Tracking weight loss over time is one of the most common and traditional ways to measure success while on a weight loss journey.
However, scales don’t tell the whole story, and some people can become frustrated when they see their weight fluctuate up and down with no change.
Several reasons lead to weight fluctuations while losing or gaining weight. This article will discuss some of them that influence scale weight, weight loss, and weight gain.
Is Keto Effective For Losing Weight?
According to one study, the Keto diet is also linked with increased satiety, reduced body weight, weight circumference, and an overall reduction in weight.
In some cases, there are reports of people losing weight very quickly during the initial week of the Keto diet. It is yet to be established if this loss is body fat.
The weight of the body is influenced by hydration levels too. If there is less water weight present in your body, you can expect to see a decrease in weight on the scale.
A Keto diet can also lead to water loss through induced diuresis, where the body expels excess water through urine.
In summary: While a Keto-based weight loss program may be effective, sustainable weight loss on the Keto diet is not as linear and direct as we want it to be.
Tracking weight loss using a scale cannot be accurate when weight loss occurs due to reasons other than fat loss.
Ways Scales Lie To You
The following are some reasons scales lie to you:
1. Weight fluctuations throughout the day
While weight is always the same at a cellular level, weight can look different depending on how hydrated you are and what time of day your weight was measured.
Many people weigh themselves in the morning after waking up and before taking their first sip of water, yet hydration levels significantly cause weight fluctuation.
It is recommended to weigh yourself simultaneously every day to get an accurate weight measurement. This step will consider the weight fluctuation at different times of the day.
2. Gaining muscle mass
Another reason why scales can lie to you is because of muscle mass.
Muscle weighs more than fat, so even if your body weight remains the same, you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
For this reason, it’s better to focus on losing body fat than on weight loss numbers on the scale for an accurate look into your health and weight loss journey.
3. Post-workout weight gain
The reason weight can spike up after an intense workout is probably due to muscle glycogen. When you work out intensely, the muscles take up glucose from the bloodstream for energy, leading to lower blood glucose levels.
At this point, insulin takes away glucose from the muscles and stores it as glycogen in your liver and muscles – thus restoring depleted glucose levels in the bloodstream.
Because muscles store glycogen, they also take up a lot of water when glycogen is restored. This causes a weight spike that isn’t fat gain but instead your body holding on to normal hydration levels after intense exercise.
4. Hormonal changes
In females, there are several times in a month that weight can fluctuate due to hormonal changes.
For instance, during the follicular and ovulation stage of the menstrual cycle, estrogen, and progesterone increases and causes water retention.
This gives you glowing skin and fuller hair but may lead to higher scale weight even though it isn’t fat gain or loss.
Another reason scales can falsely report weight gain is if you are pregnant.
If the weight gain happens very rapidly and is associated with edema and an increase in appetite, it may indicate a high-risk pregnancy and should be checked by your doctor.
Certain medications for epilepsy or diabetes that cause water retention and potassium loss can lead to increased weight.
In addition, antidepressants such as amitriptyline and fluoxetine cause water retention and higher scale weight, usually accompanied by depression symptoms.
Some medications for hyperlipidemia that reduce triglycerides can also cause water retention and increase body fat in some people when they are losing weight.
6. Processed foods
High salt and carb content in processed foods can cause the scale to increase. This change is because of higher water retention due to electrolyte imbalance in the body.
7. Gastric emptying
The frequency of bowel movements and type of food can affect scale weight.
For example, if you eat a lot of fibrous vegetables such as fruit or broccoli, your body may not absorb all the nutrients from these foods. This leads to regular bowel movements and weight decreases due to undigested fiber in the feces.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you ate a lot of sodium or other electrolytes, your body may retain water. This would cause constipation and fluid retention, leading to higher scale weight.
8. Measurement errors
Weight scales can be off by a few pounds due to measurement errors.
For example, your weight can fluctuate if you stand on the scale with your toes or heels hanging off the edge, causing it to read lower or higher.
