You can be doing everything right and you will still see your scale weight go up and down daily and this is perfectly normal.

While there are many ways to measure success with weight loss, many people still rely on the number on the scale to determine whether they are losing weight or not.

Whether you live and die by the number on the scale or just use it to measure your progress it is inevitable that the number going up can trigger feelings of frustration and the number going down can ignite feelings of joy especially when you are trying to lose weight.

You might be someone who gets upset when your scale weight goes up and you go into the f*ck it mode. You figure well if I am not losing weight why am I working out so hard and not enjoying the foods I am eating.

But not so fast!!! Don’t just give up!

The scale weighs more than just body fat.

It also weighs

  • Muscle
  • Organs
  • Bones
  • Undigested food in your digestive tract and
  • Water

Here is a secret you might not know about when you see your scale weight go up, in most cases you did not gain fat.

So why does the scale go up and down?

Let’s talk about all the different factors to consider when your scale weight goes up and down.

  1. Nutrition. What you eat and how much you eat can all play a role in your scale weight going up or down. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
    • Did I eat more lean protein? Some whole food lean protein sources take long to digest. For example, steak vs fish. The steak will take longer to digest than the fish. If you eat more complex carbs or certain whole food lean protein sources then these foods can longer to digest. If you see a drop on the scale it could be from eating lighter food choices. For instance, if you a higher fruit intake for the day
    • Did you eat more or less food than usual? Eating more food overall can result in the scale going up. If the scale drops it could be because you ate few calories.
    • Interesting fact: For every gram of carb you eat your body will hold up to 2-3 grams of water.
  2. Digestion. There could be a couple different things you could be experiencing with your digestion. First, different foods digest at different rates. Whole food lean proteins and complex carbs digestion slower. Second, are you eating enough fiber to expel waste from your digestive tract? Are you experiencing digestive discomfort from the foods you ate like bloating, gas or inflammation? These can definitely have an effect on your scale weight.
  3. Sodium Intake. When you increase your sodium intake your body will retain more water. Likewise, if you reduce your sodium intake you may see the scale drop. Generally, you might experience the most fluctuations on the scale when you eat out or eat more salty snacks and processed foods. My recommendation is be aware of your sodium intake from day to day so you can see how various amounts affect your scale weight.
  4. Fiber and Water Intake. These two are powerhouses when you are trying to lose weight. Eating enough fiber and drinking enough water will help you empty your bowels and remove waste from your body. If your scale weight is up, ask yourself, “When was the last time you had bowel movement”. If it has not been for a few days this could be why your scale weight is up.

    Recommended water intake is 2-3 liters per day

    Recommend fiber intake is
    • Men 38g
    • Females 28g
    • Men and women over 50: 21 – 30 g
  5. Meal Timing and when you weigh. Did you eat late? If most of your food for the day is consumed earlier and you have more digestion time between your last meal and when you weigh yourself then you might see a lower number on the scale. If you eat more of your meals later than you might weigh more in the morning.
  6. Stress. How you manage stress and how much stress you have in your life can affect the scale. Elevated stress levels lead to elevated cortisol levels which in turn can mask weight loss.
  7. Hormonal changes like PMS and menopause. Women with normal menstruation cycles generally have two weeks of elevated water retention and two weeks of lower water retention. It is not uncommon for a woman to experience up to 10lbs weight gain the week before their period. Being aware of where you are in your menstruation cycle can help you to determine if the scale is up due to your cycle or possibly from some other factor.
  8. Hard training sessions and soreness will cause water retention, as the body shuttles nutrients in and out of your body to repair damaged muscle tissue and eliminate waste.
  9. Building new muscle tissue may result in your scale weight going up or staying the same. It may appear you are not losing weight as your body fat drops and new lean muscle tissue is increasing.
  10. Sleep Quality. More and more research is coming out that shows that poor sleep quality can have an affect on your ability to lose weight. You might notice after one or many nights of poor sleep quality that your scale weight goes up. Whereas, you might see your scale weight drop on the weekends if you have the opportunity to sleep in longer or your sleep quality is better.
  11. Medications, sickness and injuries. You are experiencing any of these you could be retaining water as your body is trying to recover. Medications are traditionally known to have side effects of weight gain. It can take 2 weeks for medications to clear your body and for you to see the scale go down.
  12. Self care treatments. Self care is the absolute best thing for reducing cortisol and reducing stress but some self care treatments like massages and chiropractic treatments can result in water retention.

Fact: It is estimated that to gain a pound of fat you would need to eat 3,500 extra calories. That means unless you are eating an excess of 3,500 calories of what your body needs to function you are logically not gaining body fat.  Likewise, the flip side is true as well, if you are not burning an excess of 3,500 calories then you are not losing body fat and are most likely losing water weight.

The scale can be a great tool for measuring weight loss progress. But It is probably a good idea to use a couple different tools to determine if you are losing body fat. Here are a couple recommendations

  • Measuring tape
  • Progress pictures taken 3-4 weeks apart
  • How your clothes are fitting

These additional tools might highlight body composition changes that you might not be able to identify from your scale weight data alone.

Don’t let the scale dictate what kind of day you are going to have or derail your consistency.

Below is a Scale Fluctuation Checklist you can print off and post near your scale to use to identify why the scale may be up or down. The more you can understand the why’s behind the scale weight data will help you to not get frustrated when it goes up.

You will also be able to start being able to predict your scale weight the next day and be able to reach Scale Enlightenment.

Scale Enlightenment is when you can step on the scale and the number does not create an emotional response and you can apply logical reasoning to the number on the scale.

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  1. I am comfortable with scale fluctuations and understand the hold of water due to sodium and stress, but this is a great review

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