Monday, August 30, 2010

"Just Water Weight"

Lots of people like to complain about low carb diets. Naysayers are always either trying to convince us that butter, cream, and eggs are bad for us and that we NEED grains to survive, or they're attacking the straw-Atkins-dieter who eats a slab of bacon for every meal and zero vegetables. One of the criticisms that drives me the most crazy, though, is the one where people fully acknowledge low-carbers' impressive results, but they immediately dismiss it as "fake" weight-loss, because "it's just water weight".

I mean, really? Is is so necessary to put successful dieters in their place that we have to resort to devaluing all of their efforts with the notion that because they aren't losing weight "the hard way" (starvation), they aren't really losing it at all?

It only takes reading the science behind any low carb or low glycemic eating plan to understand that once you stop spiking your blood sugar with sugary and starchy foods, you no longer have huge excesses of insulin causing the storage of new fat, and your body goes to work to burn off your current excesses of body fat for energy. You basically become a fat-burning (NOT water-burning) machine.

Now, it's true that while your body is switching over from carb-burning to fat-burning, the initial, almost immediate, weight-drop on an eating plan like Atkins comes from the release of excess water weight. Primal eating expert Mark Sisson has even said that some people can carry 10-20 pounds or more of retained water, depending on their size, due to the highly inflammatory nature of the standard, grain-filled American diet. So those first pounds may not be pure body fat, but does it really matter?

After losing a few pounds of "water weight", my clothes fit better, my face looks less bloated, and I noticeably have more energy and find myself able to move easier. If the first however-many pounds of lost weight on a low carb diet comes from the release of water our bodies had no business carrying around in the first place, I guess I just don't see what the big deal is.

As I see it, successfully de-bloating yourself on your way to fat-burning is "real" weight-loss. It's an initial payoff that tells you you're doing something healthy and right, and it should be a great motivator to keep at it. Don't let anyone try to tell you it doesn't count.