If you’ve ever felt like you’re doing everything you can to lose weight, only to wake up weighing more than you did yesterday, this post is for you.
We’ve all been there: you eat right and hit the gym regularly — you feel on top of the world. Then you step on the scale and wonder what the heck you’re doing wrong. The truth is, it’s totally normal for your weight to fluctuate by one, two, or even five pounds every day. Does that mean you gained five pounds of fat in one day? Of course not! Gaining fat doesn’t happen that fast nor does it happen when you’re making a strong effort to watch what you eat and move your body.
Here’s the deal, your weight does fluctuate, every day – even every hour – based on things like your hydration level, bathroom schedule, exercise habits, and what you eat.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that influence your weight.
Water fluctuations mess with your weight, big time. Water makes up roughly 60% of your total body mass. The two major factors that influence how much water you have on board are how much water you’re drinking and your salt intake. For example, weigh yourself after drinking a 16-ounce bottle of water and you just might be a pound heavier! That pound will be eliminated once you head to the bathroom — if you’re properly hydrated. Just being slightly dehydrated might cause your body to hold on to that water in an effort to create balance.
When you weigh yourself can impact your weight, too. If you step on the scale in the morning, before you’ve used the bathroom, that will impact the number. Even if you do weigh yourself first thing and after a trip to the bathroom, you could still see a higher number on the scale simply because of what you ate yesterday. Sodium plays a big role in water balance and if you eat a salt-heavy dinner, your body will hang on to more water. Excess sodium in the diet can temporarily increase your body weight by 2 or 3 pounds within a day or two of eating it!
Women may also retain several pounds of water during that time of the month. Pre-menstrual bloat can be minimized by drinking plenty of water, staying active and limiting high-sodium foods.
Not only does drinking water and your bathroom habits skew the number on the scale, so does what you eat — especially carbohydrates. When you start eating fewer processed foods and less carbohydrates, or if you go on a low-carb diet, you use up your glycogen stores. Glyocgen is your body’s gas tank — it’s your stored-up carbohydrate contained in your muscle and liver. For every gram of glycogen stored, you store anywhere from 3-4 grams of water along with it! When you start eating less carbs, your body depletes your glycogen stores and you lose all that water with it, reducing your overall weight. Although it might FEEL good to drop 5 lbs on the scale, this type of weight loss isn’t body fat, it’s glycogen stores and water…and unfortunately, it’s coming right back!
If you’re ramping up exercise alongside your dietary changes, you’re probably gaining muscle, too. If you lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, the scale may not reflect this change, but your body will. Since fat takes up more space per pound than muscle, your body composition is usually a much better indicator of your overall efforts than your weight. Even if the scale doesn’t budge, your body is going through some awesome changes when you exercise, eat right, and stay hydrated.
Remember, the scale doesn’t just weigh your fat. It weighs your entire body — that includes muscle, bone, water, organs — even your hair!
Weight loss can be an immediate consequence of making big lifestyle changes, and that’s awesome. But it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all of health. The scale measures your weight, but it’s far from telling the full story.
The next time you step on the scale feeling like you should have lost more weight for all the effort you’ve put in, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your body feel different – stronger, leaner, healthier?
- Has your digestion improved?
- Is your relationship with food changing?
- Is your relationship with your body changing?
- Are you cooking more…and are you enjoying it?
- Are you moving your body more…and are you enjoying it?
- Do you feel more like yourself in your body?
- Do your clothes fit better?
If you’re making changes that make you feel healthy and more like yourself, you’re on the right track.
I hope you can see now that there are many factors that play into your weight, and weight alone is not the only indicator of success. If you’re becoming obsessed with your weight, try spending less time on the scale and more time appreciating the way your body feels and all the hard work you’re putting in to help feel your best.