Female Fat Loss

Party Too Hard? Six Sane & Safe Ways to Shed Water Weight

A gourmet donut from Five Daughter's Bakery. Barbecue. A glass of wine. Samples of pimento cheese on crackers at the Farmer's Market. A few slices of a French baguette. Sushi. Lots of sushi.

 And yes, I ate it all.

 Worth every gluten-filled bite: a lemon-iced berry-filled donut from Five Daughter's Bakery. Ugh. My teeth hurt but it was so good! 

Worth every gluten-filled bite: a lemon-iced berry-filled donut from Five Daughter's Bakery. Ugh. My teeth hurt but it was so good! 

I'm just coming off a great trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where I spent my birthday weekend with my husband and my family. Unbeknownst to them, I went into the weekend with a mission: 

To gain weight - water weight to be more specific - for the express purpose of writing about it here and teaching you 3 things:

  1. A temporary bump in scale weight is no reason to freak;
  2. Taking a brief, occasional break from a caloric deficit is GOOD for your metabolism; and, of course, 
  3. How to shed the water weight after your weekend of fun.

Party's Over: The Aftermath

When you come home from a weekend of vacation or celebration and step on the scale Monday morning, what happens? In many cases, the number on the scale is higher than when we left, and this is enough to send many women into a tailspin:

"All my hard work. All my results. Gone in one weekend!! UGH. Why did I do that? I was doing so well. I guess it's time to get serious...."

So we double down on cardio, slashing calories (especially from carbs), and ramp up the negative self-talk. We book in for a double-cardio session at the gym to burn off our indiscretions and restrict our food intake to get that weight off ASAP. 

As women, we are almost programmed to freak out about "weighing more" - and we'll go to extreme measures to reverse it. 

Not only is NONE OF THIS IS NECESSARY, it is also a mistake.


Weight: Is It Water or Fat?

Leslie Ann Searching for her Abs-Selfie

I did not gain 3 1/2 pounds of fat from my birthday weekend. It is mostly water weight - maybe a little fat - but mostly water.

Water retention is a physiological response to many things: what we eat, what we drink, nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep, and stress.

"Losing or gaining 5 pounds of fat over a weekend is physiologically impossible, but the scale has convinced many that it can happen. A significant portion of those playing the weight loss game believe the weight they lose or gain on a day to day basis is fat. And the popular media and weight loss experts do nothing to help them understand that not only is this not true, but it also is one of the major reasons they continue to suffer from yo-yo weight regain and can’t lose fat as they age." - "Why Your Scale Can't Be Trusted," Metabolic Effect

So the extra poundage isn't fat. Well that's a relief. Sort of.

Yet, water retention is hugely frustrating for those who want to look and feel lean. A few pounds of water weight is all it takes to bury your muscle definition and make your fave jeans feel tight.

There are a couple factors at play here:

  • Our bodies use water to store carbohydrates. You ate a lot of carbs during your vacation weekend? Now your body is holding on to extra water to accommodate the several hundred grams of carbs you consumed.
  • The immune response to foods can often take a few days to occur, and it includes water retention as well. Just because you don't vomit, turn red, and/or stop breathing immediately after eating a slice of bread or a bowl of pasta doesn't mean your body is not being negatively affected by it.

Bottom Line: You did not gain 5 pounds of fat. Your body is retaining water.


Diet Break = Happy Metabolism

One of the most unforgettable statements I've heard in my 10+ year fitness and nutrition career is this:

"Women's bodies need to feel safe to get lean."

My former coach Corey Baird told me that, and I've continued to pass it along here at Fat Loss Foodies. 

Ladies, if you want your body to lose fat, to build muscle, to work for you and stop fighting you - it needs to feel safe.

Taking a "diet break" - 48-72 hours of a deliberate caloric surplus - can often be exactly what our bodies need to rest and relax, especially in light of how hard many of us push ourselves and our bodies. (Please understand: this is not a license to spend every weekend binge drinking, eating whatever you want, and skipping the gym. That is not what I'm talking about here - just so we're clear!:) 

Staying in a significant caloric deficit for extended periods of time elevates cortisol levels and has a slowing effect on the metabolism. The harder you push on the metabolism, the harder it pushes back. Yet many people falsely believe that the way to get lean is to stay in a deficit forever.

