How often do you weigh yourself? How often do you weigh yourself and get excited if you see a decrease in your weight? How often do you get disheartened and depressed when you see the number go up? As a human, I know most of us have felt like this. Take a look at the graph below for a minute:
The dots on that graph are the fluctuations in someone’s weight over the last month. As you can see the weight drops, increases, and plateaus. This is what weight loss actually looks like. This is completely normal and the reason why I wanted to show this graft.
Weight loss is not linear
It is perfectly normal for your weight to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. There will be days when your scale weight goes up, just like there will be days when your weight will drop, and there will also be days (maybe even weeks) when your weight will stay exactly the same. This is completely normal and one reason why, as a health coach I do not have my clients solely rely on what the number on the scale says.
The fluctuations in weight are ok because, although there are these changes, as you can see from the yellow line running through the graph, the overall trend is going down – and that’s what matters. That is long-term weight loss. Every person’s graph will look different. Someone with a lot of weight to lose will probably have more dots trending consistently down, for a longer amount of time. For example, someone with 60 pounds to lose will most likely lose weight far more consistently than someone with only 10 pounds to lose. In the same way, someone who has 10 pounds to lose will have more dots trending downward in comparison to someone who has just 2 pounds to lose.
You can always focus on losing weight, just as you can focus on maintaining your weight or even gaining weight. There is no right or wrong, you just need to be ready and committed to whatever goal you set yourself.
So, what can make your weight fluctuate? This is important to understand.
- Having a big meal late at night. Eating late simply means that less food will be digested by the time you wake up, which may lead to the number on the scale going up.
- High sodium food or eating a lot of carbs. Both of these will lead to retaining more water which can lead to the number on the scale going up. This doesn’t mean that sodium and carbs are bad. It just means they may help your body store water inside the muscle which is temporary.
- Bowel movements (pretty self-explanatory I think).
- For women the Menstrual cycle. Over the course of a month, female hormones fluctuate significantly, which can affect our weight as some of us may bloat more, retain more water and make us want to eat more. So, if you are trying to lose weight, try to control those menstrual cycle cravings by having small amounts of what you crave and drinking plenty of water. Remember also that during this time, your body will actually burn around an extra 250 calories due to hormone fluctuations.
- Exercise. This can lead to both the number on the scale going up or down. It could go down if you sweat out a lot of water that day. In the same way, if you had a heavy leg session for example, and ate a decent amount to help repair the muscles, the water from carbs etc…get stored in the muscles post-training, which could lead to the number on the scale going up.
- NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Say you usually do 8,000 steps per day and one day you do 15,000 steps: chances are the weight will drop down. In the same way, if you usually do 10,000 steps per day and then do 2,000 – the chances are the number on the scale may go up.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic which can lead to a lot of water loss overnight due to dehydration. However, alcohol can also make us eat very salty foods which could lead to weight gain. Either way, drinking alcohol can affect the number on the scale.
- Finally, food mass. If you eat a lot of high-volume foods (vegetables, potatoes, white fish, lean meats etc..) you can eat a much higher volume of food while consuming fewer calories – which is great! If you are in a deficit, you will lose weight – however, sometimes in the short-term, eating high-volume foods can lead to an increase in the number on the scale simply because you have more food bulk in your stomach. To put it simply, 200 calories in courgettes will weigh a lot more than 200 calories in pizza. So as you can see, a lot of things could affect your weight from one day to the next, so don’t get hung up if you wake up a little heavier one morning.
Take a look below at what the fluctuations of weight over 6 months could look like:
This graph represents a longer period of someone’s weight loss journey, just to show that sometimes taking a break from losing weight and focusing on enjoying your training, getting stronger and building some muscle is a better idea than focusing so much on the scale. Times like this give people a mental break from trying to achieve a certain aesthetic and can focus on enjoying and living a little more freely. This is what I recommend.
You can always focus on losing weight, just as you can focus on maintaining your weight or even gaining weight. There is no right or wrong, you just need to be ready and committed to whatever goal you set yourself. Sometimes work gets so crazy and stressful that “dieting” isn’t realistic so it’s important to find a way to do things that work directly for your lifestyle. It may take time to figure this out. This is what I focus on with my clients because, if you can’t see yourself doing something longer than 8-12 weeks then it will never work long-term. I use the term dieting loosely because I would rather think of things as lifestyle and not diet. Long-term sustainability should also be the goal. No quick fixes when it comes to losing weight and lifestyle changes. Take the time to learn.
At the end of the day, pick what is right for you and what you can honestly commit to doing and what you can sustain. The biggest thing to take away from all of this is sustainability and not overly focusing on the number on the scale because now you can see how drastically it can fluctuate. Remember, the scale is only a very small piece of the puzzle to your journey. While the scale can be a good tool to use, it can also be detrimental to us reaching our goals due to the mental games it can play with us. We are not what the number says on the scale. We are what we do and the habits we create. We become what we focus on, so focus on eating well and exercising to be healthy. The rest will follow, this is my philosophy. Focus on the small victories like; getting stronger, getting faster, walking longer, eating the best that you can, and feeling your best- these are all non-scale victories!