Warning: This article contains talk of scales, numbers, and may be triggering for those currently struggling with body dysmorphia and other related body image disorders.
I told you all about my rough history with the scale, and how I had to put some major work into learning how to use it in a healthy way. During the time when my relationship with my scale was doing more harm than good, I was weighing myself every. single. day. Sometimes multiple times a day.
I knew I would be “lightest” when I first woke up, so I’d weigh myself hoping to start my day feeling good about myself. But if my weight was higher than the day before, I’d be so bummed. I’d replay the previous day, trying to figure out what I did “wrong.” I’d feel guilty and pick myself apart.
Finally, I realized that weighing myself so often was damaging. I’d be up a pound, and then down two pounds. And then up again. And my mood and confidence were on the same rollercoaster. And you guys, weight fluctuation is NORMAL. Letting the numbers dictate your mood isn’t.
But once I was on the scale rollercoaster, it was hard to get off. I knew I had to stop weighing myself every day. One of the things that finally helped me take a break from the scale for a while (and eventually build a healthier relationship with my weight), was learning about all of the reasons my weight was fluctuating. All of the perfectly NORMAL factors going on in my body. Things out of my control. Things that were only temporary and not actually getting in the way of my goals.
Like…did you know that it’s totally normal for your weight to fluctuate 5 to 6 pounds throughout the day?! WHAT?!
So here’s why that simple little number on your scale isn’t actually so simple! Soooo many factors go into it! If you’re stuck on the scale rollercoaster like I was, check these out.
Weight fluctuation happens (temporarily) every time you eat or drink!
Ever eat a huge meal, feel guilty, and immediately go weigh yourself? Yep, me too. But WHY?!
- Of course we’re all going to weigh a pound or two more after a meal. Food and drinks weigh something, right?!
- I promise you did not eat enough calories to gain actual weight from one meal.
Even a glass of WATER is going to weigh something. 8 ounces STILL weighs 8 ounces, right? It’s actually funny that it took me so long to think about it that way.
Food still weighs something when it digests and turns into waste, until you get rid of it. Foods high in fiber like fruits and veggies make their way through your digestive system a lot faster than foods high in carbs, salt, and fat.
So basically, your weight after a meal is almost always going to be higher. It doesn’t reflect anything actually changing with your body.
Speaking of salt, eating foods that make you bloated or retain water causes weight fluctuation too!
The culprits usually include foods high in refined carbs and sodium. These foods just make your body hold onto extra water for a while! And some of us are more sensitive to salt than others, meaning we bloat and hold onto water more easily!
If you weigh yourself after a super sweaty workout, you might notice your weight is down juuuuust a little. It’s kinda like we talked about before! Sweat = water loss. And water weighs something! Again, any weight loss is going to be minimal and probably reversed as soon as you hydrate.
Resistance training might actually make your weight fluctuate the opposite way! Strength training actually breaks down the muscle a little so it can rebuild and grow stronger. The muscle retains water to help with the repair process, which shows up as a little weight gain on the scale. This is one reason why you might not lose weight right away when you start strength training! Some people even get frustrated because they gain weight. But really, it’s just the muscles adjusting and rebuilding.
This is why it’s sooo important to measure your progress in more ways than weight alone.
Ughhh I am ALWAYS bloated when I travel, no matter what I do! But guess what? Bloating and weight fluctuation during travel is super common!
Flying causes water retention because of cabin pressure. If you’re on a longer flight, add in sitting for a long period of time and high sodium airplane food, and you’re definitely going to gain a little water weight. However, staying hydrated, bringing healthy snacks, and getting up to walk as often as you can will help!
Driving means you can avoid airplane cabin pressure, but you’re still sitting for a looong period of time.
And no matter what method of travel you choose, being in a new place, probably in a new time zone can really throw off your digestive schedule. I always notice my weight is up a little after I travel! But it returns to normal once I get back on my normal schedule.
Your menstrual cycle
Maybe you know that you feel bloated and a little more puffy right before or during your period. But your weight can fluctuate during other points in your menstrual cycle too!
The scale may go up a bit when you ovulate too.
The reasons behind this could be your hormones shifting, or the fact that you’re more likely to have cravings for salty foods at this time.
Having a few drinks
Alcohol can cause weight gain over time, but the immediate result can actually show a lower number on the scale.
Alcohol is actually a diuretic, which basically means it makes you pee a lot and dehydrates you. That dehydration is one of the big reasons you feel hungover the next day! The loss of water could also mean you weigh a pound or two less.
Although I don’t drink (hello, Asian glow), but I know a night out with friends usually also means munching on salty and fatty foods like chips, fries, pizza, etc. And that’s okay! But like we talked about before, eating those foods will probably cause some water retention/bloating.
My advice? Enjoy yourself, don’t check the scale immediately the next morning, and stay hydrated!
Taking certain medications
And finally, keep any medications you’re taking in mind! Certain ones can cause water retention, increased appetite, or even change your metabolism. If you’re noticing a lot of weight fluctuation and you’re concerned about the medications you’re taking, talk it over with your doctor before you make ANY changes!
Weight fluctuation is normal, and the big picture is more important!
You can’t stop your weight from fluctuating. It happens every day, multiple times a day! Weighing yourself constantly will only drive you crazy. Instead, get to know your body. Know what factors affect your weight and more importantly, HOW YOU FEEL.
If you are trying to lose or gain weight, know that these changes aren’t linear. It’s not about how your weight changes by the hour or even by the day, but what is happening over a long period of time. If you’re stuck on that weight rollercoaster, I know how you feel. Try weighing yourself less often, and set more non-weight goals. You’ll find that those goals are much more fulfilling anyways!