If It’s Soft It’s Fat, If It’s Hard It’s That.


That was my Grandmother’s way of diagnosing pregnancy; poke yourself in the stomach and if it jiggles, it’s fat, and if it’s hard then it’s “that”. I think she thought this was genuinely useful information for a sexually active woman. She had all sorts of other useful medical tips, like, red flannel (must be red) around the throat cures a sore throat, and break fast (pronounced as two words) spittle will cure warts. But there’s more than “fat” and “that” that can jiggle on your tummy. Two readers wrote to me complaining that they work so hard at their weight loss, a slow process in itself, and then, after one “normal” meal, 3lbs go back on over night.

Although it is certainly easier to put on 3lbs than take it off, 3lbs of fat encapsulates approximately 10,000 Calories, or 18 Big Macs. I don’t think many people could eat that many calories in day, let alone one meal, and especially not these health conscious ladies, so where is that weight coming from?

The answer is water retention, caused by too much salt and carbohydrates. These days I generally avoid restaurant food, because it is incredibly salty, which causes the scales to shoot up, and on top of that, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck the next day.

When I suggested that salt, and not calories, was the culprit in the sudden weight gain, one of the ladies, with an analytical mind after my own heart, kept a week long diary and found that, indeed, salty food made her weight zip up; 2lbs on one particular night. Trying to manage weight by limiting calories while the changes in the scale are due to water retention is a hopeless task.

Apart from restaurant foods, some pantry foods are also bad sources of salt.

  • Prepared sauces and stock.
  • Canned or instant soup
  • Noodles, particularly instant ramen.
  • Convenience meals (including foods promoted as being healthy such as “lean cuisine”)
  • Deli meats
  • Salted nuts
  • Canned beans and vegetables.
  • Cheese

Even things we think of as sweet like store bought cakes and cake mixes, cookies, bread and soft drink (soda, pop). Pretty much anything that you don’t make yourself will have a lot of salt in it.

The other enemy in the war against the bloat is carbohydrate. When carbohydrate is converted to glycogen and stored in our muscles, water is stored along with it. For every gram of carbohydrate, approximately 3-4 grams of water are stored, so say you eat a cup of cooked pasta, 43g of carbohydrates, you will retain 129-172g of water; about 1/3 of a pound.

Pizza, with its salty/carby base and all those salty toppings must surely be one of the worst foods for water retention.

And, finally, the type of exercise you do can affect your water retention. One study of fluid retention over women’s menstrual cycle showed that water retention in runners was significantly worse than in normally active women. Anecdotally, body builders report that long cardio sessions are associated with fluid retention and recommend limiting exercise sessions to less than 50minutes per day. Substituting HIIT for long cardio sessions will help prevent water retention while giving even better cardio-vascular and fat burning benefits.

Counter intuitively, the way to reduce the bloat is to drink lots of pure water and flush out all that excess salt, so if I’ve had a bit of binge, or had to eat out for societal reasons, I try to drink at least a litre (quart) of water afterwards.

Now, coincidentally, I am experiencing water loss and today I weigh 54.2kg. Normally my reaction to that would by Hurrah! but, you see, that’s not fat loss, it’s water loss. One of the lovely gifts Tamoxifen bestowed on me is an increased propensity for migraines and in some people migraines lead to unusual diuresis… i.e. they wee a lot. On Wednesday I had a migraine and for me this means I’m woozy from reduced blood pressure, but worse! Oh no! Next week, I’ll have to report a weight gain!!

Now before I stagger back to bed, what about your? Have you experienced mysterious weight gain (or loss). Could it be a product of too much salt?




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