Did You Lose Weight on the Camino?

leslie in albergueI lost about 8kgs, about 18 lbs, over a four week period. So yes I did lose a lot of weight on the Camino. However losing weight was never one of my intentions for walking. I did not set out on the Camino to lose weight and I must admit that it never entered into my mind at any time while I was there.

Losing the weight was simply the result of walking, I ate pretty much anything I wanted, including ice cream every day – well it was hot.

I had managed while on the Camino Frances, to forget about how I looked. Most of the time I was dirty and smelly, this is what comes from walking 20-30 kms every day and wearing the same clothes over and over again, even though I washed them every day. After a few days, I managed to stop caring about how I appeared to other people. That was great and very welcome, a real freedom.

Why the Weight Dropped Off

In my day to day life, I spend about 10 hours a day sitting in front of a computer – not much different from many people.  My daily exercise routine amounts to getting a walk for between 30 and 60 minutes, likely not enough.  In fact, recently I have read articles comparing this amount of sitting to the new cancer of the western world.  That article should shock all us computer geeks.

So for between 4 and 5 weeks, I walked about 25km each day – very different from my normal life style.  I did not have a fridge to hand filled with anything that I wanted at that moment, essentially the larder was empty.  Walking that amount naturally uses up energy.  The other huge change was TV.  Never on the Camino did I watch a TV.  At home I try to watch only a little TV, however, I do get into the habit during the winter of watching about two hours each night – I have come to regard this as my switch off period.  My head stops working and I leave work behind.  However, I notice a big difference between TV watching and reading, while reading I never munch away on snacks – but while watching the television I can eat without really noticing it.  So that one really answers itself…

My Mental Health

Not looking after myself whether by socializing, eating good foods or having enough exercise outside does affect my mental health.  By nurture or nature, I have a grumpy disposition and I am prone to stress.  I know I have the power to change this – however when having to get work out the door other things are abandoned – and the first to go always seems to be the very good stuff – my health. It is much easier to throw something in the microwave, and put off seeing friends, or spend time with family or exercising.  Again I answer my own questions.

After each Camino, my habits had changed for a while and then slowly the older not so good habits came back.  I think I could well be the type of person that could do with walking the Camino de Santiago for a month every year.

While on the Camino I ate breakfast, lunch, and diner.  That was about it, (and a few ice creams).  I spent a lot of time every day with other people – talking and listening as was needed.  And as for helping people – here I sit staring at one of my three screens just getting on with work – the contrast is stark, in my daily life my help of others amounts donating to Kiva or some other cause – my help is at arm’s length and doesn’t involve my time only money.

I did not set out in this post to talk about what is wrong with my life, but writing leads where it does.  What about you?  Did you lose weight on the Camino, have better habits after the Camino, or notice any changes in your thought about life in general?

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  1. Tavish Colquhoun on January 4, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I walked from SJPP to Santiago from September 6th to October 5th this year (2013). I started out at 6’2″ 220 pounds and finished 20 pounds lighter. My waist went from a 38 to 36. I am very pleased, but now working to keep the weight off. I am 74 years old, and felt so good after three weeks on the Camino that I found myself jogging frequently during the last week – from Sarria. I have a slight touch of Asperger’s syndrome that keeps me living somewhat hermit like. My Aspy was diminished quite a bit during the first weeks of my walk, but returned as I approached the end. When I reached Santiago I was very unsocial and found myself actively avoiding people. I absolutely loved walking the Meseta due to the solitude. Here at home I live up in the mountains on 55 private wooded acres, surrounded by thousands of acres of forest and have very little contact with other people. Almost a hermit, but not quite. I was married to a wonderful woman from 1980 to 2003. Sadly she died suddenly from Cancer within six weeks of complaining of stomach pains.

    Yes, I lost weight, but I’m not sure I gained anything else from my pilgrimage.

    • Dinah Shaw on April 30, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      I gained 7 lbs and was not a happy camper. However, I did lose inches.

  2. Cathy on January 4, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Here’s a story which might interest you regarding weight.

    I walked in March/April 2010, have just got home. It was a fabulous experience – I went on my own, met up with a bunch of others walking on their own. One pilgrim was trying to lose weight so once a week we would stop in at a farmacia and get his height and weight checked. We all celebrated his successes. Another friend was desperately trying to not lose weight, so we weighed him in too. I didn’t really care about my weight, but my pre-camino and post-camino weight were only 1 kilo different! They say you lose fat and gain muscle, so don’t go by the scales too much, it’s about how you feel.

