You’re working out and eating right. Yesterday, the scale was your friend, but today the number has actually risen. You really believed you were on the right track, but now you feel deflated. But there are reasons your weight may fluctuate everyday.
Does this situation sound familiar? Although frustrating, fluctuations in weight are normal and should be expected. Most of the time, these changes are the result of natural functions of your body and don’t require you to make any changes. Understanding why these fluctuations occur may make them more tolerable and help you stay on course, even when you feel like the number on the scale doesn’t reflect the work you’re putting in.
It’s also important to remember that weight is only one health marker, and that body weight and body fat percentage are two different things. If you find yourself becoming too focused on your weight, make a point of weighing yourself less often, and use photographs and body measurements to track your progress.
The following are just a few reasons you may see your weight fluctuate from one day to the next.
1. Increase in sodium intake
Sodium causes the body to retain fluid. It impacts the body quickly, and evidence of that is clear on the scale. Some people notice abdominal bloating after eating a high-sodium meal. This bloating is temporary, and it generally clears up within a couple of days of healthy eating and increased fluids.
Salt is a preservative, so packaged foods and commercially prepared foods in restaurants are often higher in sodium. Try to avoid processed foods and eating out too often to prevent these upticks in your sodium levels. Stick to whole foods as much as possible, and reach for spices and herbs to spruce things up rather than salt. If you do eat out, choose foods that will have less processing, like fresh salads. Stay away from prepared sandwiches, as lunch meats are notoriously high in sodium.
2. You’re properly hydrated
Water is heavy, and increasing your water intake can cause the number on the scale to rise. That’s not a bad thing. Body weight is made up of everything that’s in your body: muscle, organs, bones, fat, and fluids. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated, you’ll weigh less, but you won’t be at your optimal health. If you didn’t drink enough water on Tuesday and then hydrated properly on Wednesday, it will appear that you gained weight. What you actually gained was fluid that your body needs to stay alive. Continue to drink the right amount of water, and you’ll see the number go down again as your body loses fat instead of fluid.
3. Carbohydrate consumption
Eating carbohydrates causes your body to retain fluid. Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen, which your muscles use for energy. Each gram of glycogen is bonded to 3 to 4 grams of water, so the more glycogen you have in your body, the more water weight you have. This is also why people tend to rapidly lose water weight at the beginning of a new diet — they’re using up their glycogen and releasing the water that’s attached to it. Be aware that if you eat more carbs than usual, you may regain this water weight and feel bloated temporarily.
4. Strength training
Resistance training is great for overall health and long-term weight loss. Lifting weights or doing any type of strength training causes tiny tears in the fibers of the muscle. As these tears are repaired, the result is new muscle growth. However, creating those tiny tears also results in inflammation in the body. Any time inflammation is present, the body retains additional water to assist with repairing whatever is causing the inflammation. In this case, the additional water is to aid in muscle repair. Although the end result is positive and will help you achieve your long-term goal, the short-term spike on the scale due to water retention can be temporarily disheartening.
5. The menstrual cycle
Women’s menstrual cycles temporarily affect their weight. On average, most women will gain approximately five pounds in the five days before the start of her period. There’s nothing that can or should be done about this. It’s a natural part of the cycle, and weight usually returns to normal once menstruation begins.
6. Weekend weight gain
People who work during the day on a regular Monday through Friday schedule usually hit their lowest weight of the week on Friday and experience their highest weight of the week on Mondays. The phenomenon doesn’t usually impact overall weight loss. It may be that people are more diligent about their routine and schedule during the week and tend to let things go a little over the weekends. This makes sense when you consider that most social activities are scheduled for the weekends and often revolve around food. Weekend food may also include rich foods or alcohol that isn’t generally consumed during the work week.
7. Bathroom matters
As your body processes food, it produces waste. Until you eliminate that waste, it’s being carried inside of your body, and it factors into the number on the scale. If you aren’t eliminating waste regularly, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and add more fiber to your diet to get rid of the extra waste. Proper elimination is important not just for the number on the scale but for your overall health.
How to measure progress
With all these factors involved in your weight, you may be wondering how you can ever accurately evaluate your weight-loss progress.
First, stop weighing yourself daily. There’s too much fluctuation from day to day, so weighing yourself every day is likely to do more harm than good by becoming a demotivating force. Instead, pick a time and day of the week to do a weekly tracking of your progress. The best practice is for weighing yourself is:
- First thing in the morning
- Completely nude
- Before your shower
- Before consuming anything (including coffee!)
- After you’ve emptied your bladder
Next, add in additional measurements of success to track. Take a selfie each week so you can see the visual changes happening to your body. Don’t worry — no one has to see it but you! Take measurements of key parts of your body, such as waist, chest, hips, thighs, and upper arms. Muscle is heavier than fat, so you may notice that a week of slower weight loss may actually result in more significant changes in your body composition.
Need help achieving your weight-loss and wellness goals? Garcia Weight Loss offers personalized weight loss programs designed to help you look and feel your best. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on March 8, 2018