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Scented Water Can Make Every Sip More Slimming: The Easy How-To

A simple tweak to your hydration routine boosts fullness to quench your appetite

The research is crystal clear: People who drink more water lose more weight. The problem: Plain old water can be pretty unappealing. So how to keep our hydration habits afloat? Inhale this refreshing news: A growing number of women are moving away from sugary flavored beverages and embracing zero-calorie scented water. Adding aroma to water makes drinking more enticing, so you drink more. And adding the right scents can make you feel energized, focused and satiated — leading to more weight loss. “I do think scented water can help,” says hydration expert Dana Cohen, MD, coauthor of Quench. “Many people don’t like the taste of water, so I am a fan of whatever it takes to get them to hydrate better. It’s a fun, easy hack!” Here, everything you need to know about the trend of drinking scented water, and how it helped Anita Lesko lose 78 pounds!

Most of us are chronically dehydrated

We know we need to stay hydrated in the summer, especially given recent research that shows women are more susceptible to dehydration than men. And we know that drinking water can curb cravings. Yet, it’s so easy to be chronically under-hydrated, especially when tools from our daily life — like coffee and allergy meds — further parch our body parts.

What’s more: Women lose an average 2 to 3 liters of water a day just from things like breathing, sweat and urine. Dehydration rates have gotten so bad that some experts now call water “the forgotten nutrient.” Dr. Cohen contends, “Dehydration is the mother of all epidemics and can be linked to many common ailments.” (Click to learn how electrolyte water can help with hydration.)

Thirst is driving our food cravings

This chronic, low-level dehydration that many of us live with affects our health and waistline. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, who has a doctorate of natural medicine and is author of Be Your Own Herbalist, says, “Many of the cravings we experience are actually misinterpreted signs from our body that we are dehydrated, but we habitually grab food instead.” That’s not all. Dehydration can be a sneaking cause of high blood pressure.

Many water add-ins don’t help

Plus, often the most popular ways to doll our water up require loading the beverage with sugary powders, artificial colors or chemicals that can sabotage our weight-loss goals. Even so-called healthy water add-ins — like natural stevia mixes — aren’t ideal for those of us triggered by sweets. Food researcher Nicole Avena, PhD, author of Sugarless, cautions, “Your brain doesn’t know the difference between real sugars and alternative sugars. The sweet taste is what’s driving your addiction.”

Scented water is the new hydration tool

Over the years, research has extensively explored how odors influence our dietary behaviors. It turns out, scent may be an under-appreciated superpower when it comes to weight loss. Why? Our sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste. That means our nose can powerfully impact our sense of fullness, which can lead to eating less food and shedding more weight, according to a Dutch study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In short: If our delicious-smelling water feels rewarding, we tend to eat less after drinking it.

How scented water can lead to weight loss

In another study published in the Journal of Neurological Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery, more than 3,000 overweight participants were given various scents, including peppermint, green apple and banana, to smell through inhalers. The results: Participants who regularly used the inhalers lost an average of 5 pounds a month and as many as 18 pounds in a month! Better yet: None of the lost weight returned during the six-month trial. In comparison, those who didn’t have a strong sense of smell or who didn’t use their inhalers experienced zero weight loss.

Expert-backed ways to use scented water

1. Add aromatic fruit and herbs

Muddling anything from lemon to mint or berries in water releases scent molecules that can trigger subtle biochemical changes in the body. This can make you feel fuller and more satisfied by your water. French researchers proved that inhaling the scent of melon or pear led to a significant increase in people choosing healthy, water-rich fruit and veggies in their next meals. To get the perks, try using a scent in your morning water to prime yourself for healthy eating for the rest of the day.

2. Infuse essential oils

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Schoffro Cook, the creator of The Essential Oils Healing Deck, enjoys adding scented oils to water. She reveals, “Like many others who use them, I’ve experienced improved energy, mental clarity, enhanced digestion and reduced pain.”

Look for food-grade, safe-to-ingest essential oils from trusted brands such as LiveGood or Young Living’s vitality line. When using oils in water, “always use glass or stainless-steel drinking containers since oils can break down some plastics and leach chemicals,” advises Kelly Johnston, an essential oils educator and owner of Sleeping Bear Essentials.

And since essential oils don’t dissolve easily in water, you can emulsify them with a pinch of salt. Remember, a little oil goes a long way. “Start with a super-small amount, like dipping a toothpick into the oil and just swirling it in the water.” Johnston finds, “Citrus and mint scents are the choice for most people who want to infuse their water.”

Related: Essential Oils for Weight Loss: 6 Study-Proven Ways to Lose Belly Fat — No Diet Required!

