Imagine this: you’ve just gotten home from vacation, after what seems like a marathon of feasting on delicious, fattening, foods. Your friend–or worse, a love interest–wants to make plans to go to the beach in a few days.
You look in the mirror, and you see the souvenirs you’ve picked up on that trip of yours: maybe a bit of paunch, maybe an expanded waistline. Either way, you don’t have to panic just yet. A lot of that could be water weight!
Our bodies are made of water. About 60% water, to be more precise. We therefore, often against our will, store water whenever and wherever possible: especially in places where we don’t want to expand. A variety of factors can push this storage into overdrive:
- Sodium intake. Salt makes you hold onto water, causing bloating. Bloating is a big culprit in that extra paunch and bigger waist.
- Carbohydrate intake. This one is often overlooked. When you eat carbs, especially simple ones like white bread, rice, potatoes and baked goodies, you also retain water. This is both due to insulin spikes and the fact that carbs themselves make your body store more water.
- Hormones. Ladies, we’re screwed. Just kidding! Just know that a few pounds of that water weight could be part of PMS, and/or using hormonal birth control.
- Stress: When we get stressed out, we release cortisol, which once again causes water retention.
I could bore you and happily launch into detail about insulin, cortisol, osmosis, and sodium-potassium balance, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll tell you what you need to do to beat the bloat.
- First, calm down. You’ll get through this. Your friends will want to see you regardless of whether you feel like a catwalk model, or a hippo. Most importantly, stressing out about it makes you bloat more!
- Water yourself. So I know you’re not a plant, but seriously, drink as much water as humanly possible. This sounds counter intuitive, I know, but it is really important. I’ll skip the osmosis speech: just know that flushing yourself out will make you hold onto less water weight, as your body will no longer be in emergency water retention mode.
- Skip the sodium. Have your boiled egg or fish without the salt, and compensate with some other kind of healthy, low-sodium sauce or spice.
- Kick the carbs. Set aside those cookies, french fries, and white bread, and pick up some carrots and hummus, berries, or peanut butter (in moderation!). Be strong for just a few days, and you’ll look svelte in no time!
- Pick potassium: Eat bananas, unsweetened coconut or coconut water, tomatoes, spinach, beets, and mushrooms to maintain a good water balance.
- Exercise: Get yourself moving and sweating, and you’ll slim down in no time.
- *Caffeinate. Use this one with caution. Although a few cups of coffee will flush you out in no time, it could dehydrate and give you a net gain. So, use mild diuretics like green tea in the days leading up to the event, and perhaps coffee the morning of. Whatever works for you!
And now, an obligatory photo from one of my beach outings this summer, after I’d been hitting the sweets for a week. Maybe I should have had some coffee beforehand… ah well, I hope you have as much fun as we had!