I did promise you a blog post about my horrendous post-comp, in-flight body swelling experience (such fun!) but, since it’s now been more than 6 weeks since the flight, it hardly seems relevant. Except it kind of is.
See, my newsfeeds and timelines are full of festive freak outs about Christmas weight gain, peppered with the plucky few (mostly young blokes, it has to be said) who are fascinated and a bit impressed by the amount they’ve managed to pack on.
I did learn a few valuable lessons from my trans-Atlantic edema experience, and maybe they’ll be useful to anyone looking to quickly deflate after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve.
First up, a quick look back at what happened….
I ended my bodybuilding season (which had entailed a pretty long diet) out in America. Boston, to be precise, where I’d competed in the WNBF Amateur World Championships as part of Team UK.
This year, I decided to stay out there for five days after the comp. With a friend. Who likes eating as much (perhaps more) than I do.
As you can imagine, this convergence of comedic factors led to a lot of “foreign” foods being put into my dieted-down body over a short period of time. Fats, sugar, sodium…. or, as I prefer to call it, Cheesecake Factory, Coldstone Creamery, burgers…
So by the time I boarded the flight home, I was already a bit fatter. But that’s nothing compared to what happened during the overnight flight. Stuck in a middle seat between two large, sleeping, immobile gentleman, I felt (and saw) myself expand. My knuckles disappeared into watery oblivion, my socks bit into me, and I wrestled my shoes off only to discover that I could honestly barely get them back on. Lucy, my travelling companion, looked horrified when I was finally able to “delicately” shove a sockless foot in her face. My toes were at one with the rest of my foot.
Back home, I barely recognised myself. I actually wish I’d taken photos. It was…. horrifying but fascinating. If I shook my quads, I could actually see the “water” rippling under the skin (sure, I’d also put fat on, but this was not fat I was witnessing, believe me, I’ve seen body fat on myself and this was different). I looked like I was wearing a bodysuit filled with water. I weighed myself: 11kgs (KILOS not pounds) heavier than stage weight.
Two days later, 6kgs had gone.
Anyway the point of giving you my quite frankly scary and distressing run-in with edema is this: to tell you what I did, in case any of it can be any use to you if you’ve seriously over done it over Christmas!
1) Don’t overdo it in the first place
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and this is a useless action point. But it might help for next time. I know that I wouldn’t have blown up like a water balloon on that flight if I hadn’t spent the previous few days eating my way around Boston. But I was hardly not going to do that, given the circumstances of being there. What I should have done, was spent the day prior to the flight eating less inflammatory foods and drinking more water.
2) Cut back on these things now
Some are obvious: processed sugary foods, very fatty foods, sodium, salt. But I had no idea that dairy can cause bloating and inflammation. The day of our flight, I had a latte, a hot chocolate, and then I had two yoghurts on the plane. This is after cutting out dairy during my prep diet. Nice one, dumbass.
3) Water, water, water
If you find yourself scarily bloated, drink lots of water. It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but trust me, do it anyway. When you start peeing like a racehorse, things are moving in the right direction… !
4) Eat light, plain and simple
Goes without saying. But do try to get back to your regular way of eating, to give your body a break. Cut down on carbs, knock the sweets on the head, load up on veggies and protein.
5) Move yo ass!
Get moving. Whatever you can manage will help, even just walking. Don’t sit around poking at your crazy watery body. It’s weirdly fun but won’t help.
6) Get a massage
If you can find someone to do a “drainage” type massage whilst you’re still suffering from bloat, go for it. I had a lymphatic drainage massage which was OK, but it would have been much more beneficial if I’d had it sooner. I also saw my regular massage guy – Ben Barnett, who offers hydrotherm massage – and I think the warmth of the treatment helped my body sweat things out a bit!
7) Don’t panic
I won’t lie, when I got off that plane and could barely get my shoes on, I felt horrible. I was so swollen I was in pain. I spent the next 48 hours in a panic. Don’t worry – yes, it’s horrid but it won’t last forever. And, honestly, if most of that weight gain is edema and not fat (you’ll know), it WILL go.
8) Sweat it out
I’ve no idea if this was the right thing to do, but I bundled up and did a few sweaty cardio sessions whilst I was still blown up like a balloon. It felt as if it helped.
9) Are herbal diuretics worth it?
It’s your call, but I don’t think it’s worth taking dandelion or uva ursi or any other herbal diuretic whilst you’re trying to debloat. My thinking was that I’d already messed with my body quite enough, and wanted it to rebalance itself naturally. I had to leave it to its own devices. One thing I did do was up my vitamin C intake (from tablets).
10) Don’t go on a long flight…
11) …and if you must, don’t get stuck on a middle seat on an overnight flight!
Yeah, that too. I really wish I’d just woken those chaps up and moved about more. I’m not sure it would have helped a great deal but I’m sure it would have been better than sitting there basically motionless for 6 hours.
Well, I do hope the embarrassing tale of The Time I Put On 11KGS has helped somebody, somewhere, somehow. It’s an experience I hope never to repeat! 😉
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.