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Why does the Camping Diet Work?
Old 09-24-2011, 03:11 PM   #1
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Why does the Camping Diet Work?

Every time we go on a several-week camping trip, we come back weighing 3-5 pounds less. It happens consistently despite exercising less and (possibly) eating more. Both Lena and I have seen it on three trips now. This time we were sure we'd gain weight, with, for example, several cheap prime rib dinners ($7.77 at casinos) and rodizio dining.


We do go on bike rides and hikes, but probably exercise less than at home.

We eat out on average 1.5 meals per day, and have the impression that we eat more.

On our last trip, we drove an average of 200 miles per day, so perhaps four hours of sitting in the car each day. Every few days we do a few hours of Internet, and most of the time after dinner is spent sitting in front of the fire.

My best guess is that the diet works because there is less time spent sitting down. Instead we are setting up the tent, taking it down, getting the cooler out of the car, walking to get water, walking to the bathroom, etc. At home, when not exercising, we're sitting and playing piano, surfing the Internet, knitting, or watching TV.

Another possibility is that we do less hard exercise, and lose muscle. On this last trip, however, I measured my biceps before and after and there was no change.

What do you think is going on?
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:25 PM   #2
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I'm a bad late night snacker. I find I lose weight when on vacations because I do less of that. And I find that when camping, I go to sleep earlier and wake earlier. Thus less time for those pretzels and popcorn!
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:29 PM   #3
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I think the body adapts to routines more than we notice. So in our routine lives, even if we go to the gym and do a lot of housework every day, because our body is used to those particular actions, it learns how to expend little energy on them.

Whereas new activities such as loading/unloading a car and setting up a tent, as you say, confuse the body and it has to expend an inordinately large number of calories for even non-strenuous work.

Haha once responded to one of my posts about lowering weight set point, too, with a link that eventually led me to an interesting theory about how certain types of food can lower the set point. I think that moving to a new environment with unfamiliar foods can temporarily cause weight loss.

On a recent trip to Asia, I too noticed this phenomenon of losing weight unexpectedly (three pounds). Living in Asia, the food and lifestyle were very different, although I don't feel I was much more active than living at home.
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:35 PM   #4
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It is the continuous rocking motion of the car and the body compensating for that extra motion. Not quiet as effective as on small ship or a boat which moves in all directions.

Hey it is as good of theory as any other.
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:45 PM   #5
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Rodizio. Ummm. Of course, you are eating mostly protein, and more slowly that if you had everything served on one plate. Pirme rib may be similar - protein taking up most of the plate. Jus guessin'...
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Old 09-24-2011, 04:02 PM   #6
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How fast does the weight come back? If fast, it was probably your body adjusting to a different hydration level. If slow, it could be the extra activity, but ~900 calories per day is quite a bit of activity. You could try wearing a pedometer on your next trip and compare it to your normal around the house readings. (Ballpark: I'd estimate about 100 calories per 2000 extra steps.)
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Old 09-24-2011, 04:42 PM   #7
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It is the continuous rocking motion of the car and the body compensating for that extra motion. Not quiet as effective as on small ship or a boat which moves in all directions.

Hey it is as good of theory as any other.
When I was working I always used to lose 10 pounds or so on an oceanographic cruise. It wasn't due to lack of food, that's for sure. Maybe you've got something there!
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Old 09-24-2011, 06:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Every time we go on a several-week camping trip, we come back weighing 3-5 pounds less. It happens consistently despite exercising less and (possibly) eating more.
...
My best guess is that the diet works because there is less time spent sitting down.
What do you think is going on?
DH and I have experienced this when traveling overseas. There, I expect it's the leisurely walking all day, vs our usual daily hard gym routine of a couple hours then all that laying on the sofa and (not) eating bon bons. Also, I recently took some breaks from the gym to build a small structure outdoors, and lost a couple of pounds and gained some leg muscle, even though I never broke a sweat doing it. But what's really puzzling is that we maintained our weight on a recent road trip of six weeks, NOT camping, and eating out a lot. We did lose muscle on that one for sure, but not too much because we did some walking. I expected to gain a good five to ten pounds from that. Is it the next situation, or constant although very gentle exercise all day, or just the universe rewarding us for being fortunate enough to live well? I'm just as puzzled as you, TA.
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Old 09-24-2011, 06:36 PM   #9
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In my own experience it can vary. Backpacking trips or hunting or fishing trips into the mountains are very high output undertakings, much higher than my normal daily output. Especially hunting where you may cover a lot of mountainous territory daily, and then if you are succerssful have alot of heavy work to accomplish before dark.

And, for the most part, I eat less because it is hard to prepare food and clean up, and it may be cold or raining, and one is just too tired by evening to do anything but eat a little and fall asleep.

I almost always lose weight, and look better overall. I do remember one trip into the Uintas in Utah, where there were so many lightly fished lakes that we gorged on cutthroats all day long. Also, the lakes were so good that we didn't use much energy going from one to another.

