Want To Lose More Than Just Water Weight? Doctors Say You Should Make These Two Diet Changes Immediately

Water weight, also known as water retention, fluid retention, or edema, is a common experience that is often caused by things beyond our control. However, it can be uncomfortable, and cause things like bloating and puffiness. Water weight can be especially frustrating when on a weight loss journey, as retaining water may cause the scale to go down a little slower. How do you keep your body from retaining water so you can see weight loss results? We asked Elaine Chiquette, Pharm.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Gelesis, what causes water retention and how to combat it.

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First of all, what causes water retention? “There are a number of causes. First the hormonal ones, menstruation and pregnancy are good examples, and these are largely out of your control,” Chiquette says, “Some medications can also cause water weight, like corticosteroids or oral birth controls, which contain hormones.” In situations like this, it’s important to remember that even if the scale reflects that you have gained weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve gained fat. Weight fluctuation is normal, so getting too caught up in numbers, especially a few small pounds, causes unnecessary stress that you shouldn’t focus on. 

However, there are causes of prolonged water retention that are within our control, and can be adjusted through lifestyle changes. For one thing, it could be a sign that you are eating too much salt. “It’s not just salting your food but ingesting products with a high amount of sodium, like cold cuts and canned soups,” Chiquette says. A way to avoid water retention due to high sodium intake is to be mindful of how much salt you add to your food. More importantly though, the place where sodium really gets you is in processed foods like crackers, canned food, and tomato sauce. You should cut back on the amount of processed foods you eat to make sure you’re not eating too much sodium. 


Water retention could also be a sign you’re not drinking enough water itself. “If you don’t drink enough water, your body will try to retain as much as it can,” Chiquette says, “As a good rule of thumb, take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That’s the number of ounces you should try to drink each day, and most of us don’t.” Remembering to drink water throughout the day can be a daunting task, but doing things like setting a timer to remind you to drink water, or carrying a travel water bottle with you while out and about, are ways to make staying hydrated a seamless part of your routine. Aside from that, eating hydrating foods like watermelon and cucumber are good ways to boost your water intake. 

Eating less sodium and drinking more water are two ways you can combat water retention and the heavy, bloated feeling that comes with it. But, as stated above, it’s important to remember that while water retention could cause the scale to go up a few pounds, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, water retention and weight fluctuation are very common. “It’s normal to have a 2-4 lb weight fluctuation in a day,” Chiquette says, “About 60% of your body is water and there is a constant balance where the body is adjusting.” This can be frustrating for people who are trying to lose weight and are tracking their progress through the scale. Checking your weight daily may not be the most accurate way to track your progress as it’s normal to have variability day to day, so try weighing yourself weekly instead. Embarking on a weight loss journey can be a daunting task, but staying focused, consistent, and of course hydrated, are crucial for long term success. 

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