwwuughhhhhhhhhhh.. Additionally, you mentioned a large cheese consumption. The bloating might have lingered extensively from constipation. I would only know that because I have bloated hard after more than usual cheese consumption. #ForeverYoung

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:31 pm

      I combated constipation with psyllium husk. Kept me regular.

  • mark August 28, 2012, 8:31 am

    What kind of influence had your weight gain on your athletic performance? How much your vertical decreased after those 10 days?

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:32 pm

      Can’t say. I ceased all physical activity in that ten day window.

  • Colin August 28, 2012, 12:42 pm

    ‘I intentionally go through periods of […] nutrient deprivation to give myself a “break” so to speak’
    That sentence reminded me of this article I recently read:
    I wasn’t really sure what to think of it and your statement seems to take the same line, so I would like to know your opinion on that topic. Just “broscience” or worth giving a try?
    Thanks in advance

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:32 pm

      I think it’s a good thing to take a break every once in a while from just about everything.

  • Bennett August 28, 2012, 8:41 pm

    Man, one of the best takeaways here is the part about your friends and family not caring how you look. On the one hand, that’s really a heartwarming sentiment–the people who love you aren’t concerned about your looks. They just like you for you. And it’s totally true. I don’t have a single family member who looks at me any differently now than when I was a chubby kid in high school.

    Of course, that is a double-edged sword. If you want positive reinforcement for all the stuff you’re fasting, lifting, bulking, cutting, sweating, and weeping over, it ain’t gonna come from those who love you most, and that’s sorta depressing. In fact, they’re more likely to undercut you by damning with faint praise. They’re trying to be nice, they really are, but they just sincerely don’t get it. I have a friend who works in media, and his mother saw a clip he and his producer had spent 3 weeks on. Her compliment was “That looks so nice, it’s almost like it’s professional.” I’m sure Ronnie Coleman’s mom says something similarly deflating about his lats.

    Consequently, they have no qualms about providing temptation. They just want you to be happy. If having a jacked six-pack makes you happy, they’re okay with that. If drinking a six pack and not doing jack makes you happy–they’re probably also okay with that. My own mother pretty much nonstop plies me with sweets and baked goods when I’m at home, and frets constantly about me getting injured doing MMA or lifting heavy.

    I barely even notice the irony when she worries about all the stuff in a preworkout supplement, and then offers me a trans-fat and sugar-loaded frozen treat for the road.

    I love my mother. she is a saint. She’d give me her kidney if I needed one.

    But she will never be my bro.

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:33 pm

      Ah, awesome reply. It is a tough game to play, with there being two sides and all.

  • Rajat Desikan August 29, 2012, 6:25 am

    Hi Anthony!
    Excellent experiment. To your credit, the 20+ lbs that you have gained willingly shows how strong you are mentally. I would have gone nuts 🙂
    The food porn is killing me. I might have to shut off the screen and take a few deep breaths 🙂
    Have you got back to your normal weight set point? How many days did it take to reverse the carnage?
    Are you thinking of DEXA scans/BODPOD before and/or after to track body composition?

    Lovely reading. You are using the right words in the right places 🙂 I think your Northwood program is among the best as far as your writing skills are concerned…

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:34 pm

      Thanks man. I just look in the mirror. It tells me all I need/want to know.

  • Gmoney66 August 29, 2012, 12:14 pm

    Interesting thoughts on family and motivation. Sounds like a good topic. I am always amazed at how friends and family constantly prod me to eat unhealthy food. I do not make a big deal of my diet – no bragging or judgments on the food choices of others. And yet, everyone feels free to tell me I am being “obsessive, ” and that I can eat a cheeseburger, nacho platter, cake “just this one time.” I often wonder if this is a manifestation of their own food issues rather than concern for my dietary choices.

    • Anthony August 29, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Yeah, that’s something to battle. I think it just comes down to them wanting you to be happy, or “part of the crew.” Somehow they see you as either unhappy or distant when you don’t join in the festivities.

