I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away.
I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).
I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water.
Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking
Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.
First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.
Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal.
Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”
So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings
I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.
Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.
For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded
Track Your Daily Water Intake
While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.
You can’t change what you don’t track.
If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed.
And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.
Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.
I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)
We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.)
As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.
The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.
Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies
If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake.
Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.
Here are a few fun suggestions:
- ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
- strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
- blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
- cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole
Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.
Water for Weight Loss
So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!