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How to lose weight without dieting

Practically every diet tells you to ditch the sugary sodas and juices and to start hydrating with water instead. And it’s always made sense. After all, it has been proven that sugary drinks hamper your ability to lose weight. And drinking water is essential to your health — helping you maintain the balance of bodily fluids, flushing the toxins and impurities from your body, promoting normal digestion and bowel function, energizing muscles and even adding moisture to your hair and skin.

Drinking water is healthy. But does drinking water help you lose weight? Current research indicates that the answer to this question is yes.

According to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., drinking water 30 minutes before main meals helped people to lose weight.

“If you look at any sort of weight management programs, they all say drinking water is a really good thing,” says lead author of the study Dr. Amanda Daley of the University of Birmingham. “We said, let’s go see what the actual evidence is for this.”

To conduct the study, researchers looked at 84 overweight men and women. Though no age range of the participants was detailed in the study’s results, the average age was determined to be 56 years.

Each of the participants was given general weight loss advice, then assigned to one of two groups. One group was instructed to drink 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before their meals, while the other half of the participants was told to simply imagine that they were full before eating.

To keep tabs on the participants, the researchers monitored everyone’s weight at the start, middle and end of the experiment, and even took urine samples to ensure that the water-drinking group was indeed drinking more water. The researchers also tracked factors such as the participants’ physical activity and food choices to make sure there was not any significant difference between the two groups.

At the end of the 12-week study, researchers found that the water-drinking group lost an average of 9.5 pounds. That was nearly three more pounds than the group that did not change their water intake. In other words, drinking water to lose weight worked.

Researchers also noted that there was not much of a difference between the two groups in terms of what they ate or how much they exercised — in fact, the group that did not change their water intake actually worked out slightly longer, on average, than the group that hydrated before eating.

“When combined with brief instructions on how to increase your amount of physical activity and on a healthy diet, this seems to help people to achieve some extra weight loss — at a moderate and healthy rate. It’s something that doesn’t take much work to integrate into our busy everyday lives,” said Dr. Helen Parretti, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) clinical researcher at the University of Birmingham.

This is actually not the first time that drinking water to lose weight before eating meals has been linked to successful weight loss. In 2010, a study found that over the course of 12 weeks, those who drank water before meals lost about 5 more pounds than those who did not increase their water intake.

So what is the reason for the weight loss? Why does starting meals by drinking water seem to do the trick?

The obvious answer is that drinking water fills up the stomach with a substance that has zero calories. People, then, feel fuller and consume less during the meal.

But water can affect your body in another important way: dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, making you think that you need to eat when you really just need to hydrate.

The confusion starts in the part of the brain that regulates both hunger and thirst, the hypothalamus. When the body needs food (energy), specific hormones are released to signal hunger. The problem is that the same thing happens for thirst. The hypothalamus cannot differentiate the signals and in turn, communicates with the nervous system to tell your stomach that it’s time to eat. What’s more, the outward symptoms of dehydration — feeling weak, light-headed and moody — are similar to those of hunger, making it even easier to mistake hunger for thirst.

You may think that this does not apply to you. After all, isn’t dehydration an extreme state? Not exactly.

The Harvard School of Public health conducted a study on the prevalence of dehydration among U.S. children and ultimately found that over half of the 4,000 kids surveyed were not drinking enough water, with a staggering 25% not drinking any water throughout the day.

Another study found that up to 75% of the American population is not drinking the 10 daily cups recommended by the Institute of Medicine, which implies that the majority of us are in a constant state of dehydration – and getting fooled by thirst into thinking we are hungry.

“Water is necessary for the body to absorb vitamins and nutrients. It’s also key to proper digestion; it detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries waste away,” said Grace Webb, Assistant Director for Clinical Nutrition at New York Hospital.

And from what it seems, it’s also a key step in weight loss.

So the next time you are preparing to eat a meal, try drinking a couple glasses of water about 30 minutes before. You may just get the results you were hoping for in the long run.

Header image © YuriSamsonov/shutterstock

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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