Weight Loss on the IC Diet – Part 2 of 2 – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


Cutting Calories

The IC diet makes cutting calories a difficult route to weight loss– perhaps more difficult than exercise. Over the last six months I’ve tried both diet and exercise to lose some of my own “spare tire” around the middle and I can tell you that exercise is definitely the simpler tactic. Simpler and less risky.

For people with sensitive bladders who’ve already severely restricted their diet to help control bladder pain, further decreasing the number and variety of foods risks nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to consult your doctor in working out a good weight-loss diet plan. Working with a registered dietitian may also be helpful, and perhaps your doctor can recommend one. The American Dietetic Association maintains a help line that can refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) in your area (1-800-366-1655). A knowledgable expert can put your mind at ease that you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals while you lose the weight.

Dietitians and doctors tell us that there is only one way to lose weight– burn up more calories than one takes in. And if you don’t exercise to burn up more calories, then you have to eat less calories. There are two ways to take in less calories: We can continue to eat the same foods but reduce the amount we eat, or we can change the kind of food we eat. Here are various tricks to help one eat less food. Some may seem silly but what have we got to lose? They may be worth a try:

  • Put the food on smaller plates so it looks like larger portions.
  • Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before eating a meal to make the stomach think it’s more full.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Eat some of the carbohydrates on your plate first, then eat the rest of the meal beginning with the protein foods. (When some carbohydrates get into the bloodstream before you’re finished with the meal, they may suppress your appetite. But you don’t want to eat all the carbs first or you may not eat enough protein.)
  • Eat a greater number of smaller meals (so you don’t go for hours without food and come to the table ravenously hungry).

Changing the kind of food we eat usually means reducing the intake of fat and sugar. Sugar, of course, is an obvious target. Some of us with IC already cut back on sugar for reasons not related to either IC or weight loss: Jacquie has been battling IC, endometriosis and chronic yeast infections for three years. She tried a low-carbohydrate diet devoid of simple sugars to help reduce her yeast infections. After several months on the diet she was overjoyed to find that she not only had fewer yeast infections, she shed almost ten pounds.

Jacquie’s tory is not unusual. Occasionally women with IC complain of chronic vaginal yeast infections. This could be due to a medical condition not related to IC. The immune system, diet, hormonal abnormalities, and prescription or non-prescription drugs can all be factors in women’s yeast problems. Like Jacquie, some women find lowering their intake of simple and complex carbohydrates helps. (Again, if you plan on restricting carbohydrates severely, consult a nutrition professional or your doctor. Adequate nutrition on any diet is important.)

One reason so many nutrition professionals advise cutting back on fat intake to lose weight is that ounce for ounce, fat provides more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates. Watch out for diets that are too low-fat though. They can deprive us of nutrients called essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are required to keep our immune systems and nervous systems healthy. (Fish is an excellent source of one kind of essential fatty acid, DHA, which may also protect against depression.)

Here are some general weight loss guidelines from various nutrition experts:

  • No more than 30% of the day’s calorie intake should come from fat. Registered dietitian Roberta Larson Duyff believes that not everything you eat needs to be low-fat, but it’s a good idea to balance your foods between low-fat and high-fat so that each week your average fat intake (in calories) doesn’t exceed 30% of your average food intake (in calories). Nutritionist and author Carrie Latt Wiatt believes one can safely eat 15 to 20 percent of their calories as fat.
  • To get all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs, don’t reduce your caloric intake too much. The recommended minimum caloric intake for most healthy people varies, depending on who you talk to. The American Dietetic Assn. advocates eating a minimum of 1600 calories per day. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer warns women to not consume less than 1000 calories a day on any weight-loss plan. And Carrie Latt Wiatt advocates healthy men consume no less than 1500 calories per day, and healthy women no less than 1200 calories per day. Of course, we are not the typical “healthy individuals”. Remember that those who are elderly or chronically ill may need slightly more calories and nutrients. Your doctor or other healthcare provider can give you guidance about what calorie level would be a healthy target for you.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Don’t risk your health with “fad” diets based on a single food or by trying to get a head start on your weight loss program by fasting. It’s a common misconception that fasting “cleans out” dangerous toxins. Actually, when the body is starved for carbohydrates, chemicals called ketones can build up to harmful levels and a burden is put on the kidneys. Fasting can also lead to fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. The fatigue of fasting may be even more pronounced if one is taking sedating medications for IC. (Keep in mind that medications too may burden the kidneys.) Dehydration can be brought about by fasting without an adequate intake of water.
  • “Sweating off” pounds is another weight-loss strategy that can damage one’s health. The risk again is dehydration, and many IC patients report bladder flares when they get dehydrated for any reason.

