from [url removed as per rules]. Dear Doctor Owen: I have been dieting for three weeks. I had a birthday party this weekend, and ate one meal and dessert. When I weighed myself on Monday, I discovered that I gained 5 pounds! How can this be? It makes me want to give up and never try again! Bloated Dear “Bloated”: Don’t feel as if you are alone. Did you know that six out of ten people who stop dieting quit for this reason alone? Fluid retention following off-diet eating is not only frequent—it is normal. When a person starts to under-eat seriously, the brain decreases production of the hormone aldosterone (also called salt hormone), which causes salt retention and affects a large number of other hormones in the body. A recent article demonstrated that the mere sight of food could stimulate aldosterone and cause fluid retention! So goes the old adage that one “can gain weight by simply looking at food.” This occurrence is similar to Pavlov’s experiments with dogs: Ringing a bell with the feedings eventually caused the dogs to salivate—even when the bell rang with no feeding. When people re-diet, it takes roughly three days for salt-hormone production to decrease and the fluid that was gained to disappear. In other words: Get back on your diet! By the end of next week, all that fluid will disappear. This is why persistence and patience are so necessary for dieters. What is the most important thing you can do to not give up? It is to understand the science and the mathematics of weight loss. Only then will you know exactly how much fat you are losing every week. (See “Oh, My! I’m Fat” in Chapter 2.) It is perfectly normal for your body to gain fluid weight when it perceives that it is getting more calories than it needs for any given moment and secretes more salt hormone. For example, a 40-year-old woman weighing 150 pounds has a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of 10. This means that—in order to maintain her weight—she must eat 10 calories for every pound she weighs: 150 pounds x 10 calories = ingest 1,500 calories/day But if she consumes an additional 17,500 calories (5 pounds x 3500 calories), she will gain 5 pounds. Obviously, this is impossible; therefore, she immediately knows that the scale is reflecting “water” gain, not fat. Now let’s get back to your dilemma. First, you know that you have not lost control and that your weight gain is simply fluid. Second, you know that—by re-focusing—the fluid will disappear and you will be successful in continuing your diet. Knowledge is powerful.