I recently came across an interesting article regarding water and weight loss. I was quite surprised about the results… well, initially that is. Without getting into the finer details, the research showed that the effects of water intake on weight are uncertain, as the studies reviewed showed inconsistent results.
I say initially, because after reflecting on these results, the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. So, will I change my approach with water intake and weight loss? As any of my patients can attest too, hydration is an important component of the process, and I encourage it frequently. To get to the punchline, will it change what I do? Not a chance, and here’s why:
Reflecting on this I really stepped back into the broader picture of weight loss management. Hydration is but one of the many important components of the weight loss plan and journey. These have been generally summarized in the 6 pillars of lifestyle interventions for weight management, which have been mentioned before in prior articles. Here’s a quick refresher:
- Stress management
- Diet / nutrition
- Substance use or abuse
- Healthy relationships
So, I see water intake as part of one of the components of the overall weight loss plan. It plays a pivotal role in many of our bodies processes, including the break down of fat into fuel. I liken these pillars to a symphony, whereas, to hear a beautiful melody, all the different instrumental sections must work in harmony. The same goes for these pillars. We must work to address all of them as part of a successful and sustainable weight management program.
If they are not all addressed, and we approach weight loss with the oversimplified “eat well and exercise” plan, while ignoring the other factors, the pillars we are not addressing can sabotage our efforts. Weight loss will be impaired, and the symphony will not sound quite right. It will lack harmony.
Everyday challenges can affect one or more of these lifestyle pillars. Let’s try looking at stress, which in the last two years, has been more prevalent. A lot of chaos and stressful events will certainly challenge our ability to manage as that stress level builds. When we are stressed, our higher functioning tends towards decision fatigue. This means, the more decisions we have to make, the harder it is for our brain to help us make the right choice in the moment, even if the right choice is the hard choice!
Increased stress can also have an impact on our sleep and exercise habits. We worry, we don’t sleep, we wake up feeling tired, then we don’t exercise as a result.
A healthy understanding and acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of these factors is key. We need to be able to see and acknowledge the challenges to be able to identify and address them. Take some time this week to really look at what might be hampering your efforts. Where is the one place you can best serve yourself and focus your efforts to try to bring all the pieces together?
In conclusion, what I think these studies have shown us is that water intake alone will not be the determining weight changing factor. However, when hydration is in concert with the other pillars of lifestyle interventions highlighted above, a harmonic symphony is much more likely. Addressing them all and having them in sync is one of our best chances at a successful weight loss journey.
A. Morawski MD, CCFP