    I have to say I think the most under-rated element of the camino is that it doesn’t matter what you look like, how many days it’s been since you washed your clothes (or your hair), people just accept you for who you are. At home I wear make up (only a bit, I’m no fashionista) and straighten my hair everyday – no such luxuries on the camino!!! It is unreal to think I have a bunch of friends who have never seen me with straight hair…..

    • David on January 5, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      Great story Cathi…certainly brought back memories and made me smile…

  3. Patti on January 5, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Interesting posts. I am dieting now before beginning the camino. I am 74 yrs old and want to make it easier on myself. I am curious whether starting out with the intention of losing weight as a goal, is realistic. Any comments are welcome.

    • Leslie on January 9, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      I don’t think having any goal apart from walking is a great idea for the Camino. That said many things will happen just as the result of being there and walking everyday.

      • Imelda Dyas on January 20, 2016 at 6:02 pm

        hi Leslie, sounds good to me…I just opened this up and was delighted to see you here! I am just wondering now where to start? airport wise as its getting nearer my time of departure from Dublin Ireland… I am thinking Biarritz and wondering how much I should pay for the flight after march 20th 2016! eeek

        • Leslie on February 2, 2016 at 5:57 am

          Biarritz is the best airport to fly into to get to St Jean Pied de Port.

          I don’t know about flight costs – the earlier the better usually.

      • Jack Heilgeist on May 15, 2017 at 7:45 pm

        In two sentences you expressed my same view of the Camino. It’s long walk requiring you to put one foot in front of the other. It’s not necessary and even counterproductive to plan every aspect. Just do it you will be rewarded with your own special experiences. Just remember when someone on the Camino reaches their hand out to you, take it and enjoy the friendship they are offering.

        When I say you I’m referring to the people to whom you are relying.

    • David on January 5, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      They say you lose your pack weight first…and you know it when you throw your pack on one morning and can’t really feel the weight anymore…i lost 8kg pack weight in first 10/12 days…after that I lost another 3kgs by Finnistere…of course if you are walking for 6hrs a day your metabolism is gonna burn up any excess…i wouldn’t worry bout dieting too much..its gonna drop off day by day…Buen Camino

  4. Helen on January 9, 2016 at 8:49 am

    I walked Sept 22-Nov 5 2014 when I was 58 years old. I am a married woman and mother but chose to walk alone. Of course I made lifelong friends along the way. I didn’t weigh myself before I left but I was probably 20 lbs heavier than my fantasy weight. I am gluten free because I feel better that way so I did not eat the delicious Spanish bread daily. I also drink tea, not coffee, so didn’t drink the delicious cafe con leche. I didn’t eat ice cream except a few times and didn’t drink a lot of wine. Just a glass or sometimes two most nights. I did drink quite a lot of beer! One or two a day, usually as I passed through a town. Sometimes I just bought one from a store cooler and drank it down and kept walking. On the hot days it really refreshed me and kept my energy up. I did eat a lot: gorged on fresh figs off trees and bought more in the markets. I ate a lot of nuts as snacks while walking and also in my bed while reading at night. Especially the marcona almonds which are so expensive in North America. I often bought food in the markets for lunch along the way, often wasa crackers and cheese. sometimes tomatoes and avocados which I doused with mini bottles of olive oil and vinegar. I wasn’t really trying to lose weight but I had read comments by a few women who had actually gained weight on the Camino as a result of too many cafe con leches and too much bread and I knew I did not want to gain weight.
    I also ate my share of tortilla for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. I must have lost 30 pounds. I had a real waist for the first time in my life. The clothes I had worn to Spain literally fell off me! After my Camino I wasn’t ready for the shock of re-entry so visited Granada and then went South to the beach to find some sun. I had four days of relaxing on the beach and it was a great way to absorb the lessons of the Camino and ponder my experiences. I bought a bikini and felt great!
    I have gained back most of the weight I had lost. Cooking for husband, inactivity and lack of discipline. I often think of how much I exercised and how little I ate in Spain compared to what I eat at home even when I am not getting a lot of exercise.
    I used to be a long distance runner before an injury and never considered walking to be real exercise. I changed my mind in Spain! Now I use poles when I walk to get a full-body workout.
    Every night when I go to bed I appreciate my cosy mattress and soft sheets, my plush pillow and husband who does not snore.
    I am glad I don’t have to hand wash and dry my clothes every day.
    I try to see the familiar landmarks of my neighborhood and city with the fresh and curious eyes of a Camino walker.
    I am aware of a lessened attachment to things. Even family heirlooms have lost some of their importance to me. I discard things more easily because I appreciate more the freedom of having less to be responsible for.
    I have a picture on the wall in the bedroom which i see when I am in bed. It is of a country road, alongside a misty green field with a tree by the side of the road changing color. It looks a lot like Galicia and I see it every morning and every night and it takes me back. My visual memories are tied to sound. In my mind I hear the crunch of my footsteps and the tick of my poles.
    I know I will walk the Camino again. Perhaps from Le Puy in France next time. But not quite yet.
    Buen Camino

    • Leslie on January 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      I am the same with putting most of the weight back on, it is just too easy when at home to eat more than I need.

