Summer is behind us now, and while we may not be hitting the beach or laying poolside, we still want to look our best. With so much focus on those pesky numerals on the scale, we need to retrain ourselves to think about what those sometimes-dreaded numbers mean beneath our feet.
Not all pounds are created equal. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, after all. But muscle is denser, which means it’s smaller, and that pound of muscle will take up less space in your body than that pound of fat. Most of us know this already, but what about water weight? What is it exactly? And how does it factor into our overall weight?
What is Water Weight?
That dreaded bloat, that’s what. Your body thinks you need the water, so it’s holding onto H2O for dear life! You’re likely to notice your ankles, hands, and stomach look a little swollen when it’s water weight. Sure, it might make the scale tick up a few digits, but in most cases, it will dissipate in a few days’ time if you curb your carb and salt intake.
What Causes it to Increase or Decrease?
Yup, those delicious, salty, and carb-rich snacks are a major culprit. If you’re bloated and puffy and none too pleased about that sudden pooch that’s popped out of nowhere, blame the potato chips!
Unfortunately, the news gets worse for women. Since females are generally smaller than men, there is less space or places for water to go. So, women are going to notice a difference in weight more than men when it comes to retaining water. While water weight does make you gain weight, it’s very different than weight gain from body fat in that it has nothing to do with calories consumed or used. So, the upside is: It’s temporary.
What Can We Do About Excess Water Weight?
Ironically, drink more water! A well-hydrated body is healthier and therefore less likely to retain excess water. “When you’re not drinking enough [water], your body holds every drop to prevent severe dehydration,” says Abbey Sharp, RD. That means cutting back on the booze, too, because it dehydrates you. Consuming too much alcohol sends signals to your body that makes it hold onto every drop of water that it can.
Also, think twice before sprinkling your meals with an extra shake or two of table salt —it’s the most common cause of water retention. When you cut down salt and high-sodium foods, you will lose that water weight.
So, drink plenty of water (not booze), cut the salt, exercise, and eat plenty water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers, or grapefruit.