      • Traindom August 30, 2012, 4:49 pm

        I agree with Anthony. My family sees me as a little obsessive in my aspirations. Well, you know the saying. Dedication, not obsession. To my family, it seems as if I’m not enjoying life as much as I could be. But I really wouldn’t be enjoying life the other way. I’m happy this way, as many others are. I’ve actually learned to indulge here and there. I make sure it doesn’t get out of hand by abiding to the amount of calories allotted for that day and how I feel during the day. If I feel ill after one sweet, I’ll eat something else.

        They’re not seeing what we see in eating this way. We’re looking at the long run. So it does seem odd when we don’t enjoy ourselves too much in the short run. I’ve actually had people criticize my way of eating only to have them asking me for advice. So it’s a two-way street. It’s a matter of priorities. Most people tend to prioritize enjoying the moment, because it’s easier and immediately pleasing. That’s cool, but then they’re dissatisfied when they look in the mirror.

        It’s a bit like crab mentality. They want you at their level. Having everybody else at their level is more comforting. They don’t have to go beyond that. It’s as if their actions are validated. It ties in to that everybody-does-it-so-I’m-good mentality that’s so prevalent. Think about that spike of fear you get when you think you’re doing enough work for something and then see others doing more. You start worrying, “Should I be doing more?” You start looking for other people who are doing the same amount of work you are doing. You want to know that it’s okay not to go a bit further. You’re in it together.

        I’m not saying friends and family are as vicious as the above paragraph implies. Not at all. The point is that everybody has that to some capacity. It’s like being part of the crew as Anthony said. Imagine if you’re the only one eating dozens of (yummy) Krispy Kreme donuts at the store. It’s more enjoyable if your buddies are there, not only because of the bonding experience, but because your friends are validating your actions. It’s as if they’re saying, “Krispy Kreme donuts?! Hell yes! You’re correct!” When you have people leaving and saying no, you start to wonder. Instead of trying it those people’s way, you try to find people who are doing what you are.

        So it may stem partly from concern but these instances can also be projections of their issues. For example, they might expect you to be able to down three steaks as they are able to, but if they realize you’re not able to, they’ll project their issues on you. Instead of feeling odd themselves, you’ll be designated as the odd one because normal people can eat three steaks in their eyes. You’re the weird one. People have expectations of what is good and when these are challenged, they tend to project their issues onto you. THEY’re not off, you are. It’s possible they can’t deal with the thought that they might be the odd ones.

        • Anthony September 1, 2012, 12:16 pm

          The social dynamic is weird, that’s for sure. But like you said, it’s a two way street. When they want advice, you’re Joe McCool. When they want to party, you’re Debbie Downer.

          Such is life.

  • Traindom August 30, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I always underestimated the power of food porn until now. I’d be like, “Food porn? Hah, that’s not going to do anything for me.” Oh boy, these pictures are some naughty ones. I didn’t know what that first picture was, but I knew it looked damn good. Weird, right? Maple bacon donuts for the win?!

    I’m glad you were able to learn something from this experience and get the chance to test your cutting template. I’m sure it must have been a nice mental break for you as well. I just ate pizza for the first time in months. It was a nice treat. Real cheese and pepperoni and doughy crust. Awesome.

    I couldn’t ever let loose completely at this point. Ever. I do look back fondly at the times I ate tons of Chips Ahoy! cookies, chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, lots of pizza slices, etc. It was nice eating without worries, but eventually my desire to look and feel good came took over. I don’t regret my past nor my present. I do indulge in sweets regularly, but I haven’t let loose completely in years. My diet has been stable for several months now. It took me a while to find the right groove for me. I needed to find the right way to meet my requirements and goals specific only to me. I’m solid now. I’ve been simultaneously bulking and cutting for months. It’s awesome. I can see the gains compound and I can feel when I’m bloated or lean. There’s less paranoia.

