Incredible as it may seem, water is quite possibly the single most important catalyst in losing weight and keeping it off. We often get our signals crossed and think we’re hungry when we really are just thirsty. Water suppresses the appetite and helps the body metabolize stored fat.
The overweight person needs more water than the thin one. Since we know that water is important in fat metabolism, it follows that the overweight person who is trying to lose weight needs more water. Water helps maintain proper muscle tone by giving muscles their natural ability to contract and by preventing dehydration. It also helps prevent the sagging skin that usually follows weight loss. Shrinking cells are buoyed by water which plumps the skin and leaves it clear, healthy and resilient.
Drinking enough water is the best treatment for fluid retention. When the body gets less water, it perceives this a threat to survival and begins to hold on to every drop. Water is stored in extra cellular spaces (outside the cell). This shows up as swollen feet, hands, and legs. Diuretics force out stored water along with some essential nutrients. Again, the body perceives a threat and will replace the lost water at the first opportunity. Thus, the condition quickly returns. The best way to overcome the problem of water retention is to give your body what it needs - water. If you have a problem with congestive heart failure or chronic kidney disease- always check with your medical provider for fluid recommendations.
If you have a constant problem with water retention, excess salt (sodium chloride) may be to blame. Your body will tolerate sodium only in certain concentrations. The more sodium you eat, the more water your body retains to dilute it. You can lower your sodium intake by eating less processed, cured and canned foods and drink more water. As water is forced through the kidneys, it takes away excess sodium too. 2300 mg of sodium or less is the recommended amount we should consume in a day. Divide that by three meals and limit each meal to 700 mg. One can of soup may contain 1500 mg of sodium or more! To stay within the recommended amounts avoid the salt shaker and reduce the amount of salt used in cooking. You will taste the food in it’s natural state and not just the salt. Since sodium is a preservative, anything in a box, can or bag must be suspect so make sure to read the nutrition label. Foods naturally low in sodium include all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, natural unsalted nuts and seeds, natural unsalted beef, chicken, pork, eggs and most fish.
Water can help relieve constipation. When the body gets too little water, it siphons what it needs from internal sources. The colon is one primary source. Result? Constipation. But, when a person drinks enough water and eats a diet rich in dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, normal bowel function returns.
How much water is enough? On the average, a person should drink six to eight (8 oz.) glasses everyday. However, the overweight person needs one additional glass for every 25 lbs of excess weight. The amount that you drink should be increased if you exercise or if the weather is hot and dry. Water should preferably be cold. Besides tasting better, it is absorbed more quickly into the system than warm water. If you don’t like plain water try adding a little lemon juice to improve the taste and it’s a natural diuretic. Drink up!
Mary Sieruta, RD, MS, LDN, CDE
Mary Sieruta is a Certified Diabetes Educator and has been a Registered Dietitian with the Community Health Center for nine years.