The other day I gained and lost over a pound in a matter of minutes.
How did I do this? I moved my bathroom scale to four different places in my bathroom and weighed myself.
Each time I got a different measurement – up to a pound difference!
Not only does this call into question the functionality of my bathroom scale, but also the true value of weighing one self.
We’ve all heard that women are overly focused on the number on a scale, and that your weight does not define you. This is 100% true and I have posted on this topic numerous times: When and What to Change When the Scale is Stuck and Beyond the Scale. However, what is also true is that scale weight is one measure of what is going on with your body. It shouldn’t be ignored, but it should be objectively evaluated and a main focus of your weight loss goals.
There are many factors that can influence the scale. I’m going to break them down and explain why your weight fluctuates so much, plus tell you when and how use the scale so it becomes your friend and not your enemy.
The main points I will cover in this post:
- Why the scale fluctuates up and down on a daily basis
- The three main factors that are influencing the scale overnight
- Body composition change, how to know what’s really going on with your body and how to track fat loss (not just weight loss)
- Whether or not you should weigh yourself every day and a couple of things to keep in mind if you do
We have all come to rely on the scale as a measure of weight loss success or failure, when in fact it can be completely unrelated to either.
Here’s the reality. Your weight can fluctuate as much as 5 to 10 pounds throughout the week and even day to day.
Three things that screw with the scale and cause it to go up and down overnight
Every day your body is constantly regulating the water levels inside of it and so if you’re a little more hydrated or a little less hydrated, that can be one to five pounds on a scale.
If you eat a meal super high in sodium the next morning your body might retain more water from that because sodium and carbohydrates cause our body to retain more water. You might see the scale jump up, simply due to water retention.
Inflammation is actually different from just water retention or bloating from our monthly cycle.
Inflammation is caused by things like chronic stress, lack of sleep, smoking or even drinking a lot of coffee. Basically anything that keeps your body in an elevated state of stress. This raises cortisol levels, which causes inflammation.
Even a hard workout can have this effect. You may have had a really great workout, you get up the next day and you’re sore but you expect to see the scale moving but it doesn’t. Why? First of all you’re not going to see the results of one workout the next day, but you also may have some inflammation going on.
Are you regular? If you’re someone who doesn’t have great digestion and you get a little backed up that is absolutely going to show up on the scale.
Yes a good bowel movement can unload up to a couple pounds, no joke.
If you have a week when you’re not using the bathroom and you feel really bloated and your clothes feel tighter, that’s not fat, that’s just food hanging out in your intestines that you’ve got to get rid of.
How to Fix It
What can we do about it?
Let’s start by not putting too much stock into something that can be that fickle, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and weigh yourself on the same scale, in the same place, at the same time, each day or each week in order to get the most accurate results.
What we really want to be looking for on the scale is fat loss or fat gain and muscle loss and muscle gain – true body composition change.
These are small, barely perceptible changes that happen over weeks and months at a time. My recommendation is to track your results over a long period of time, whether this is on paper or digitally (I use an app called “WeightDrop”).
Whether you weigh every day or every week, don’t be concerned with the result until you have weeks or better yet, months of data. Get on a diet and exercise program, be consistent, stick to it and then just start objectively punching in those measurements every time you weigh.
Eventually you’ll have a chart of data. It’s going to show your weight going up and down day to day, but if over weeks and months progressively you’re going down then you’re on the right track.
When it comes to body composition what’s important are those trends that are happening over time and if the overall trend is down that’s good. If the overall trend is up that’s not good and that means you’re going to want to make some changes to your diet or your exercise program.
Take into consideration other factors besides the scale: measurements, progress photos and how your clothes fit.
Reclaim your self-worth and your self evaluation from the scale! See it for what it is: one measure or one variable of that impacts overall picture of a healthy lifestyle.
If you don’t like what the scale has to say or you can’t weigh yourself without having an emotional reaction I need you to stay off the scale and instead focus on how you look, how you feel, how you’re performing in the gym, and the other positive things that come with taking control of your life and living a healthier lifestyle.
And if you don’t like what it has to say and can’t weigh yourself without having an emotional reaction – just stay off the damn thing until you can.
Or ask your husband to hide it. 🙂