    • Anthony September 1, 2012, 12:14 pm

      It’s funny – there used to be a time when I didn’t really “snack” on much unhealthy things. But then I hit a point — with the “cheat day mentality” — of everything being fair game. Don’t enjoy it. Trying to break it, to be honest.

  • Traindom September 1, 2012, 3:32 pm

    That’s understandable. There’s a point where it’s just a drag. I’ve been close to it a couple of times. I imagine that letting loose made unhealthy foods a bit more disgusting to you.

    Maybe it’s time to retreat into making killer recipes of healthy food. There have been times when I’ve eaten well-seasoned meat that is way more satisfying than some unhealthy food.

    But I think abstinence might be the answer here. There’s a site that recommends that men abstain from porn to get their sensitivity to stimuli back to normal. Perhaps the same applies here. That’d be a cool experiment. Hard, but I think the rewards would be well worth it.

    • Anthony September 5, 2012, 1:24 pm

      I agree on the good recipe front. Made an omelette yesterday that was bonkers. (Good.)

  • Kieran July 17, 2013, 2:27 pm

    I have a question about the two/three day low carb idea. I’ve recently had to change my training schedule to Mon,Tue,Thu. In keeping with standard carb cycling this leaves me with three rest days in a row of low carbs.

    Seeing as I want to restrict carbs early in the day, carbs pre workout on Monday don’t seem ideal for me. What would you suggest? Few starchy carbs night before (Sunday)? Or on Saturday so it’s more in keeping with the cycling approach?

    I should say that my low carb days are pretty much just green veggies so not much there.


    • Anthony July 19, 2013, 12:47 am

      Depends on your training. If it’s metabolically demanding or more muscular. I’d probably go Saturday.

  • Victoria November 30, 2013, 2:22 am

    I just want to let you know that this article just motivated me to get back on track. Over the past seven months I lost over 40lbs and the past 10 days I have just gone crazy eating whatever whenever and how much ever I wanted. I thought there was no hope of getting back to the body I worked so hard for so thank you!

    • Anthony December 3, 2013, 1:40 am

      Thanks. Stay on the wagon.

  • mary grodus February 9, 2014, 2:25 pm

    Thanks Anthony! I gained 10 lbs in one week. I had gone from 208-131 since June. My workout habits and diet were stellar! I felt awesome,happy and in control. I am currently in bed after eating another row of girl scout cookies on a Sunday Morning when I would normally be at the gym. Binge eating is a slippery slope. I reached out to the internet for help as this feeling is DEPRESSING! Just writing this and listening to you all is motivating me to get up and go! It feels better to be healthy. :). Thanks for listening

    • Anthony February 11, 2014, 5:59 pm

      Thanks for the reply. Get a hold of it before it spirals more.

  • RP March 18, 2014, 10:35 am

    Great read!!

    I’ve gained around 10lbs in the last 2 weeks thanks to my binge eating problem. Before this I was IF’ing for 18-20 hours a day. Currently, I weigh 130lbs and am 5 “7 tall.

    Lets see how long it takes for me to reverse this.
    A query – Can I eat significantly below my BMR on alternate days for around 1-2 weeks. For Example – I’ll eat 1000cal 3 days a week and 2000cal on the other 3 days, I workout for about 50 minutes a day.

    • Anthony March 19, 2014, 3:57 pm

      you can do whatever you want. “permission” isn’t the question, it’s whether or not it would work.

  • Suzannah April 23, 2014, 2:30 pm

    I absolutely loved reading your article! What you experienced is so close to what I experience when I get too crazy and off the wagon. I went so overboard that I was miserable but it didn’t stop the next days binge! As a woman who is 5’3 I gained 10 lbs in 5 days from 5 consecutive nasty binges. However, I love my body type because I could lose 10 lbs in 5 days as well by just sticking to a very low carb diet and mostly protein. I would have a nice muscular shape if I didn’t binge and you have inspired me, Sir! Thank You!

