World's worst water retention?

Hi all, I'm a 5'3ish female, 36, 188 lbs. Today is my 50th day of tracking calories in the hopes of losing weight. I've been eating anywhere between 1100-1500 per day, usually sticking to right around 1300. I have a food scale that I use to weigh everything, including cooking oils, etc. I don't cheat and no bites/licks/tastes. I also have been weight training with heavy weights full body 3x per week and intense cardio (either elliptical or treadmill) for about 30-45 minutes 3x per week. I'm generally a lazy bum with an office job the rest of the time.

I've lost a whole zero pounds. I just bounce around the same weight for weeks.

The only indication I have that something is happening is that my withings bioimpedance scale is telling me that my fat percentage is going down, though I know to take that with a grain of salt due to accuracy issues.


What in the world am I doing wrong? Do I just have the world's worst water retention? I have been to the doctor and testing indicates there's nothing medically wrong with me. I have been feeling not super great on these low calories, though. Does anyone have some advice? I'm dedicated to losing and really want to succeed, but I'm not sure if dropping my calories lower than 1300ish is the answer here. Every website insists that no loss means a tracking issue, but I'm seriously not lying or miscalculating my intake, unless weights and stated calories per gram are truly meaningless. I even weigh prepackaged things since company quality assurance is not always 100% :D

Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated! I've put my diary on public.


  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 4,997 Member
    I do think you have water retention., first and foremost because of your strength training, which often causes water retention on the muscles.

    Secondly, you might be getting a bit of extra water retention from the stress of dieting.
    1300 calories on average is quite low - you are quite short but you're also young and weighing 188lbs (at that weight I was eating considerably more than you while still losing weight).
    I would try eating a bit more, especially since you say you haven't been feeling great. You could take a diet break for a week to give your body a break (eating at maintenance) and/or increase your calorie goal while at a deficit (try 1400-1500) and see if that helps.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 27,531 Member
    Very low calories can increase water retention (potentially in a creeping manner, adding to quite a total) via cortisol, and reduce daily life calorie expenditure (perhaps subtly, but meaningfully) through fatigue.

    I started losing weight around your size, 5'5", 183 pounds, age 59, and lost well, joining MFP at around the mid-150s, and lost all the way to goal in mid 120s pretty expediently, eating 1400-1600 plus all carefully-estimated exercise calories (something you have quite a few of, and you're just using them to increase your calorie deficit from probably high, to extremely high). So, I was eating 1600-2000+ gross calories most days. I admit I'm a mysteriously good li'l ol' calorie burner for unclear reasons, but I still think it would make more sense for you to increase calories rather than decrease them, at least for a month or so trial period.

    At your age and with the exercise, we'd expect your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, i.e., all day all source calorie burn) to be around 2000-2200 or so. You're eating 1300, doing conservatively a couple of hundred calories of exercise, so netting out around 1100 calories. In theory that would result in over two pounds a week loss, but at about your same size, 2 pounds a week was dysfunctionally fast for me (I eventually got weak and fatigued, rather than retaining water, but . . . . ).

    I'd suggest you go through at least one full menstrual cycle eating either TDEE - 20%, or your MFP goal (with activity level set based on life before exercising) plus a reasonable estimate of exercise calories.

    If you increase calories, you'll see a scale jump initially, virtually right away, from effects of the added food, but it's water & digestive contents on their way to becoming waste, not fat, so don't let it dissuade you. It will take some time for the water part of it to balance out - particularly if you're retaining some already - but stick with it for one, maybe 2 menstrual cycles, see where you are.

    I did look at your diary (thank you for having it open, that helps). Nothing jumps out at me as a major potential source of logging error as long as everything is there as you indicate, but if your MFP goal based on profile settings (per MFP instructions) is 1390, and your synched Fitbit is adding calories . . . you should eat right around the total that results, not hundreds of calories below that number.

    I'm guessing you probably told MFP you wanted to lose 2 pounds a week (aggressive), and that would already be built into your goal calories. When you synch your Fitbit, MFP takes Fitbit's numbers and reconciles them to keep you at the same estimated loss rate. You shouldn't be eating consistently below the goal calories that results, that's just increasing your physical stress level (potential for water retention, among other things) plus increasing health risk, not to mention probably making compliance harder and burnout more likely.

    It wouldn't hurt to drop the loss rate target to 1.5 pounds a week, even.

    Eat to your goal, or close, like +/- 50 calories or thereabouts. For at least one, maybe two monthly cycles.
  • PAV8888
    PAV8888 Posts: 11,776 Member
    I haven't done this for so long I couldn't remember my macro hot keys! (CTRL-T and CTL-SHIFT-T!!)

    Out of 49 days you've logged 46 fully or 94% *I am assuming that sub 600 Cal days are not fully logged.
    This means that you potentially have 6% of your days un-logged--which actually is far from terrible

    Your logged intake over the 46 days is 1272 Cal a day which is quite low. Fiber is within female recommendations and the other macros are not remarkable... i.e. quite normal and average for the level of calories.

    My eyeball of your weight is indicating to me that you're SLOWLY trending down.

    It might be worth your while to plug your weight ins into a weight trend app.

    Your Fitbit calories indicate that you vary in general with an activity level of slightly below sedentary to well into lightly active if not active, probably on your exercise days.

    If I were you I would be basing my eating level on what the fitbit says and carving out a deficit of about 25% off of that. Overall that would probably mean eating a bit more... assuming your logging is to the gram, and complete and using entries that have been double checked.

    I would keep up with the weight training, even if it is adding a couple of lbs of water retention which is FAR from improbable.

    BUT, I would also set up my fitbit to the full 14 hours a day maximum that it can be setup to bug you to make sure you're taking your 250 steps for that hour which I strongly suspect you aren't... that extra 3 minutes of activity an hour can make a big difference both in how you feel and to your overall daily expenditure... especially if it makes you leave the computer or other seating arrangement!

    It is NOT "just" intense exercise that counts!

  • laurad1978
    laurad1978 Posts: 190 Member
    I'm very similar stats to you and had a very similar experience to yourself seeing no difference in the first few months. I was getting very disheartened. Was logging from Sept to Dec last year but on a different app but going back over my records my diet was identical to what I'm eating now. The main difference for me was upping my active steps and increasing intensity of deliberate exercise. I lost approx 30lbs from Jan to June this year and it was the increased activity that seemed to kick it off. I also went lower on carbs and higher on protein. Feel free to friend request and have a look through my diary. I've been less consistent with logging the past few weeks as I'm trying to maintain at the moment and be less reliant of tracking everything.
  • westrich20940
    westrich20940 Posts: 671 Member
    I do think you may have some water retention too...but also --- I'd readjust your calorie goal range. 1500 is probably more like what you should be shooting for, not the lower end of what you stated.

    For a sedentary lifestyle you *should* be able to eat ~1700 cals/day and maintain your weight. You are additionally doing some exercise in there (intense cardio you mentioned) --- are you logging those calories as well (as accurately as possible)? MFP will add them back to your goal - it's up to you how much of those to eat back but I'd honestly suggest eating back 50-100% of them depending on how hungry you feel or how crappy you feel.

    You have a clear downward trend in your body fat % so you're doing something right.
  • When I look at your weight chart, I see an overall downward trend. I think you need to give it more time.
    Good luck.