"If I just keep eating less and exercising more, I will lose fat and my body will change."

No it won't - because your metabolism doesn't work like that, especially if you're female.

The sooner you accept this, and start working with your body - not against it - you can start to crack this body change-thing wide open. Make your body feel safe by eating well, training smarter, and prioritizing sleep and stress management. 

FLF Tiles-4.png

Now that we know what's going on, and that there's no cause for alarm, let's get down to the nitty gritty of how we bounce back. PLEASE for the love of all that is Holy - stay away from sketchy pills and teas and other quick fix hocus-pocus to shed water weight. The only things you need are water and good food and some exercise.  

1. Hydrate

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the more water you drink, the less you retain. Drink 3-4 liters of plain, filtered water and sip on it throughout the day. 

Unsweetened teas and black coffee are also fine, provided you hit your water goal.


2. Fast for 12-18 Hours

Fasting is all the rage right now, but even if you aren't ready to commit to it on a daily basis, starting your vacation recovery with a 12-18 hour fast can help reduce bloating and reset your body. 

Since you ate richer food and more calories for a few days, you may even wake up the next morning still feeling full. It is 100% fine to delay your first meal by a few hours.

A 12-hour fast is easy, as most of your fast will happen during sleep. Start with a 12-hour fast by making note of when your last meal was on Sunday, then add 12 hours. Example: if you stopped eating at 8 p.m., don't eat your first meal until 8 a.m. If you're able to, extend the fast by 4-6 more hours, which takes you to mid-day. 


3. Real Food Only

This is a mainstay of a Fat Loss Foodie lifestyle because of the positive impact that real, whole, quality food has on hormones, digestion, and overall satisfaction with how you eat.

No protein bars. No artificial sweeteners. No diet this or that.

Just real food. Lean meat, poultry and seafood. Vegetables. Less-sweet fruits. A little healthy fat from good sources. Since you topped off your glycogen stores with all those celebratory carb intake, you can even try reducing your starchy carbs for a couple days. 


4. Eat Hypoallergenic Foods

To help shed excess water, source your carbohydrates mostly from vegetables, less-sweet fruits, and limited amounts of hypoallergenic grains like rice and oats. Avoid common allergens like wheat and other gluten-containing grains, dairy, and soy.

You don't have to have a food allergy to be negatively impacted by wheat, dairy, and soy. These foods are allergens that provoke an immune system response in the body even if you don't have food allergies. 

"Many people react to gluten without even realizing it and the gluten compound they are most reactive to is gliadin from wheat. This reaction can cause whole body inflammation and result in an appearance of looking puffy/bloated - hence the common dogma that bread and pasta make you 'hold water.'" [source]


 5. Eat Your Greens

Covering half your plate in non-starchy vegetables at EVERY meal is a daily practice for Fat Loss Foodies. We eat vegetables for their high water and fiber content, but there are vegetables that can pull double-duty by helping you shed excess water weight. Asparagus, leeks, leafy greens, and parsley, can help shed excess water by acting as a mild diuretic. Have a big salad with a base of leafy greens for lunch and roast asparagus as a side dish with dinner. 


6 . Resist Over-Correcting In the Gym

The tendency to go slash and burn at the gym after a couple days of "bad" eating is exactly what keeps so many women struggling and unable to see positive change in their bodies.

Two hours of cardio may burn a lot of calories, but it's also going make you a bottomless, sugar-seeking pit of hunger when you get home from the gym.

Eat too much. Workout like a fiend. Eat too much again. Workout again - but more, and harder. 

Do you see how this cycle just keeps repeating?

Instead, go back to business as usual. Do not do more. Do not do double. Stop fighting one extreme with another extreme.

Get in a quick, intense workout that gets you sweaty, breathless and burning! Do a 20-30 minute HIIT workout. Lift some weights. Get in, throw down, and go home.


