When you embark on the journey to lose body fat and improve your health it’s encouraging, and motivating to see the number on the scale go down.
This can be a double edged sword though.
Seeing the number on the scale go down serves as the best feedback that you know of that what you’re doing is working, and your effort is paying off.
You can see the hard work with diet and exercise paying off so you stick with it, even though sometimes you’d rather eat a burger or skip the gym… me too!
A month or two down the road the scale isn’t going down as quickly.
Then eventually the scale stops going down. For one day then for multiple days on end, maybe even a week...
Everyday you step on the scale expecting it to read a few pounds lighter but much to your frustration you see your weight has actually increased.
You think “How the hell is that possible ??”
These weight fluctuations are a normal part of fat loss, and happen to everyone who set out to lose body fat.
Because no one ever told you about this though the scale ups and downs screw with your head in a big way.
When you’re in a calorie deficit and losing fat, your weight will not always go down, wait what are you talking about Alex ?
Body fat is one part of what makes up your weight.
Along with muscle, water, food in the gut, your skeletal system, organs and much more.
Your weight can change on a scale without any changes to your body fat levels.
People experience this regularly when they first start a low carb diet.
I had a client who lost 12 pounds in his first month using a ketogenic diet.
That was encouraging for him to see the scale go down so rapidly but we also had a chat about expectations of weight loss moving forward.
The thing to keep in mind is that the scale can provide useful feedback, but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about your fat loss progress either.
Shift the focus from what your weight is on a daily basis to what your overall trends are for the week and month.
What matters for your long term progress with fat loss is your weekly and monthly trends, not a single day.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 7 things that cause your weight to fluctuate, but have zero to do with your fat loss.
To get a real gauge of how your body weight is changing due to the amount of food you’re eating you’ll need to be consistent with how much you’re eating.
Many people who diet live between restriction and binge behaviors which makes it extremely difficult to gauge the amount they’re actually eating.
Weighing yourself after a few days eating consistently for your goals compared to an indulgent weekend is like comparing apples to oranges.
When you eat carbs your body will store them in your muscles and liver, or use them for energy.
The process of converting carbs to the form stored in your liver and muscles pulls water water into the muscles and liver with it.
This is part of why after a big deal if eating indulgent foods you’ll weigh more on the scale, you’re retaining a lot of water from carbs, and salt.
If you’ve ever woken up “feeling puffy” after dining out a restaurant like chinese or thai, it’s due in part to eating a lot more salt than your normally would.
Your body keeps sodium (salt) pretty tightly regulated as it plays an important role in managing the amount of water you have inside and outside your cells, and anumber of other functions.
When you consume a large amount of sodium water it pulls water into the cells, and again causes your scale weight to spike.
Our bodies are largely made up of water, and any large changes to the amount of water you’re drinking can also cause shifts in your weight on the scale.
If you weigh yourself after a day of drinking lots of water, and compare that to a day when you’ve been dehydrated you can expect to see at least a few pounds difference.
The amount of water you drink can also combine with other factors that cause weight spikes on the scale like carbohydrate, salt and fiber intake to increase scale weight.
This is one of the most interesting things to think about when it comes to your weight spiking.
In a chronically stressed state whether that’s from dieting aggressively, not getting enough sleep, over exercising or even social and psychological stress your body will release excessive amount of stress hormones.
With stress hormones flooding the body they can bind to the receptor of a hormone named aldosterone that regulates water balance in the body.
When the stress hormones bind to this aldosterone receptor it causes water retention, and you weight to increase on the scale.
Believe it or not I’ve had female clients who would see the scale jump upwards of eight pounds during their cycle.
Before ovulation there is a two week phase of the menstrual cycle named the follicular phase.
During the first week a woman’s weight tends to be lighter.
However the second week of the follicular phase is a different story.
Estrogen increases in this second week and causes sodium retention which results in a lot more water being retained, and a higher scale weight.
When someone is dieting to lose body fat one of the biggest battles is trying to avoid hunger and food cravings.
A magnificent tool in this battle is being able to fill up on lower calorie foods, satiating foods.
Generally a good strategy is incorporating a lot more vegetables and fruits in place of denser carbs or fats.
Vegetables and fruits are also very dense in fiber which soaks up water and can leave you feeling fuller, but also with a higher scale weight.
Again this has nothing to do with your body fat levels increasing but you’ve found a way to eat more food which leaves more food in your gut as well.
No article on the scale would be complete without talking about poop and bathroom habits.
If your bathroom and bowel movements are off because you’ve had a lot of extra fiber, ate something you wouldn’t normally or are just plain constipated this can result in higher scale weight.
All of the above points are valid and common reasons you may not see the scale continually going down even though you’re losing body fat.
If your scale weight has stopped going down, take a deep breath and go through these points like a checklist and see which apply.
If you feel like your fat loss has really stalled I wrote on a blog on the top 5 simple ways to break through a fat loss plateau you can read HERE.
Any other questions about scale weight or how to actually measure progress feel free to email me or shoot me message on instagram @evolvenutritionaltherapy.