  5. MB on January 27, 2016 at 1:12 am

    I am walking this July. I have much weight to lose, but I started training in November, and have so far lost 18 pounds. I am walking or working out every day, and feel SO much better than I did in November!! I am so looking forward to being able to walk every day because I am beginning to feel “addicted” to the exercise! 🙂
    When I went to Spain in 2010, I went for 6 weeks to just travel around, and explore historical sites. I left for 6 days to go to Italy, but returned. When I got back home, I discovered that I had lost 8 pounds over those 6 weeks. What a surprise!!! I did not try at ALL! – in fact, just the opposite of trying! haha….I ate whatever I wanted, drank wine and cerveza, and it was so hot I did not exercise…BUT…the food in Spain is so healthy and clean….that really does make a difference. Here I spend SO MUCH time in the supermarkets reading labels to make sure it’s not filled with hormones and such. Spain doesn’t allow that crap in their food. So, I am looking forward to some easy good eating to go along with my daily motion!!!
    ¡Buen Camino!

    • Leslie on February 2, 2016 at 6:02 am

      Like you pointed out, I prefer not to concentrate on weight but on how I am feeling from exercise.

  6. LisaMarieKirkwood on May 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I love reading All your conversations everybody:) Walking the Camino is a dream of mine that got lost in my past two years of illnesses….. I look forward to being well , physically strong and sharing MY Camino story with you all someday too:) until then I will keep reading and taking notes from you all of how to start and finish well 🙂

  7. Luc Reinquin on May 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Last year, I walked the camino from Genk in Belgium to SdG. Total distance between 2.400 and 2.600 km. At the start, my weight was about 109 kg. After 3 weeks of walking and eating like a horse, I lost already 11 kg. That was really a surprise because it was not my intention to loose weight, but anyway, it was great to notice that walking every day was enough to loose weight. When I arrived in SdG I checked again to see that I lost 17 kg in total. Without a diet. I drank wine everyday, had good meals and a lot of chocolate. To keep my weight under control at home, I try to walk every day and I watch my diet. Less alcohol, no sugar, less carbohydrates and a little bit less food on the plate. I’m around 87 – 88 kg now and it is very easy to keep that weight. Comming from 109 kg, I’m very happy now and I feel healthier and more fit.

  8. Catherine on May 15, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Would love to say yes but having walked from St Jean I managed to say the same. Possibly too much vino tinto!

  9. robbidenman on May 15, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I am a 59 year old recently retired, female massage therapist. I only lost 5 lbs!! didn’t eat much of the bread, bought fruit and veggies for snacks and ate nuts and jerky when my comrades were eating tortillas. I had the cafe con leche occasionally and ice cream about 5 times. I had dessert maybe about 5 times. I did drink my fair share of wine… Overall, I thought I was quite disciplined and though I didn’t have a goal of losing weight, I hoped I would. At home I walk a couple of hours most days and am pretty active, so I did’t go from desk to Camino – so maybe my body is just too efficient…

  10. Just Bob on April 30, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    15 seems to be my magic number……. 3 Camino’s (eat EVERYTHING in sight) and I lost 15 pounds each time.

  11. Joanne on May 1, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    My hubby and I will walk from SJPP to Santiago this fall. We have from mid September to early November to complete it. We are hoping to take a day or two in spots that feel good for us. We have been wanting to do this for about 5 yrs but with kids and jobs have been unable to take the time.

    About 15 mos ago, we decided now is the time to start planning. Our baby is now 18. We will get him settled in post secondary and then we are off. I feel a bit guilty leaving them. If they were all done their studies I would bring them! But I am being called too do this now. My hubby is 53 and I will turn 52 while we are on the Camino. We are both essentially healthy too.

    I have a sedentary job as well, but we have started training a year ago. Recently I am doing weight training as well. I have lost a few pounds but I am also trying. Hoping, it not banking on, losing a few lbs along the Camino. My journey is mental/spiritual first, and physical second. Love reading all your stories. Thanks for sharing!

  12. sa on May 10, 2018 at 4:06 am

    Love to hear all your interesting stories. My husband and I are planning our first walk and are looking for all tips and info we can get.
    We are both mid sixties and therefore hearing of 70 plus people walking 20/30 per day is really inspiring
    Thank you all for much appreciated stories and info
    We look forward to posting our own .

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