Body Fluctuations Affecting Body Image (And What to Do About It)


Are you extra sensitive to the changes in your body from day to day? One day you may fit into your favorite pants and the next day, they seem tighter. Chances are, these are just fluid fluctuations and not true weight gain. Fluctuations in things like fluid and digestion can make body image worse. Here are some simple self-care tips* that you can implement to minimize fluid retention that often impacts body image.

Trust your hunger.

When someone is having a bad body image day, they may feel inclined to restrict their eating. However, that could backfire due to how the body retains fluids in retaliation. When your body senses energy (calorie) inadequacy, everything starts to slow down. That includes the rate at which our bodies process the food through our digestive system. This could cause bloating, gas and constipation. Conversely, if you eat when you are hungry and eat until satisfied, the body naturally processes the food and pushes it down to finish the digestion process efficiently. This will help minimize constipation and bloating.

Understand your hormones.

Estrogen and progesterone both play big roles in fluid fluctuations throughout the month in women. In any given month, women of child-bearing years go through daily changes in hormones that retain and release fluid. In fact, the average woman retains a variance of 5 pounds in water from one day to the next depending on where they might be in their menstrual cycle. Track your cycle, and you will notice that you might feel the most bloated around ovulation and just before your period. That is completely normal.

More fluids, not less.

When you feel bloated, the first thing you might not consider is drinking more fluid. However, that is exactly what you should do. When you are low in fluid, the body will retain more to avoid dehydration. The good news is that all fluid counts, not just water. Do not rely on your thirst because if you are thirsty, you are already behind on intake. Pick out a favorite water bottle that keeps your drink nice and cold. Cool fluids tend to be tastier and more refreshing.

Joyful movement.

You have your adequate food intake, the right amount of water – now, we want to add some regular body movements that you enjoy. Moving the whole body assists the digestive tract to work optimally, which could assist with releasing trapped gas, fluids, and lower bowels to release waste. When you move your body, be sure to replace the amount of fluid lost. On hot and sweaty days, workouts longer than an hour might require fluids with added electrolytes.

If you push your body in various athletic activities such as long cardiovascular exercise or strength training, you may have broken down muscle tissue. For that tissue to repair, there is fluid surrounding the injury for a period of time. If you feel more bloated the next day after being very active, this is likely the reason. Trust the changes by knowing that the body knows what it is doing. It is healing!

Employ Gentle Nutrition Practices.

Water balance in the body is optimized when it receives a gentle mix of protein, carbohydrate, and fat with each meal. Be conscious of the foods that are high in salt content. If you have specific questions based on these two things, don’t overthink it. Ditch the need to make perfect meals. It’s simpler than you think – mindfully choose an animal or plant source of protein, include some grain or starch then complete the meal with some fruits and / or vegetables. Foods eaten at restaurants are often much higher in salt then the food you prepare at home, so save yourself some cash and enjoy more home meals when you can. Also, a meal high in carbohydrate could cause a little more fluid but do know that fluid retention is temporary. So, the next time you have a big bowl of noodles with butter, salt, and garlic powder (my current favorite!), reassure yourself that any feelings of being bloated is due to the high carbohydrate content of the meal. Having a steady amount of carbohydrates from day to day typically minimizes the ups and downs of the fluid retention you may feel. So, relax! The body knows what to do with it. It’s a good time to thank your body.

As you can see, our bodies are some of most amazing marvels in life. Self-care with a balanced, gentle approach to health complemented with a healthy dose of self-compassion is the true antidote to a poor body image.

If you are struggling with body image, seek out the assistance of a counselor that specializes in body work. We love our partners at Flourish Counseling Center and they take some insurance plans.

If you want to ditch traditional dieting and pursue gentle nutrition in a balanced way, meet with one of our weight neutral wellness dietitians. Give us a call at 888-422-8070 and become empowered with wellness that promotes a positive body image.  We take most insurance plans.

*Consult your physician or dietitian if you have a chronic disease or mental disorder.  Some of this guidance may or may not be appropriate for your specific condition.

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