Stop Looking at the Scale, Part 1: Why Weight Changes more than the Weather
With an increased focus ondue to the rise of obesity, frequent exercisers have picked up the habit of constant weighing. While the measurement that comes from a scale can be one way to see if exercise is working, there are better things to do then checking weight every 5 minutes. When constantly stepping on the scale, frustration follows since the number does not keep up with expectations. Ideally, weight would only go down on a but it is actually normal for weight to fluctuate in both directions on a consistent basis. In this two part article, I would like to go over the reasons for weight fluctuation and also, some alternative ways to measure your progress.
Time of day fluctuation = weight fluctuation
When taking weight, some people check their weight at various times of the day. Throughout the day, bodyweight will fluctuate based off of the reasons I have listed below. An individual could see a 3-7 pound difference from a morning weigh in to an evening weigh in, so keep that in mind next time you see a “night time weight” and start panicking.
Meal fluctuation = weight fluctuation
One of the reasons for the “time of day fluctuation” is a meal schedule. As you eat, obviously you will gain weight from the food immediately. It is digesting in your stomach and being processed, so until your body has gotten rid of waste and water contents of food, the scale will show a noticeably higher amount. Meal fluctuations also include differences in day to day food choices. If your meals are not the exact same thing every day, then your weight will be different from one day to the next. Foods like beans will take much longer to digest then something like a banana. This does not mean that you need to eat the same thing every day; it just means that you shouldn’t expect the scale to be a reliable measurement every single day.
Activity fluctuation = weight fluctuation
During the day, the human body is constantly sweating. Sometimes it is noticeable such as in exercise or hard labor and other times it evaporates so quickly we don’t even know. All sweat that leaves the body is water leaving our system. During a half hour of exercise in the summer sun, one could see an incredible loss of water weight from sweating. Weight losses from sweating do not relate to fat loss and they are also unhealthy if not corrected after working out. If you lose 3 pounds of water during an exercise session, this fluid needs to be replaced as soon as possible for your body to function at its normal levels.
Water fluctuation = weight fluctuation
If I weigh myself at this moment and somebody wants me to show them how quickly I can gain weight, I will start chugging down water. The same thing applies to a normal scale weigh in. If you weight yourself after drinking a large amount of water, that will obviously increase the number you see on the scale. Also, there are times when we drink water and our body will hold on to it much longer than normal; this is called water retention. Water retention is caused by things like extreme diet changes, alcohol, dehydration and stress.
Sodium fluctuation = weight fluctuation
Sodium fluctuation and water fluctuation counteract with each other. Extreme changes in the diet usually mean extreme changes in how much salt one is consuming. While sodium is vital to the body, an excess amount of it can cause water retention. When starting a diet or taking a day off from one, the bouncing from a low sodium level to a high one or vice versa may throw off your weight because of water retention.
Clothing fluctuation = weight fluctuation
This one is pretty simple but we sometimes forget this. Clothes can add on weight. If you weigh yourself fully clothed one day compared to just a t-shirt the next, there will be a difference in weight.
Location fluctuation = weight fluctuation
There are a couple of factors that go into this. One is the use of a different scale. Some scales are not calibrated leaving them to give you wrong measurements. The floor that a scale rests on may also be uneven. When I was doing weekly weigh ins last year for fitness competitions, I experimented around with the scale. I moved it around to different locations in the house to see if the numbers changed. I saw fluctuations of 5 pounds!
The bottom line is that there are many factors that go into how much you weigh besides how much fat you carry. These become especially apparent when weight is taken at a variety of times and situations. To use weight as a measurement, your body should be in a consistent state for each weighing.
How to properly weigh your self
1.Weigh yourself at the same time each weighing.
2. Weigh yourself right after waking up and using the restroom.
3. Weigh yourself no more often than once a week.
4.To make a weigh in reliable try to keep your eating the afternoon/evening before consistent from week to week.
5.Always rehydrate yourself right after a workout to avoid confusion that comes from lost water weight/water retention and more importantly, because your body needs water!
6. Clean up the diet of excess salt.
Let me run a scenario by everyone. On Monday, Cindy weighs herself at 170 pounds. During that day, she exercises for an hour without rehydrating and she sticks to easily digested foods. Tuesday morning, Cindy weighs herself at 165 pounds, 5 pounds in one day! After weighing herself, Cindy has a busy day at work in which she is seated all day, she eats high salt foods and decides to weigh herself again on Wednesday morning. Now Cindy’s weight is reading 172. This can’t be right; she has gained 7 pounds in one day. The truth is that Cindy’s weight difference has nothing to do with her body fat level changing. We now know the proper way for her to step on a scale but what else can she do to check her progress? The solution to this problem will be shown in part 2 of my series.