I am sure we have all heard the term ‘water weight’ thrown around - whether that be our friends trying to console us or it being an association with a juice or detox cleanse. When you first start a new exercise or eating plan it can be hard to determine what ‘type’ of weight you are gaining or losing. Many people get frustrated because their weight often fluctuates and they can’t figure out the cause of this. Whilst excess water weight (or water retention) is something that can affect everybody, there are a few things we can do about it. The first step comes from understanding.
So what is water retention?
Simply speaking, water retention is when fluid (mainly water) begins to build up in our body’s tissues. Sometimes this can just affect particular areas of our body or our entire body.
Some common symptoms include:
- puffiness or swelling (particularly in the hands and feet, ankles and legs)
- unexplained changes in weight in a short period of time
- aching or stiffness in the affected area
What are the causes of water retention?
Before I begin, I must emphasise that are several reasons as to why your body might be holding onto excess water. While some of these causes can easily be treated, there are some causes that are a lot more serious. So if you are someone that is experiencing large-scale water retention, then it is really important that you speak with your doctor to find what could be causing this.
Today I’m going to discuss some lifestyle factors that might cause water retention and some simple ways to help combat these.
1. Standing or sitting for long periods
Flash back to Year 2 science when your teacher told you about a little something called gravity... As we know, gravity is that force that essentially pulls everything towards the earth, including our body. When we are standing or sitting for long periods of time, gravity can cause water to accumulate in our legs and feet, which may cause swelling in these areas.
If you are someone who stands for hours on end, then it can be a good idea for you to move around as much as possible throughout the day. This is because movement can help improve circulation, which can then help reduce water retention and swelling in these areas. So if you are someone that works an office job, I recommend going for a quick walk every 30-45 minutes, whether that be to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom or going for a quick lap of the office just to stretch your legs. Whether it be on your lunch break or at the end of the day, another way to help reduce water retention is to elevate your legs. Just lay on your back with your feet resting on a small stool or something similar for up to 30 minutes.
2. Eating a diet that is too high in salt
One of the most common lifestyle causes of water retention is eating a diet that is high in sodium (salt). Did you know that eating too much sodium can cause your body to hold onto more water? Even if you’re not heavy handed with salt in your food, what most people forget to realise is that a lot of pre-packaged, processed foods can be very high in sodium, even if the foods isn’t necessarily “salty”.
To avoid this, I recommend following a diet that consists mainly of whole foods and is high in fruit and vegetables. This is because these foods contain lots of potassium, which is a mineral that helps to counteract sodium and may help to reduce fluid retention. Some examples of foods that are high in potassium are bananas and avocados. I will quickly point out that sodium is not the enemy! In fact, it is a very important mineral that our body needs every single day. But like everything, it’s important that we eat it in the right amounts and don’t go overboard.
3. Hormonal changes
Some girls find that in the week leading up to that “time of the month” that they seem to hold a bit more water weight. This is very common. It’s likely that this is caused by the changes in hormones that help prepare your body for your period. Unfortunately, periods are something that we can not avoid. If you tend to hold onto a little more water during this time, then there a few things that you can do that could prevent it from getting worse.
The first one is avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods that are high in sodium. I know - this is probably the last thing you feel like doing when those cravings hit! But now that we know these foods can cause us to hold onto more water, do your best to replace these with whole foods, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresh fruits and veg can also help you feel more satisfied and less bloated.
My second tip is to drink water. Just because your body might be holding onto excess water, it doesn’t mean that you should stop drinking it altogether. Aim to drink about eight glasses (~2L) per day or more if you are exercising or spending time out in the sun.
The third tip would be to try and do a small amount of exercise as this can also help to reduce water retention. Exercise can also help you to feel better, which is probably exactly what you need at that time! Just listen to your body and do what you can!
As you can see there are a variety of factors that can cause water retention, some of these you can help whilst others are just a part of being human. Try not to stress over this too much! However, if you find that you’re body is holding onto large amounts of water, then it is important that you speak to your doctor to determine what it is that might be causing this.
Love, Kayla xx