Everyone always says, ‘you can’t count that as weight loss, it’s just water.’ Or, ‘that’s not real weight loss, that’s just water weight.’ ‘It’s just water weight, you’ll gain it back.’

Why do we demonize water weight loss? Is is really such a bad thing? Is losing ‘water weight’ a false sign of weight loss?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, all of those beliefs are wrong.

TCM believes liquids, poor food choices, humidity, or other elements can stagnate in the body and cause what is known as ‘dampness.’ This dampness can cause any number of problems: water-retention, fluid-retention, phlegm buildup, poor digestive function, or slow the metabolism by blocking Qi, and consequently, weight gain or even obesity.

This is a bit counterintuitive to what we hear through fitness gurus, doctors, and diet programs in the west. However, I think it still makes sense in some ways.  If you start retaining water or fluid in your limbs or joints, and more and more starts to accumulate, eventually that’ll make your weight increase.  But it is not your real weight, that is liquid that should be flushed out.  You don’t want all of that surrounding your joints and causing them to be stiff; if our body doesn’t know what to do with all that excess liquid, it is can slowly be absorbed by the nearby fat cells.

If you have too much dampness slowing the metabolic processes, inhibiting free flow of energy, trapping toxins, and just generally making you feel sluggish, waste accumulates, digestion and metabolism slows, and problems begin.  One of the ways the body protects itself from toxins and harmful substances is to surround them in fat cells so they don’t cause damage.

So what does this mean?

More fat. More weight gain.  First from too much dampness stagnating and causing swelling, bloatedness, and edema, and then from the body protecting itself by accumulating fat.

So what can you do?

If you know you have dampness, usually diagnosed by a thick tongue coating and characterized by fatigue, excess weight, phlegm, new allergies or sinus infection, cloudy urine, then you should try to clear that dampness.  Some good food choices include lotus leaf tea, Coix Seed, green tea, seeds (pumpkin, melon, sesame), hawthorn, and celery. These can all help the body remove dampness, stagnation, and edema by promoting urination (and/or defecation).  When this happens you should notice a pretty immediate weight loss.  This is good weight loss!  However, you will not immediately notice a body composition change.  To effect fat loss takes more time and effort, but at least your body is now capable of such.

Do not get dehydrated!

I’m not suggesting that you try to clear dampness by avoiding water.  Drinking water (or sugar-free green tea) is absolutely essential to this process.  Dampness did not accumulate from drinking water; in fact, water combined with dampness expelling foods or herbs can help relieve the symptoms. Make sure you drink plenty of water.  Not soda! Not juice. Sugar is one of those things that helps your body produce the very slow moving liquids that easily become stagnated.

Perceived weight loss from dehydration is not good.  However, water weight loss, as that from transforming and flushing fluids, phlegm, and toxins, is very important.  It is the key to further weight loss.