I believe it is simple- you eat less and do more. One usually is packing quite a few more extra pounds than he realizes. There is apparently thin, and then apparently thinner. How many of us men look like Afghan tribesmen?

Ha
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Old 09-24-2011, 06:59 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rgarling View Post
How fast does the weight come back? If fast, it was probably your body adjusting to a different hydration level. If slow, it could be the extra activity, but ~900 calories per day is quite a bit of activity. You could try wearing a pedometer on your next trip and compare it to your normal around the house readings. (Ballpark: I'd estimate about 100 calories per 2000 extra steps.)
Here's my weight around our Idaho car/bike trip, last year:



The start of the graph is when we started serious low-carb. My weight this morning was 154.25.
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Old 09-24-2011, 07:19 PM   #11
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Nice graph. I would say that it shows about 2 pounds change in body composition, and about 2 pounds in hydration changes (assuming the trip happened roughly 9/10 to 9/26).
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Here's my weight around our Idaho car/bike trip, last year:



The start of the graph is when we started serious low-carb. My weight this morning was 154.25.
No obsessive/compulsive issues here, am I correct?
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:49 PM   #13
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I think the body adapts to routines more than we notice. So in our routine lives, even if we go to the gym and do a lot of housework every day, because our body is used to those particular actions, it learns how to expend little energy on them.
Whereas new activities such as loading/unloading a car and setting up a tent, as you say, confuse the body and it has to expend an inordinately large number of calories for even non-strenuous work.
There's an interesting research project in this anecdotal observation.

We're demolishing & rebuilding our familyroom, so our daily routine has been totally destroyed. Contractors are here 40+ hours/week. I haven't worked out in over three weeks and I've only been surfing a couple times. I only nap 2-3 times per week instead of every day. Stress levels have been elevated from decision fatigue and from the noisy environment. You would think that I'd be spending more time eating.

However I've been cleaning up (sweeping) and hauling lumber and doing a lot of painting. None of that is even remotely aerobic, let alone at the effort level of a brisk walk. I'm not losing muscle mass (not that I can tell). Yet in the last three weeks I've lost nearly five pounds and some of the chronic-fat-deposit areas are starting to show underlying muscle.

Maybe we should renovate more frequently.

Naaaah...
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:53 AM   #14
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Interesting graph Al. Do you follow a strict approach to weighing yourself (e.g. same time each day, same scale, etc.)?
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:03 PM   #15
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No obsessive/compulsive issues here, am I correct?
Be glad I only weigh myself once a day .

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I haven't worked out in over three weeks and I've only been surfing a couple times. I only nap 2-3 times per week instead of every day. Stress levels have been elevated from decision fatigue and from the noisy environment. ... None of that is even remotely aerobic, let alone at the effort level of a brisk walk.
I think this is the same phenomenon. Your description is much like our camping trip. Note that when retired, trips are more stressful than home life (will we get a campsite, did me make the wrong turn, etc.).

Quote:
Do you follow a strict approach to weighing yourself (e.g. same time each day, same scale, etc.)?
Yes. First thing every morning. It's a hard habit to break.
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:50 PM   #16
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They get plenty of exercise every day by outrunning the bears ...
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Old 09-25-2011, 03:57 PM   #17
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Here's my weight around our Idaho car/bike trip, last year:



The start of the graph is when we started serious low-carb. My weight this morning was 154.25.
Nah - this graph clearly demonstrates that the force of gravity diminishes with altitude. You were increasing altitude along the trip, right?

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Old 09-30-2011, 12:54 AM   #18
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My guess is it have more to do with your diet of low carbs. than anything else. Also, being in a high desert causes a person to dehydrate faster so some may be water loss. One sweats without feeling it due to super fast evaporation. There is a weather condition here called Virga where rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

Nords also may be on to something too. The Paleo diet folks talk about recreating our early ancestor's daily habits including diet and exercise. Few if any lifted weights for the fun of it nor ran miles in marathons. Instead, they moved frequently but at a leisurely pace so as to not frighten game or attract attention of predators. Brief runs at max. intensity a couple time a week; sort of like running for your life from an animal attack or chasing prey. Eating slowly and eating mostly tubers, fruits, nuts, meat and whatever else could be scavanged from the land. Farming was not yet created so no grains and the only sugar was milk and honey. Forced unnatural exercise like weight lifting, creates muscle mass but it differs from lean mass created by "living."

Perhaps it is a combination of the above.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:09 AM   #19
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Here's my weight around our Idaho car/bike trip, last year:



The start of the graph is when we started serious low-carb. My weight this morning was 154.25.
Chart resembles my porfolio performance since July of this year
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The Camping Diet
Old 09-30-2011, 10:49 AM   #20
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The Camping Diet

Al:

You should write a book on "The Camping Diet - Reduce your weight eating like our ancestors". Come up with some quasi-scientific explanation why it works and then go on the talk-show circuit.

The Million$ will pour in overnight.

The good life awaits you.
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