Exactly What I Ate + How I Trained

Those 6 strategies are what I use to return to normal after holidays, vacations, and weekend getaways, and I've been doing them successfully for years.

Here's exactly what I did to tackle my 3.5 lbs. of post-birthday weekend water weight:

First off, I didn't stress. Not even a little!

Monday morning, I started with a ~17 hour fast. I stopped eating around 8 the night before, so I had my first meal at 1 p.m. on Monday. During my fast, I drank coffee with MCT oil, and drank about 30+ ounces of water. I felt great. Zero hunger. 

Meal 1: A big slice of FLF Breakfast Casserole. It had turkey sausage, spinach, sweet potatoes, caramelized onions and goat cheese in it; I'll get the recipe up for you soon! 

Meal 2: Spicy Sonoma Caesar Salad with Mexican Goddess Dressing at Chop't. This salad was delish - baby spinach, chicken, spicy peppers, avocado - and it was so massive, I could only finish half of it. I decided to omit starchy carbs in this meal.

After lunch: 1 oz. 70% dark chocolate. Yep. Because this is my normal. I know that having a little dark chocolate a few days a week keeps me from craving bigger hits of sugar later. 

Workout: 30-ish minute lower body workout. Barbell squats, lunges, hamstring curls, weighted step-ups, glute bridges. I also taught CXWorx, a 30-minute core class. This, plus several walks with my dog around the neighborhood, gave me a very active day with lots of quality movement, but nothing too strenuous or crazy.

Post-workout shake: 1 serving Ascent Vanilla Bean protein powder + 8 oz. unsweetened So Delicious cashew milk.

Meal 3 : 4 oz. Raspberry Chipotle Pork Tenderloin, Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Potatoes. 

Meal 4: 1/2 c. 2% cottage cheese* with 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce before I went to bed. 

The result? Down almost 2.5 pounds of water weight after only one day of returning to normal life. I course-corrected immediately, simply by using the six strategies above. I woke up looking and feeling better, and did so without deprivation, over-exercising, or feeling guilty about my birthday weekend. I had plenty of quality protein, vegetables, fruit, and even some starchier carbohydrates like potatoes. I ATE DARK CHOCOLATE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

I enjoyed every bite of fun food I ate during my Birthday Weekend 2018 - just like I did last year, and the year before. 

Here's to another year of eating well, living well, and never getting bent out of shape over a few measly pounds of water weight. 

Did you find this article helpful? Share it with your friends on Facebook or tell them about in your Instagram stories! Tag us and give us a shout so we can support you and follow your daily journey! On Instagram: @FatLoss_Foodies and #FatLossFoodies

About the Author:

 Leslie Ann Quillen is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and Metabolic Effect Level 2 Fat Loss Nutrition Coach. She created Fat Loss Foodies in 2012 with the goal of teaching women how to cook and eat real food to fuel their fat loss goals. Through her programs like Fat Loss Cooking School, she has trained hundreds of women world-wide to stop dieting and change their bodies with proper nutrition and smart, efficient training. She is a Les Mills National Trainer and Reebok-Sponsored Athlete, and is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Leslie Ann Quillen is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and Metabolic Effect Level 2 Fat Loss Nutrition Coach. She created Fat Loss Foodies in 2012 with the goal of teaching women how to cook and eat real food to fuel their fat loss goals. Through her programs like Fat Loss Cooking School, she has trained hundreds of women world-wide to stop dieting and change their bodies with proper nutrition and smart, efficient training. She is a Les Mills National Trainer and Reebok-Sponsored Athlete, and is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Estrogen and Female Fat Loss

If you're a woman, chances are you've grown up knowing that the hormone estrogen was to blame for a lot of things. We're taught that it makes us moody during our menstrual cycles, and it's the reason many of us have "curves" - especially in our butt, hips, and thighs.

While other hormones like insulin and cortisol are far more important to understand and manage for sustainable body change, the hormone estrogen can have an impact on fat loss as well.

