So you've been on your weight loss journey for a while now. You've started cooking and eating healthier meals, you've started to feel alright in the gym, and you have been taking your supplements.
You hop on the scale and notice that no change has occurred; or worse, your weight has gone up.
What the heck.
Related - Why Exercise for Weight Loss Sucks
If you've been tracking your weight for a few weeks, you may have noticed some fluctuations in your weight. These fluctuations can cause confusion and make people want to give up.
These weight changes are temporary and can change throughout the day. They do not mean you aren't making progress, and you really shouldn't worry about them.
So let's jump into eight reasons why your weight fluctuates so much.
Causes of Weight Fluctuation
1.) You Upped Your Water Intake
Many of us stay in a mildly dehydrated state. While there are plenty of articles out there about what dehydration does to your body, let's go over what happens when you finally rehydrate.
So you started to rehydrate, drinking excess water to help stay hydrated. After a few days of this, your weight has suddenly crept up on the scale. What would you do?
When you weigh yourself, you are seeing how much your organs, bones, muscles, fluids, and waste weigh. Your whole body, not fat.
If you've been slacking on drinking water and you start drinking a gallon or two the next day, the scale may indicate a 2 pound increase. That doesn't mean you've gained fat, it means that your body was that depleted of water.
2.) You Actually Lifted Weights
You woke up, stuck to your diet, smashed weights at the gym, and have had the "perfect day."
You get up in the morning and expect to see some progress, right? Well, the scale shows a higher number than yesterday, and you get bummed out.
The reason the scale says you've gained weight is because lifting heavy causes inflammation. This is great for building muscle and getting stronger, but your body will take on more water to help with repairing the muscles that you tore down in the gym.
3.) Your Sodium Intake Was Higher Than Normal
You ran out of food mid-week and decided to eat that frozen dinner that you've been eyeballing for the last two weeks.
There are certain foods that will make you hold onto excess water due to sodium. These are called processed foods.
Eating these packaged foods or eating fast food adds a large amount of sodium to your body. The higher amounts of sodium in your body results in bloating and a higher number on the scale.
In a day or two, it will generally go away. Your body has regulated its water and you are finally back to your baseline.
Sticking to an 80/20 rule on nutritious/junk food is a great way to keep your weight from fluctuating as much.
4.) You Upped Your Carb Intake
We've eaten healthy foods all week and on Thursday your company ordered pizza. Rewarding yourself, you grabbed a couple of slices and you finished off the bag of chips you've been babysitting all week.
The increase in weight isn't from fat, it's from water weight.
This is why your friend Dave who cut down his carbs lost so much weight so fast; your body doesn't hold onto the excess water anymore. This is also why Dave has ballooned back to his starting weight after he started eating like he used to again.
5.) Your Weight Was Down Yesterday
Yesterday was a record-breaking day. Your weight was at an all-time low, you hit your macros, killed your workout, and you even got in an extra 30 minutes walking around your neighborhood.
You get on the scale the next day and your number is higher.
Do you get bummed out and feel about it or do you accept that your weight will fluctuate? I've personally done the first and ate my way to an extra 20 pounds. Don't do it.
If the scale really gives you anxiety and worry about your progress, weight yourself less often so you can see your overall weight trend. I'll touch more on this a little later in the article.
6.) You Didn't Use the Bathroom Yet
If you were in a hurry because you woke up late and hopped on the scale before work and the number was up, you may simply need to use the restroom.
Being backed up or having issues in that department will add some pounds to the scale.
Your weight will fluctuate with how much waste is in your body.
7.) It's Finally the Weekend
One study has shown in people who work a regular Monday to Friday job tend to have a weight rhythm.
The study took 80 adults and analyzed their weight fluctuations. The results were that Sunday/Monday their weight had increased and decreased throughout the week.
The increases began on Saturday and the decreases began on Tuesday. The results were more profound in those who lost or maintained weight versus those who slowly gained weight.
Wrapping It Up
If the scale gives you true anxiety, start weighing yourself less frequently. You are setting yourself up for failure if you jump on the scale every day. It's simply not needed.
There are so many reasons why your weight fluctuates and causes an inaccurate picture of your overall weight loss.
Try to weigh yourself once per week on the same day and at the same time of day. As you see, your weight fluctuates throughout the day and week; picking a time and day that you can consistently weigh yourself on is important if you want to really measure your overall trend.
You can also look into other forms of measuring your progress like taking weekly measurements, progress photos, and using a body fat caliper. The way your clothes fit, the way you look in the mirror, and the way you feel should determine your overall progress more than the number on your scale.
Side note: While it sounds crazy, I've lost somewhere around 80-100 pounds without using the scale once. I am tracking what I eat, I get my exercise in, and I go off of how I look, feel, and how my clothes feel.
I'm currently wearing clothes that I haven't been able to wear for 5 years and I honestly can't tell you what I weigh.
The scale is not your only indicator of how successful you are at losing weight. Keep your nose to the grind, do as many things "right" that you can, and enjoy life.