People, especially women are often get obsessed weighing themself. For years, I too was only interested in seeing a lower and lower number each day. If it did not happen, it had ruined my day. I was upset with myself, forced myself to eat less and do more cardio until that scale number was going down again. So, not to be dramatic, but I do know how much stress can this put on a persons mind. The ugly truth is, when this happens, no matter how little you eat and how many hours you are on that stair master, that scale girl, is only going to be showing a higher number. Is it because you gained fat? **BIG** NO!
During the years I started studying my scale weight, and trust me, it can teach you so much about your body. I feel like that everybody should abandon the stereotypical- weightloss = less scale weight philosophy, and accept the fact, that there are several different factors (some of you would not even think of), that can affect what the scale shows, without actually gaining, or losing any bodyfat.
The main factors, that affect scale weight, yes or yes:
Time of the day
Stress, mental state
Quality of sleep
Quality of food
1. Time of the day Let say, you wake up at 7am, every morning. Does that ever happened to you, that on a lazy Sunday you decided to sleep in, and instead of 7am you woke up at 9am, got on the scale first thing after you got out of bed, and your weight completely differed from the day before? Sometimes higher, sometimes way lower than the morning before. You have probably heard this one before: to get the most accurate data, you should weigh yourself in the exact same time, every day. The best possible time to do that, is the morning, after you have visited the bathroom, before you have consumed anything, including water or coffee. This is simply because water intake and bowel moments as well influence your weight. Only your water consumption can fluctuate your weight by up to 2 kilograms a day, without gaining any fat, not to mention food consumption.
2. Water intake As mentioned before, the amount of water and other liquids like tea or coffee can increase scale weight by up to 2 kilograms a day. Does that mean you actually gained 2 kgs? Definitely not. As we learned, almost 99% of the mass of the human body made up of water. Factors such as breathing, sweating, peeing or other conditions like dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting can change the number on the scale, but it does not change our actual body mass. In a healthy way someone can lose around 1kg of body fat per week, so if you lose more than that, that is probably because you are losing water. Diuretics and some fat burners also cause water loss, which obviously shows on the scale, but again, does not affect your body fat percentage. If you want to see accurate numbers, be consistent with you liquids too. Try to drink the same amount of water, coffee or tea every day.
3. Sodium intake Sodium and water are best friends. Even though sodium is essential for many functions of the human body, when you consume too much of it, your body holds on to it, and it holds on to more water too. An average, healthy adult should not consume over 2,300mg (RDI= Reference Daily Intake) of sodium per day, and someone with high blood pressure should consume even less. This does not mean, that you should go crazy with avoiding sodium from now on. If you follow a healthy, whole foods based diet, then you probably won’t consume more than you should anyway. However, soda pops, processed, canned, packaged and fast foods are very high in sodium, therefore, you should avoid consuming them in a daily basis. As sodium adds flavor to food, it’s likely used in the restaurant business too, so just be mindful at what you order on those date nights. Also, you can lower your sodium intake by using less salt when cooking. Instead, use natural flavorings, such as fresh or dried herbs. You will see the difference!
4. Bowel movements Easy demostration- get on the scale before pooping and after. I am sure you have done this before. Correct, everybody does lose a bit of weight after pooping, yet, it still does not mean, that you actually lost weight, even though the scale says you have, so you can do this for fun, or just out of curiosity, but do not celebrate your weight loss after a trip to the restroom, because, well, it just simply doesn’t count.
5. Stress & mental state A little personal story- A few weeks ago, I had a terrible week. I was suffering from mouth ulcers, a common condition, caused by stress. I was in a lot of pain, I could not eat or even drink water without being in agony, not to mention talking. This put me under even more stress, affected my mood too, as I woke up every 2-3 hours over night, and after hitting a new low weight, my scale weight increased by 1.8 kg from one day to the other. This put me under pressure. I was frustrated, and my mind was full of negativeness that week. I maintained that higher weight throughout the entire week. By the weekend, symptoms began to ease, and so I slept better and I was getting back on track mentally. The next day I woke up, and after my morning routine I hopped on the scale and my weight dropped by 2 kilograms, hitting a new low! Yes! Just by getting rid of the stress, sleeping better, and being in a better mood overall. In the end it was an awful, yet incredibly useful experience!
Stress can increase cortisol hormone levels in our bodies, and this hormone has a huge impact on fluid retention, therefore it can cause an immediate change of bodyweight. But it is just water, that will eventually go, once you find your peace of mind. That is why is crucial to maintain your patience and calm, when you are trying to loose weight. If you are loosing it by checking the scale every hour of the day, that will not do you any good. Good things take time.
6. Hormones Hormones support many vital functions within our bodies, and also play a crucial role in weight loss. There is cortisol, known as “stress hormone” and there is insulin. Being on a low-carb diet leads to a drop in insulin levels, which means a loss of sodium and water from our kidneys. Sometimes, during diet, there are higher carb days, so called “refeed” days, and eating more carbs might cause a change in weight. And that is again, because of that naughty water retention. And guess what? Cortisol and insulin are great friends, so when cortisol levels are elevated due to periods of stress, insulin is typically raised as well. But insulin has an enemy too, glucagon, known as a “fat burning” hormone. Insulin and glucagon are both hormones found in human body, but they have opposing effects- when one is up, the other one is normally down, as glucagon is secreted by the pancreas, only when blood sugar is low. This can occur between meals and during exercising. So when your insulin levels are higher than normal, for instance right after eating a meal dense in simple carbs, glucagon levels will be down. Insulin promotes energy storage and protein production, glucagon promotes the release of stored energy. So basically, keeping your blood sugar level in an optimal range will cause your body to consistently burn more stored fat. A healthy diet and a consistent state of mind creates an environment for optimal hormone production. And this is just the very basics about hormones.
