Are you experiencing weight fluctuation?
Your weight can fluctuate day to day and even during the day, making it difficult to know if your weight is headed up or down. This can be especially frustrating when dieting, but how are you to know if your weight loss goals are being realized or thwarted if the scale tells a different story each day? The key is to understand those factors that cause weight fluctuation and to learn how to weigh yourself properly.
Why Do We Have Weight Fluctuation?
The key thing to understand here is that it is natural for your weight to fluctuate somewhat from day to day and during the day, without the cause being permanent weight gain. Try weighing yourself first thing in the morning, then drink 2 cups of water and weigh yourself again. You will see you’ve gained weight already from just drinking water!
So, you will probably weigh the most at night after dinner, since you’ve been eating every 5-6 hours since the morning and you’ve just had your last meal. And you will most likely weigh the least in the morning right after waking up and urinating, since you’ve had about 10 hours of fasting during which time you’ve been burning calories.
Our bodies are not machines and we will have weight fluctuation. The important thing is to know if the weight gain is of a permanent nature or something natural and temporary.
There are many factors such as below that can cause daily weight fluctuations. Understanding these factors can help eliminate confusion and maintain a higher morale, which is absolutely essential to successful dieting.
No Bowel Movement
Constipation is the enemy of efficient weight loss and health. You really need to get waste out of your body regularly. The added weight due to constipation depends on various factors including the person’s size and length of constipation, but it could add 1-2 pounds to your weight! Make sure to consume plenty of fiber and fluids every day.
Time of Day
Again, the time of day you weigh yourself will cause fluctuations. Weight tends to be at it’s lowest point first thing in the morning after the initial urination and/or bowel movement, and before your cup of coffee. Since all the other variables are the same; you haven’t eaten or drank anything since the evening before, this is the time you should weigh yourself to keep track of your weight. If you weigh yourself everyday for example after lunch, there could be so many factors that could cause weight fluctuation; the actual weight of the food you’ve eaten, the amount fluid you’ve had, any bowel movement you’ve had, etc. That is why you need to always weigh yourself first thing in the morning.
Menstruation can cause temporary, harmless weight gain in some women mainly from water retention. The weight gain is usually minor, but in rare cases it can be up to 5 pounds. Women’s food cravings may also increase but they appear to be typically offset by the higher metabolism women experience during menstruation (up to 10% more metabolism). This temporary weight gain should resolve itself in a few days after the menstrual cycle.
Using various scales can also cause weight to vary. Not every scale is accurate and nearly every scale varies by at least a quarter pound compared to other scales. Even freshly calibrated medical scales can be off by a pound or two, especially if they are heavily used or older models.
Make sure to always weigh yourself wearing the same, light clothing. The most accurate way to weigh yourself is to have no clothing. Clothing made of heavy fabric such as denim can add a lot more weight than people realize. Even certain T-shirts are heavy enough to make a difference.
Signs that You Are Gaining Weight and Need to Take Action
Below are some indicators that you are most likely gaining permanent weight, and you need to take action:
- Your weight is steadily going up for 3 days or more in a row (except during menstruation)
AND (one or more of the below)
- You know you’ve been consuming more calories than you burn (be honest!)
- You’ve been eating fattening foods, especially late at night
- You’ve been drinking alcohol.
- You’ve been dining out.
If you’re truly gaining weight, don’t be discouraged, every single one of us goes through the same thing! Stop what you’ve been doing and cut down on calories immediately. It is so much easier to lose weight if you take quick action after temporary weight gain.
Learn to Weigh Properly
In order to track your true weight, the variables must first be eliminated. You need to weigh yourself under the same exact conditions. If you are trying to lose weight, weighing yourself daily is recommended so that you can take quick action if needed. Some weight loss programs advise weighing once a week, but that could be risky as you can gain a lot of weight in 1 week. If you are going to weigh yourself only once a week, you need to otherwise be regimented with what you eat and/or the calories you consume. Imagine if you are eating out every night, thinking you are eating low-calorie foods, only to find out 1 week later that they were actually fattening.
Make It a Ritual
Weights should be obtained in a ritualistic fashion, using the exact same scale at the exact same time of day every day while wearing the exact same clothes, or no clothes at all. These weights are to be written down, but are not to be taken to heart. They are not a measurement of true weight. They are simply components of an individual’s true weight.
Look at the Trend
How much do you weigh compared to 1 week ago, 1 month ago? Are you on an upward trajectory or downward trajectory? Or are you simply maintaining your weight? Looking at the trend of your weight movement is a lot more meaningful than looking at your daily weight. You know the diet program or weight loss strategies you’ve been implementing for the past month. Has it worked? You know the lifestyle you’ve had. Has it helped? Based on your results, you can change your strategy for the coming week or month.
You can also plug your weight values into a spreadsheet and make a graph that shows your weight values over the course of weeks, months, or years. This will show a much smoother ascent or descent depending on whether you are gaining or losing weight. It will be interesting to see if there is any pattern. For example, do you tend to gain weight over the weekend, or on other particular days?
Have a Thick Skin
You cannot be overly affected by your upward weight fluctuations! Otherwise you will get demoralized very quickly and may even stop your weight loss efforts. The important question is are you on a downward trajectory, which can only be clearly seen when looking at the trend of your weight levels (the weekly, monthly, yearly trends).
At the same time, if you have a downward weight fluctuation, don’t take that as a ticket to binge on fattening foods. Once your temporary weight loss adjusts back, you will have gained weight because of the over-consumption. Always look at the long-term trend of your weight to gauge if you’ve truly lost weight.