OMG!! I weighed this morning and the scale hadn’t moved, and then when I weighed this evening it WENT UP 3 LB!!! Why am I gaining weight?
This hypothetical quote is something we coaches frequently see in our groups and amongst our clients. When I read something like this, I immediately know the person in question is very confused about how we gain and lose body fat, and what things affect the number you see when you step on the instrument of torture we commonly call the scale.
Let’s clear that mess up.
If you weigh one thing in the morning, and something else at night, it does not mean you gained or lost that much in body fat that day. If you weigh one thing today and another tomorrow, it does not mean you gained or lost that much in body fat in that period of time. Human beings do not put on multiple pounds of body fat in twenty-four hour increments.
Human beings may gain or lose multiple pounds of water or bowel weight in twenty-four hours, and even over a few days. All of which is completely normal.
Your body weight depends on a multitude of factors. There are the obvious ones like bone, muscle mass, and adipose tissue. Those factors are also things that tend to take more time to change. It takes a lot of time for your bone density or muscle mass, for example, to change substantially. The same goes with body fat. Even in ketosis, it is unlikely you’re burning off multiple pounds of fat in a day.
The factors that can change fairly rapidly tend to be the kind of things people often forget about, like water retention, and the contents of your stomach and bowels at any given time. Most of the daily- and even hourly- fluctuations in body weight come down to how much water you’re carrying, inflammation levels, whether or not you ate recently and how much, and poop. And all those factors can be affected by a whole pile of things, some of which are outside of your control. Hot out? You could be carrying less water from sweat. Eat heavier than normal? Could be taking longer for your food to digest and the waste to do its evacuation thing. If you had too much dairy and are sensitive, or maybe got a face full of pollen, the reaction of your immune system can add pounds of water and inflammation very quickly. It’s also very common for people to bloat and/or become constipated when they travel, which can easily contribute to an unexpected scale gain.
This is why we harp on the fact that the scale is not a good measurement of your success. Better and more accurate ways to get a handle on how well you’re doing are to track measurements, take photos, and journal your physical feelings, symptoms, and mobility. These are all tangible things that you can use to gauge your progress.
Now, I know very few of you are going to rush home and throw out your scale, so for those who are intent on using body weight to track your progress, here are some tips on how best to utilize your readings on Satan’s instrument.
- Try not to weigh every day
- Do not weigh multiple times a day
- Timing matters
- Focus on the trends
Some folks can handle seeing those daily fluctuations, but let’s be frank here, most can’t. If seeing your scale number go up a pound or five overnight is going to freak you out, it’s best to limit your weighing to once per week or less.
I’m just gonna come out and say it: if you’re on the scale more than once per day, that’s obsessive behavior and is mentally unhealthy. Don’t do that to yourself.
The best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning, after you’ve relieved yourself. Little to no clothing is best. If you’re in the position where you need to use a public scale instead of one at home, try to go at the same time of day each time, and wear light clothing. Try not to go weigh yourself at the grocery store right after you’ve eaten a huge meal.
As long as the trajectory of your weight is heading downward over time, small fluctuations from day to day, or even week to week, aren’t indicative of much other than changes in water, inflammation levels, and your digestive system.
The most important thing to remember is that you didn’t gain weight overnight and you’re not going to lose it all that way, either. Fat loss and body recomposition take time, patience, and effort. The key to using the scale as a motivator instead of as an instrument of mental anguish is to understand how body weight actually works, and what to look for when using those measurements. The scale has a purpose, but it is not the sole word on fat loss. Keep it in its place and keto on.