7. Menstrual cycle Some women might experience 1-2 kilograms overnight difference in bodyweight during their period. This is something you absolutely should not worry about. This increase does not alter actual fat mass, so the extra weight always goes away the days followed by the end of your cycle, if you stay consistent and don’t go on a binge! A few days prior your period, progesterone levels increase in your body. This hormone has been linked to stimulating, typically increasing appetite. Estrogen levels affect serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that controls our mood and it also happen to reduce appetite. So with estrogen dropping the days leading to your period, so does serotonin. It is okay to be craving, it is also okay to eat a little more, but do not entrap yourself in emotional binge eating, because you know, you will regret it after. The best thing you can do for yourself during these days, is to have a plan. Have some low calorie snacks in the pantry, just in case you can’t resist, instead of running down the supermarket to buy all the chocolate they have in stock.
8. Quality of sleep A healthy lifestyle requires quality rest and recovery. Several studies proved, that sleep-deprived people are more likely to be hungry and crave high calorie foods, sugar, and fat. It has to do a lot, again, with your hormonal balance. A sleep-deprived body tends to have less leptin, and above average ghrelin hormone. Gherlin sends signals to your brain, when you are hungry, and leptin tells your brain when you are full. So high gherlin and low leptin levels will make you feel hungrier throughout the day and not being able to tell, when you had sufficient food, so you might just overeat. Insufficient sleep also affects your energy levels, therefore the intensity of your workouts and your daily activities.The amount of sleep a person needs is very personal, but typically we are talking about 7-8 hours per day, in case of a healthy adult, Going to bed and waking up in the same time every day can help to have a structure in your life and also to get accurate weight measurements. –Yes, even on the weekends.
9. Quality of food Whole foods. Try to stick to natural sources and ingredients. Artificial sweeteners and flavorings can cause you excessive gas and bloating, as they can’t be digested by the body. Go for low glycemic index foods. Burning body fat and sculpting a lean, healthy physique is not about eating less food, it’s about eating the right kinds of foods.
10. Meal timing Altough this is not supported by any scientific research, to keep blood sugar level even throughout the day, it makes sense to have a meal, or something to eat every 4-5 hours. It does not have to be every 2 hours or something even crazier. Have a plan and try to stick to it. Also, by regulating your meals, you will never feel hungry. If you are trying to see accurate data on the scale, try not to eat very close to your bedtime -last meal 1.5 hours before is adequate- as it can show an increase on your scale weight, without actually gaining any fat, and as well, can make you wake up hungrier, and moody (=ME).
11. Glycogen storage Human body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, mainly in the muscles and the liver. Glycogen holds on to water, around 2.7 grams of water per 1 gram of glycogen. When your body needs energy, glycogen is being released, so if you are not using up your body’s glycogen stores (you take in more energy than what you actually use up during the day) your body will hold more water. However, it is important to mention, that this is not the same as water retention, when the excess water is held between cells, as in this case the water is attached to glycogen within the cells. So this water is essential for your body to hold back, in order to maintain glycogen levels, therefore energy. BUT, it can still increase your scale weight by up to 1 kgs. When you have a heavy workout, or just a super busy day, you use more of the glycogen, that your body stores, so it can technically show as weight loss on the scale, however this change should not be considered as weight gain, nor as weight loss.
12. Body structure When you are on a weight loss program, and together with your diet you follow some kind of workout plan too, your body structure will slowly start to change, and fat tissue will be replaced by nice shapely muscles. But here is the fact- when you place 1kg of muscle and then 1kg of fat on a scale, they will both weigh exactly the same: 1kg. But the difference in total volume is mind blowing. It is like comparing the size of an apple to the size of a watermelon. So you can still weigh the same, but look a lot smaller and toned. That is because muscle, as a dense tissue takes up a lot less room in the body, than the same weight of body fat. You are still loosing centimeters, and using smaller sizes in clothes, while your scale weight remain the same. Fascinating.
That are so many more factors that are contribute to the scale moving up and down. Some medications, mainly antibiotics can cause your body to retain water, increase your appetite, or change your metabolism. Alcohol consumption can slow digestion, that can also cause water retention, or even certain illnesses can cause changes in bodyweight.
Takeaway: linear progress does not exist in weight loss, daily weight fluctuation is completely normal, and scale weight is not an accurate indication of how much bodyfat you’re losing!
So, should you keep weighing yourself? Yes, but- firstly, you should not worry about it. Instead, take it as a data source. Your weight loss by scale will never be a straight line, and it is absolutely normal. There will be days or even weeks, when the scale will show a higher number, but if you check all the boxes, it WILL eventually drop. Some of the factors can absolutely can not be controlled, like hormonal imbalance due to menstrual cycle. There are so much better options to check your progress. Taking photos or videos time to time is my preferred, and in my opinion the most effective way to check on your progress, and you can also use a tape measure. In the end, if you are honestly doing your absolute best, you will notice the changes without using any of these methods, just by seeing how your clothes fit on you (or don’t…). -Lita