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Water Weight

“Water Weight” is one of those terms or words that I like to use a lot without really knowing what it means. (See also “insipid.”) It’s one of those dieting buzz words that makes you sound smart and informed, but no one will ever bother asking you what it means because they don’t want to look stupid. For instance, would anyone in this post-Atkins craze era have the nerve to admit they don’t know what a carbohydrate is?

So I was very happy when the official South Beach Diet e-mail newsletter, The Daily Dish, revealed what water weight is and why it comes and goes:

Day-to-day weight changes are commonly caused by minor fluctuations in your water composition. This loss of “water weight” differs from actual weight loss, which is achieved over time and generally reflects the loss of fat. With any weight-loss program, some of the initial weight loss will be from water. Several other factors also influence water weight: the amount of water, salt, and/or caffeine consumed; the glycogen stores in muscles and the liver; and a woman’s menstrual cycle.

In terms of water, the less you drink, the more your body retains, and vice versa, whereas with salt, the more you consume, the more water weight you retain. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes you to lose extra water weight in the form of urine. And, as you know, women tend to retain water before and during menstruation. Glycogen is a source of fuel made from extra carbohydrates that is stored in the muscles and liver and broken down as energy when needed. It is stored along with a lot of water — 3 to 4 pounds of water for every pound of glycogen.

Therefore, if people reduce the carbohydrates from their diets (common in the first few weeks of many diet plans), they tend to see dramatic weight loss because the body uses the glycogen and flushes the associated water as urine. Since all of the reasons I’ve discussed above can account for weight changes, instead of worrying about daily shifts on your scale, I suggest limiting your weigh-ins to once a week and judging your success by the tightness — or looseness — of your waistband along with how good you feel.

Good Luck,

Dr. Arthur Agatston

Now I can actually know what I’m talking about for a change.

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Dee • December 12, 2005 at 7:07 pm

LOL!!!! I am the same way – hehe thank you for sharing your insight so that when on the off chance someone asks – I’ll know what to say, instead of “what you really don’t know?”

I laughed so much at the aktins remark too – only because sadly even tho never done atkins I’m still finding out things are in the carb family too LOL.

Congratulations on the loss this week too! God how does it feel to say you’re 251.5 now? You’re over half way to your goal :) what an amazing inspiration!


Hilly • December 12, 2005 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for your très informative post.

Can you come here and tell our Atkins loving roommate what you just told everyone online so he freaking gets it???



Lissa • December 12, 2005 at 8:57 pm

Hi… not sure how I found ya but I’ve enjoyed my visit. From one web design geek to another, great job on your layout and love the 3D models of yourself you created. Good luck on the weight loss.


Fid • December 13, 2005 at 2:29 am

Diet stuff is so full of jargon. Half the time I wonder if any of it really means anything.

And on a side note (am a few days behind) I lived in Japan for a year and am 5’10”. It’s true. You do stand out horribly at that height and you develop a thick skull because you keep cracking it off doorways! :)


Kirsten • December 13, 2005 at 3:55 am

I like new technical terms; they make me feel as though I have the Key to All Wisdom (or at least pleasantly well-informed). Then some new ones come along and I’m back to going “eh?”

My cycle is a major pain for throwing the numbers off – although the bonus is that I’ve had my biggest losses just afterwards (presumably I was losing slowly all through, and it was just masked by the water) which feels very satisfying.

I have a friend who lives in Japan who’s also 5’10 – is there something that makes tall girls head east? Although, from where you are, I suppose it’s west. I’ll have to ask her (nicely) if she feels like a giant. She did dye her shocking-pink spiky hair back to its natural dark brown, on the grounds that she would be conspicuous enough as it is…


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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