Weight Loss Tips and Tricks

Aside from these general guidelines (and selecting more low-calorie, low-fat foods), here are some other ways I’ve found to cut my caloric intake. They may be helpful to you too:

  • Be particularly attentive to the point at which you are no longer hungry. Since I hadn’t really thought about it before, it took me awhile to figure out exactly when that was.
  • Take small size portions. You can always get a second helping but having to get up and do that gives you time to think if you’re really hungry.
  • Fill up on vegetables and whole grains. Because they’re high in fiber and low in fat they can make you feel full without consuming many calories. (As a bonus, the fiber may help combat the effects of constipating medications).
  • Planning and packaging snacks for yourself ahead of time helps too.
  • Sit down to eat, and don’t eat while watching TV, or working at your desk. Direct your full attention to your meal rather than mindlessly nibbling while doing other things. That way you’ll know how much you are eating and are less likely to overeat.
  • If you eat when you’re bored or nervous, think up some alternative things to do. I eat when I’m nervous so I combat that by turning on some calming music. Other ideas might be exercise, artwork of some kind, or reading.
  • Store high-calorie snacks on high shelves or other places not easily accessible. Make low-calorie snacks more easily accessible.
  • Don’t exercise right before a meal. It may increase your appetite.
  • Don’t eat directly from a large container of food (like a jar of cashews). How can you tell how much you’ve eaten? Place the portion you intend to eat in a small dish and put the larger container away. If you want more, then you can go get more.

More Ways to Shave Fat and Calories on an IC diet:

DAIRY PRODUCTS: Substitute non-fat milk for regular milk in cooked recipes; switch to reduced fat or non-fat milk for drinking. If you regularly drink large quantities milk for the calcium, reduce your intake of milk somewhat and substitute a calcium/vitamin D supplement such as Prelief or Tums, and a glass of water. Cottage cheese flavored with dried herbs (like thyme or basil) makes a tasty companion for celery or bell pepper strips. If you regularly eat vanilla ice cream, try frozen vanilla yogurt. (While regular refrigerated yogurt can provoke bladder symptoms, some people can get away with a little frozen yogurt). A tasty product called “Rice Dream” is a liquid made from rice instead of dairy, and it probably has less fat and calories than milk. Thye also make a frozen dessert which is similar to Ice cream. (Rice Dream is also bladder-friendly and usually available at specialty markets and natural food stores). For whipped cream, some people can substitute non-dairy Cool Whip. Cottage cheese can often be substituted for ricotta or sour cream in many recipes. Two egg whites can substitute for a whole egg in french toast or casseroles. Substitute skim milk mozzarella for fattier cheeses (like regular mozzarella or Muenster) in recipes.

OILS AND SHORTENING: Substitute soft tub margarine for stick margarine on foods like toast (it has less calories in the same volume). Cut back the amount of shortening and margarine in baked goods and increase the sugar a bit. (You can’t cut back on fat too much because the fat keeps baked goods from being dry. It’s a tradeoff. Trial and error is the best way to find how much you can trim each recipe.) Try substituting slightly-cooked, grated pears for half the margarine or shortening in baked goods. For birthday cakes, use nonstick canola oil spray instead of shortening to coat pans. Eliminate the frosting and dust the finished cake with powdered sugar instead. Use oil sprays wherever possible instead of liquid oils.

NUTS: Toasting nuts you may be able to get away with (such as almonds) increases their flavor so you can then use less.

MEATS AND FISH: Oven fry fish, turkey or chicken pieces. (Spray a nonstick baking sheet with vegetable oil spray, dip fish in egg white, then in a mixture of seasoning and bread crumbs, and lay on a baking sheet. Spray fish very lightly with vegetable oil spray and bake.) Remove skin on poultry, preferably before cooking. Use chicken breasts instead of (fattier) chicken thighs. Choose light meat rather than dark meat turkey. Use only the leanest cuts of beef or pork. Substitute wild salmon for fattier farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Perch, sole, tilapia, and haddock are good low-fat fish choices.

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT: Use fat-skimmed meat broth or chicken broth to flavor cooked rice instead of butter (save homemade broth in the freezer for later use). Roast, grill or steam vegetables and season with a pinch of dried herbs instead of butter or margarine. Use fewer high-calorie fruits and vegetables (pears, yams, corn and carrots) and more lower-calorie ones (broccoli, green beans, zucchini, cauliflower, bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce). Substitute pear slices for honey or jam on toast, use fresh blueberries instead of honey or other sweeteners on hot cereals. Substitute rice for potatoes at dinner.


  1. Cooper, Kenneth H. 1996. Advanced Nutritional Therapies. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, TN. Duyff, Roberta Larson. 1996.
  2. The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing. Minneapolis, MN. Potera, Carol.
  3. “Prozac of the Sea”. Psychology Today. May/June 1996. Somer, Elizabeth. 1993.
  4. Nutrition for Women: The Complete Guide. Henry Holt & Co. New York, NY. Wiatt, Carrie Latt.
  5. Diet Designs. Client educational and promotional pamphlet, 1999

Here is a low-calorie bladder-friendly lunch that I enjoy:

Snappy Cottage Cheese Salad

– serves 1

  • 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh radish, chopped fine
  1. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Serve on lettuce or alone. (Approx. 132 calories, 2g. total fat.) This goes well with a fresh pear and some thin-sliced roast beef.

This article originally published June 1999, revised and updated by the author Mar 2003.