    • Anthony April 24, 2014, 6:15 pm


  • Bronagh September 7, 2014, 1:07 am

    I stumbled across this article in search of some kind of hope for getting back to where I was 10 days ago. I got into weight training in February and finally got my body into a good athletic shape with low body fat but it all went pete tong when I went on holiday 10 days ago. I’ve piled on about 10 pounds and looking in the mirror it appears that I’ve undone all my hard work and my muscle definition is gone. I’m gutted. But when I read your article it was nice to learn that someone else has done something similar and clawed it back.

    I tell you what, I will not be doing it again in a hurry. To look down and literally see rolls of fat appear in the space of one week is devastating considering I was in the gym most days to get my figure how I wanted it. I normally have a cheat day once a week to keep me sane and motivate me through the week. I will stick to that from now on, I just hope it won’t take months to undo 10 days of greed.

    • Anthony September 11, 2014, 9:00 pm

      It’s usually (DAYS OF HORROR) x 2. So give it 20 days.

  • Joe December 14, 2014, 12:36 pm

    I lost like a great amount of weight in the past year. But this is my 10 th day binge eating. I was 170 pounds, im 190 pounds now, so yeah a total gain of 20 pounds. My binge was on chips, carbs, pasta, chocolate, anything in sight. So now im just layin down feeling sick and extremely bloated. So is the majoruty of what i gained is water weigt or is it fat and hard to lose. Any suggestions for fast recovery? My face is bloated and the feeling is really depressing, i need to lose a big amount of what u gained cery fast in like 5 days, is this possible?

    • Anthony January 6, 2015, 2:11 am

      Do whatever you did to lose weight. Stop binging. Simple as that. Don’t make it any more complex.

  • wme December 15, 2014, 7:39 am

    (DAYS OF HORROR) x 2… Lol.

    My story is kind of the same, and…
    the mirror really does tell it all. I am guessing I gained 10 pounds in 7 days. but 10 pounds on me is like 10% of my bodyweight in the first place…(still not stepping on that scale)
    So I was eating pretty hardcore. And I am only stopping because I can literally feel the water/fat/ and it makes me not want to walk up and down the stairs. Throwback to a week ago when I was possibly in the best shape I had been in in a LONG time. Oh you can bet I am beating myself up for it.
    Now I gotta be as hardcore with working out and dieting as I (was) with eating***
    *Xmas in 10 days
    ** New Years in 2 weeks
    ***Gotta look good
    and this, I do not know if this is possible?! Well, your article has given me a flicker of hope. Thanks

  • emw December 15, 2014, 9:28 am

    Were you not concerned about getting stretch marks doing this?

    • Anthony December 17, 2014, 2:53 pm

      No. Not long enough for stretch marks. You can’t gain THAT much to stretch your skin so quickly in such a short time from what I know.

  • Luke Crawford January 5, 2015, 7:34 pm

    I compete in MMA as a lightweight (155lbs) my regular walk around weight is about 178 in camp about 175. A good 10-14 lbs of what I cut is pure water. But the other part is achieved through ridiculous dieting. After my last fight I gave myself an entire “Cheat Week” as opposed to my usual “Cheat day”. I don’t know what/how it happened but fight night I weighed 172 with about 4% BF a week later exactly I weighed 191lbs…. I experimented like you to see how quickly my body could adjust back. I switched my workouts from Strength Building to H.I.I.T and got back on my meal plans and started every morning off with Fasted Cardio for Calories and high fiber meals. I managed to get to 181 In three days, getting further down required about 8 more days. There I think I started actually battling the Body Fat instead of the Carb Bloat and Water Retention. But your exactly right brother, not being able to tie your shoes sucks. Similarly my ankles swole up HUGE, and I had EXTREMELY reduced energy levels, did you notice any of that? I went from my usual mealplan of about 2500 calories a day to one day where I consumed 7850 calories… it was an interesting experience but NEVER EVER AGAIN.

    • Anthony January 6, 2015, 2:00 am

      Nope. None of that.