The amount of reasons scale weight changes on a weekly and daily basis comes down to much more than caloric intake. Yes, I talk about tracking macros, total caloric intake and those still matter most in the longterm, but its not a be all, end all in regards to scale weight in the short term.
I bolded scale weight because I am specifically talking about that number you see between your toes every morning. I am not talking about your body composition, how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror or how you feel. I should write a post about body composition as well, but since I typically have client’s struggling with scale weight frustrations this needed to be addressed 🙂
Here is why scale weight can and will fluctuate:
**If you already knew these, please re-read them again because everyone needs more reminders. Scale weight shouldn’t run (or ruin) your life. It is a measure of progress, but how you feel and your level of happiness is what matters most. So cliche, but so true.
- Water weight. Like you wake up, weigh yourself, drink 16oz of water and then weigh yourself again. Whoa up 0.8lbs. That is not fat weight. That is a simple example though that most people understand.
- Water weight again. You wake up and pee..down 0.6lbs. Same thing, not fat weight.
- Water weight againnnnn. You eat the Kung Pao Chicken last night and in the morning are up 2.3lbs on the scale. Kung Pao Chicken will have 2,500-4000 mg of sodium in a serving and your daily recommendation is 1,800-2,300mg. Sodium makes your body retain water. That weight gain is once again not fat weight. Give it 12-24 hours and your weight will level out. Patience on this, don’t freak out and starve yourself for 2 days.
- That time of the month for women. I don’t need to explain this. Don’t weigh yourself this week if you are the type of person who gets frustrated with your scale weight or know that you hold on to water these weeks. This is not fat weight.
- Stress. This is well versed. Increased stress in your life causes an increase in the hormone cortisol. This hormone promotes the production of more visceral fat (fat around your organs). This is fat weight, if stress is high for long enough. Increased stress also usually leads to overeating…again this is will be fat weight in the longterm. One stress binge of icecream won’t lead to gaining 5lbs of fat weight.
- Lack of sleep. This is a stress to the body. ^^^Refer to above. Lack of sleep can negatively affect the hormones that regulate appetite, often leading to over eating.
- You are backed up. Haven’t pooped in awhile? You could have lbs of fecal matter causing scale weight to be a few lbs higher. This is not fat weight.
- You eat a huge starchy carb meal last night. Something like pasta or potatoes. Carbs are mainly water. For every gram of carb there are 3-4g of water attached. So, when you cut carbs from your diet you not only lose the calories from the carbs but the water that goes along with the carbs. That is why weight loss is so fast with low carb dieters and then why weight loss plateaus. But, in the short term your scale weight can fluctuate day to day with larger than normal carb intakes.
- Medications. Not a doctor, but I have a handful of clients right now on ever changing meds and scale weight just isn’t a good measure of progress. The water weight and bloating that can occur when you are on anxiety, depression or any other medication can sometimes be pretty significant. This is not necessarily fat weight.
- Being dehydrated can also cause weight gain as body will want to retain any water it can soak up. By starting to drink more water slowly many times people will lose a few lbs on the scale.
- Alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates you. ^^^See above.
Tips to not freak out about scale weight:
- Realize that scale weight can and will change 1-7lbs from AM to PM for some people. Carbs increase your water weight slightly throughout the day and just having more food in your stomach will increase scale weight.
- Weigh yourself the same time every day or week. Usually Friday or Saturday AM will be best.
- Don’t weigh yourself Monday morning. I mean come on 🙂
- Maybe change your focus to body composition. How you look and feel. Only use scale weight as a measurement of progress if you can see a number you don’t like and not negatively overreact by eating even less or saying “screw it.”
- Scale weight matters in the long run (months to years) when you want to lose fat weight, fit better in your clothes and look better naked.
- Scale weight week to week matters when you are tracking your macros and are able to see if you current food intake is helping you reach your goals or not. If you are hitting your macros and aren’t seeing progress the macro numbers need to change. If you aren’t hitting your macros….well that is the first step.
- Scale weight day to day matters less UNLESS…you are the type of person who needs a constant reminder that a day of eating and hitting your macros will show you progress on the scale or at least maintaining weight. There is nothing wrong with this. But, if you are the type of person who lets the scale dictate your mood, I don’t recommend daily weigh ins. Stick with weekly or monthly weigh ins and more of a focus on how you feel and look.
I am currently up 3lbs from Saturday AM after a 5000+ calorie day of pizza and beer on Saturday. I’ll put $100 down that I am back to my Saturday AM scale weight by mid afternoon today. Any takers?