3. Try scented water bottles

You can also tap into scent therapy now with new gadgets like reusable bottles by the brand air up. They are designed to hold a scented pod near the mouthpiece that you smell with each sip. (Some scents include cherry, peach, watermelon or wild berry.) Scientists for the company explain, “Your brain interprets the aroma from the pods as flavor, but all you drink is plain water.”

Does the approach work? After using the bottles for six months, 69% of customers reported they drank more water, 57% consumed fewer sugary drinks, 17% experienced reduced food cravings, 19% noticed more energy and 18% enjoyed better digestion. And while many people using the bottles didn’t need to drop weight, 10% noticed weight loss. One customer, Gale, shared, “It has helped me cut out soda.” And Drew said, “I went from never drinking water to only drinking water.”

Related: Always Tired? The Secret To All-Day Energy Could Be as Easy as the Right Water Bottle

4. Inhale scented mist

You can use your sense of smell to re-humidify the body and fight dehydration in other ways too. “Adding essential oils to a diffuser brings in aromatic plant molecules, an ingenious but often unrecognized way to receive hydration,” says Dr. Cohen. Another trick? She adds, “When at the office or in meetings, keep a nice cup of tea near and inhale the vapors a little here and there, even if you don’t drink that cup.”      

Bonus health benefits

Mange blood sugar. It sounds too easy to believe, but scent therapy is known to flood the body with health benefits beyond weight loss. Studies show that aromas including citrus and vanilla can trick the brain’s glucose level sensors, reducing the perceived feelings of low energy that often make us overeat snacks in the afternoons.

Improve mood. New research also shows that smelling an aroma associated with a past happy memory can help fight depression, sometimes as effectively as medication, re­ducing the urge for comfort or stress overeating.

Drink scented water for one month to test it for yourself

You don’t even need to sip the often-recommended 8 glasses a day. A small study conducted in Berlin found that just 2 glasses can speed metabolism by 30%, which paves the path for weight-loss potential. So feel encouraged to start small and build from there. And keep reading to learn about Anita’s amazing weight-loss success story using scented water.

More ways to make scented water

Here, Dr. Schoffro Cook shares her favorite aromas to add to water…

Peppermint: Using essential oil or mint leaves boosts energy and motivation. In one study, animals that inhaled this scent had increased exercise endurance.

Lemon: The essential oils in lemon wedges and rinds help detoxify a sluggish liver to outsmart abdominal fat and headaches.

Rose: Whether from rose essential oil or rose hip tea, this scent promotes calm. It’s proven to reduce breathing rate and blood pressure to promote relaxation.

Holy basil: This fragrant herb, steeped in hot water, is known for its blood-sugar-balancing to combat diabetes and aid weight loss.

Scented water success story: Anita Lesko, 64

Before and after photos of Anita Lesko, who lost weight with the help of scented water
Anita Lesko

Anita Lesko couldn’t believe the words she was hearing from her doctor: “You’re too high-risk. I can’t have you as a patient anymore!” When she was “fired” by her doctor, Anita was in the midst of a health crisis: hypertensive and diabetic, with a dangerously high blood sugar reading of 512. And she’d been prescribed seven medicines she couldn’t take since the side effects were so bad.

Anita took her health into her own hands

Anita started following Neal Barnard, MD’s advice to eat more plant-based meals. She also followed NFL legend Tom Brady’s The TB12 Method to stay ultra-hydrated. Brady recommends consuming at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. Brady reported, “sometimes I think I’m the most hydrated person in the world.”

Each day Anita drank 12 bottles of water infused with wonderful-smelling fruits, veggies and herbs. She also drank water out of pretty wine glasses or frosted mugs and garnished them with aromatic mint leaves, lemon or cilantro. “I knew how powerful aromatherapy was on calming anxiety.” She adds, “Those fragrances were good for the soul and made drinking water inviting.” She also inhaled fresh ground coffee in the morning and sniffed tea with culinary lavender buds at night.

Anita recalls, “The most dramatic thing was how fast I started feeling better.” Her fatigue and aches lifted. Within one week her blood sugar naturally dropped to 125. “And, oh my heavens, within two weeks my blood sugars were normal!” Anita even shed 22 pounds the first month. “The diet helped for sure, but the mega hydration took it to the top.”

Related: How much water should you drink a day?

Anita healed her damaged body and metabolism

She and her husband each lost 70+ pounds in 11 months. “Inside, it’s like I have that glowy, newly-in-love-with-life feeling,” says Anita, who also got off all her medications. Now Anita is helping others with her book A Food Revolution, and her handcrafted aromatic herb soaps at Hammock Bay. Anita is so grateful for her health turnaround. “I just wish my mom were still alive. First for Women and Woman’s World were her two FAVORITE magazines that she could wait for each week. She would have been beside herself to see me in an article!” Anita adds, “I sure don’t feel my age — I feel like I’m 30!”


This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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