Don't Touch The Treats: Why We Believe in Treat Meals

Once every week or two, we encourage all of our clients at FLF to have a treat meal where they eat whatever they want.

That may seem counterintuitive since we are FAT LOSS nutrition coaches.

How is this possible? How do you lose fat and still enjoy your favorite treats? Don't you have to eat egg whites and chicken breasts and broccoli and fat-free yogurt to get a rockin' body?

HECK NO, girl - who told you that nonsense?

Treat meals are KEY if you're a Fat Loss Foodie. In this article, you'll learn "why" behind why we do what we do - and how we handle the foods you think you can never eat again if you want to get leaner.

 In Paris, drinking good wine.

In Paris, drinking good wine.

First Off: Words Matter

Here at Fat Loss Foodies, we prefer the term "treat meals" instead of "reward meals" or "cheat meals." Why?

Because we do not need to be "rewarded" with food. We're not Golden Retrievers. 

As for the term "cheat" meals - what are we cheating on again exactly? It's not like we're on some strict diet with a long list of rules to be followed, so we aren't cheating on anything. 


Why Fat Loss Foodies Believe in Treat Meals

1. It De-stigmatizes Food.

Food is just food.

At FLF, we focus on eating more of the right foods more often. Eighty to 90 percent of what we eat is animal protein, plants (vegetables and fruits), healthy fats, legumes, and hypoallergenic grains. These whole, nutrient-dense foods - when eaten in the proper amounts - turn down hunger and cravings and give us steady energy.

But donuts? French macarons? Rice krispie treats? Sushi rolls? Brownies? Pizza?

COME ON. We love our protein shakes and our omelets stuffed with kale and goat cheese as much as the next fit girl, but life without EVER having another cookie or sushi roll or slice of cake? Not worth living if you ask us.

When we allow ourselves to mindfully indulge in the occasional treat, it's a great reminder that food is fun, abundant, and not scary. Now, that doesn't mean we won't feel some negative side effects from some foods(See #2 ), but it does means we can enjoy foods we deem "worth it" and move on without beating ourselves up for being bad, breaking our diet, not eating clean, etc.

After all, it's just food.  

 Coffee and Financiers in San Francisco

Coffee and Financiers in San Francisco

2. Food Hangovers are Great Teachers

When you start eating like a Fat Loss Foodie, you are eating a high protein, high fiber diet that is low in sugar. 

You're not used to eating loads of dairy, white flour, white sugar  - especially in large quantities - so when you do have a treat meal, your body reminds you REALLY quickly why you don't eat like that all the time.

Most women don't realize how bad their diet makes them feel until they start eating enough of the right foods. When you're eating the right way for you, you are focused, energetic, and balanced. You just feel - well, GOOD.

After eating like a Fat Loss Foodie for a couple weeks, it's normal to get nostalgic for something you used to eat: like your morning skinny latte and pastry from the coffee shop.

Go ahead. Have it. But I can promise you, before you can finish the latte you'll be thinking, "HOLY COW HOW DID I EAT LIKE THIS FOR SO LONG!?"

The increased energy and mental focus you've been enjoying is gone. You're hungry and craving carbs for the rest of the day. You may even feel bloated and puffy from the giant dump of sugar and allergens (dairy, soy, and/or gluten) into your body.

That latte and pastry just taught you a valuable lesson: Eating that food comes with a price. You were always paying it, you just felt so bad all the time that you thought it was normal. You didn't realize how good you were supposed to feel.

The treat meal just schooled you on why you don't eat that way all the time any more.

 A Paleo bar with coffee in Auckland, New Zealand

A Paleo bar with coffee in Auckland, New Zealand

3. It Makes Your FLF Lifestyle Sustainable

The treats are part of the plan. 


Part of what makes diets suck so much is that they cut out everything that tastes amazing and shrink your portions to toddler-esque sizes. They also come with timelines.

You're on the diet. Then something happens like a bridal shower or a birthday party or the holidays. You have a cocktail, then some cake, and now - you've fallen off the wagon!! (The wagon is my favorite lol.) 

