Episode 24: Why losing water weight is a good thing
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You always hear that someone has lost water weight in the context that it’s not a good thing, or that it’s not impressive. Well, hold your horses, because today we’re talking about why losing water weight is actually good for you!
My Diet Is Better Than Yours
So, I’ve been pretty excited about this show on ABC called “My Diet is Better Than Yours.” It’s actually kind of neat, they have five different pretty popular nutrition professionals with different diet and lifestyle philosophies on how to achieve your ideal weight and health. It’s actually probably one of the most moderate and health-focused diet shows out there. There’s also a large component of the show that focuses on individualism. It’s cool – the show recognizes that we’re all unique snowflakes, with our own nutritional and fitness needs.
It’s also cool because Abel James (who you may know as the Fat Burning Man) is a nutrition podcaster that I’ve been listening to for a few years now, and it’s really cool to see him share with other people the same ideas that informed my own exploration of health and nutrition.
But anyway, in the first week, as is typical with these diet shows, the contestants all put up pretty big numbers. One guy actually lost 16 pounds. Which is a lot for one week (or even for one month).
Now, whenever people lose this much weight, the first thing that tends to be said is that it’s all water weight. And this is a comment that is made to belittle the progress. No one ever really says, “congrats on losing all that water weight!” Honestly, it kind of bums me out to say this, but I really think it’s a defensive response. A little mix of jealousy, and cognitive dissonance. Most of the people who would make those types of comments maybe aren’t happy with their own weight, and can’t quite conflate that amount of weight loss in such a short time with their own experience.
But Seriously, It Actually Is Mostly Water Weight…
Anyway, saying that amount of weight loss in a week is predominantly water weight is not at all untrue. As most of you probably know, using the whole calories-in vs. calories out model of energy balance, sixteen pounds in a week of fat is nearly super difficult without some sort of metabolic disorder combined perhaps with a tapeworm. So, it’s totally reasonable to assume that this much weight loss in a week is mostly water.
The issue that I’d like to address here, is that there seems to be this idea that losing water weight is either a bad thing, neutral, or at best… only an aesthetic benefit. And this, is totally untrue.
What this all comes down to, in a nutshell, is inflammation. And as we’ve talked about before, reducing inflammation is actually a really good thing.
What is Inflammation?
So, we’ll take a super basic example here, to kind of put this in perspective. When you sprain your ankle, it immediately swells up, right? And it’s obvious that what’s happening, is that the ankle is filling with fluid – it’s not air that makes it puff up – it’s white blood cells, blood, lymph and extra fluid that seeps from surrounding cells. This is the body’s natural response to injury, to increase nutrients and white blood cells in the area, promoting healing.
For short durations, inflammation can be protective. Now, eventually, you end up icing your ankle to reduce the swelling, because that pressure put on the ankle from all of that extra fluid starts to cause pain.
Now, in your ankle, extended periods of inflammation will be painful and aggravating, and can cause joint issues, but isn’t really life threatening. Inflammation in other parts of your body, however, is not so great.
Inflammation in the Body
Chronic inflammation can lead to or exacerbate conditions such as:
- cardiovascular disease
- heart attacks
- autoimmune conditions
- a whole host of other things
This is where the ankle analogy kind of breaks down, because in that case, the injury was clearly caused by physical trauma. When you have inflammation inside your body, the trauma is generally caused by diet and lifestyle.
Smoking (please stop smoking, seriously), alcohol, sugar, processed foods and a poor omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of fats ingested all promote inflammation inside your body. So, this is inflammation in your organs, arteries, joints, potentially your brain tissue. The whole shebang.
I’m not going to go into how to reduce inflammation or how to achieve a favorable omega-3 to 6 ratio of fats today. We have talked a little bit about it in the past, and I have a future podcast planned on omega-3s, but it’s important to note what happens when we do reduce inflammation in our bodies.
We lose water weight. I bet you saw that coming. When inflammation is reduced, it more or less means that there is less fluid in that area. And this fluid has to go somewhere. Not all of it is re-absorbed. Now, this means less pressure on your organs, your cardiovascular system, your joints – really, whatever was experiencing the inflammation. This also means less pain, and in theory, a reduction in risk of the diseases we talked about earlier. All very good things.
So, losing that water weight not only helps to alleviate the pressure on your body’s systems, but is also indicative of positive changes happening. It’s a sign that your body isn’t being flooded with as many pro-inflammatory compounds, or at least that they’re being balanced.