Unless you're a Fat Loss Foodie.

In these situations, we say, "Oh you had some cake at your friend's bridal shower? How was it?"

If it was amazing and worth every bite, then we say rock on! That's awesome! Now get back to following your template at your very next meal. Yay for having a friend with great taste in cake lol! Carry on! (If it wasn't worth it, now you know for next time: "No thanks!")

You can't stop holidays or special events or awesomely delicious special foods from coming into your life - so why fight them? We build wiggle room into our lifestyle to account for life's special occasions, holidays, and those moments when you just really want a cookie.  

Would you believe it if I told you I didn’t gain a single pound over the holidays. THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED!
— Debbie, Fat Loss Cooking School grad and FLF Online Tribe Member

4. Treats Can Prevent - and Help Break - Plateaus

There are two things you MUST do to lose fat and keep it off: 

1. Create a caloric deficit.

2. Balance your hormones. 

After a few days or weeks of being in a slight caloric deficit, you may be excited by the results you're seeing. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, your body is making other plans via your hormones.

You may have experienced this phenomenon in the past when trying a new diet: 

You were gung-ho at first, following the plan! Feeling amazing! Getting results!Then, all of a sudden, you're like a bottomless pit and can't get full. You're craving sugar and carbs. You lose the motivation to train. Your weight loss stalls out and no matter how much more you exercise or how much less you eat, your body isn't budging. 

This is what's known as Metabolic Compensation - the slowing down of the metabolism based on less energy available to the body. 

Leptin is a hunger hormone produced in the fat cells, and it acts like your body's long-term built-in fuel gauge. The more fat you have, the more leptin you have. The less body fat you have, the less leptin you have. 

Leptin also works with your thyroid to control your body's energy expenditure.

When leptin is low, hunger is high and energy output decreases. 

This is your body working against your fat loss goals. It wants you to survive and doesn't really care about you getting a six-pack. 

The harder you work, the harder your body fights back because of the hormonal shit-show you've created by eating less, exercising more.

We do a treat meal to give the body a temporary boost in calories (especially from carbohydrates) to tell your body, "JUST KIDDING - THERE'S FOOD HERE. You can carry on now." (If you want to read the serious, science-y version of this "hormonal cascade effect," check out this article from Poliquin Group.) 

This is why we have intentional treat meals each week, to give us the "re-feed" of carbohydrates, to reset leptin, and to keep our thyroid from getting pissed off and ruining everything. These carbohydrates can be in the form of whole foods-based carbs (you'll probably feel better physically if you pick this option) or it can come from other, more "fun" stuff. We recommend experimenting with and employing both options. In fact, the longer you live this lifestyle and eat like a Fat Loss Foodie, the less appealing those junky, processed foods will be to you.

We know. Summer is coming Everyone is all about what they can't eat and counting the days they have left until their vacation, wedding, etc.

That doesn't have to be you. If you're ready to make a change, you can start TODAY. Food shouldn't be stressful or make you unhappy.

If you've been dieting non-stop, and pushing it hard in the gym, and nothing is moving, you might need to chill the eff out, have some pancakes, and then get back to business. 


If you want to learn more about how to live a Fat Loss Foodie lifestyle - how to eat for fat loss, make real food taste good and be successful at long-term body change, the next round of Fat Loss Cooking School starts this Summer. 

This is our signature 4-week online program, now in its fourth year!

You'll work with the FLF team for 4 weeks and learn the science of hormonal fat loss AND how to crush your goals by eating food that tastes good and makes you do happy dances in your kitchen. And yes, your kids, husband, boyfriend, partner, roommates will start asking for these recipes, too. (Happens. Every. Time.)

In Fat Loss Cooking School, we have fun (probably too much...) and we don't do rules. There's no list of "approved" foods or "thou shalt nots." We give you the facts and let you choose what you eat based on your metabolism, your activity level, and your personal preferences. 

You can learn more about FLCS here: 

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop us a line at LeslieAnn@FatLossFoodies.com!