This means that standing squarely with your feet flat will give you a more accurate body weight reading.
In addition, digital scales that have a thin top surface may not be as precise as analog scales that can weigh more accurately because of the more comprehensive platform.
Why the Scale (and Your BMI) Isn’t Reflective of Your Overall Health
Many options can result in body weight loss, but it’s important to remember that weight loss isn’t the only indicator of health.
For example, if you are losing weight rapidly due to metabolic damage or organ dysfunction caused by a restrictive diet, your scale may not indicate poor health.
Relying on the numbers on scales or BMI graphs isn’t enough to determine your overall health.
BMI (Body Mass Index) involves height to weight ratio and is a good indicator of general population health. However, it doesn’t consider body composition or percentage of body fat.
Men with more muscle have a lower BMI due to the extra pound of muscle than fat in their frame. In addition, those who are short often have higher BMIs as well.
For example, a woman who is 5’2″ will have a lower BMI than if she was 5’8″, even though their body fat percentage may be the same.
This makes it difficult to know your true health by just looking at your scale weight or BMI.
Better Ways to Track Your Weight Loss
For quite a long time, people used scales and BMI to gauge their health. While it is still an indicator, these are only one part of the story regarding overall health.
The following are better ways to measure your health and weight loss:
1. Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage is a better measure of sustainable weight loss and overall health. According to a study, maintaining a low body fat may be essential than keeping a low BMI.
The body fat percentage can be tracked using the following methods:
- DEXA Scan. This is the most accurate way to calculate body fat percentage. However, it can be expensive and requires time, making it less feasible for many people.
- Skinfold Calipers. This body fat percentage method takes measurements of fat in different locations on the body, most often the triceps, biceps, chest, and waist. This method requires a trained professional and is not as accurate.
- Bioelectrical Impedance. This method uses a small electrical current to measure the resistance of fat and tissue in different parts of the body. This method requires some training and may not be as accurate for certain people, including those with poor hydration levels.
- Photo Comparisons. Taking full-body photos can give you a better idea of your weight loss and overall health. However, this may not be ideal because it requires consistent angles and lighting for accuracy.
2. Waist to Hip Ratio
Tracking your waist to hip ratio is another indicator of health and overall weight loss.
For example, if you gain weight around the midsection (apple-shaped bodies), you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who tend to gain weight on the hips and thighs (pear-shaped bodies).
You can track the waist to hip ratio with a tape measure to find your waist and hip measurements.
To find the waist, you need to start at the belly button and go down vertically until you reach your pelvic bone.
To find the hips, place one end of the tape measure at your pelvic bone and wrap it around the widest part of your butt.
An ideal waist to hip ratio is to be less than 1.0 for both men and women.
Anything higher can put you at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems.
3. Visual Changes
Another effective way to track your health is through visual cues. Although it’s not as accurate as body fat percentage or waist-to-hip ratio, most people can notice a change in their bodies by just looking at them.
The following are some visual changes that may indicate an improvement in overall health:
- Facial Changes – If you’ve noticed more color in your cheeks or your face is glowing, you may be at a healthier weight.
- Skin Appearance – If you have more color and vibrancy than before, this could also mean that you’re at a healthier weight.
- Feeling of Wellbeing – If you feel light, energized, and less tired throughout the day, it’s a sign you’re at a healthier weight.
- Clothes Fitting Better – If your clothes start to fit more loosely, you may be at a healthier weight.
4. Mental & Emotional Habits
Mental and emotional habits are another excellent way to track your weight loss.
For example, you may notice that you’re eating healthier without even trying because you’re making food choices based on the body’s actual needs rather than just following a diet.
Or, you may have less stress in your life due to being at peace with yourself and better able to handle life’s issues.
You can write down and track the following daily:
- Energy levels – This point will shine even more when you are at a healthier weight. Generally, healthier people feel better than those who are overweight and unhealthy.
- Mood and self-esteem – If you feel like yourself again, it’s likely that you’re in a healthier body. Healthy bodies lead to happier moods and improved self-esteem.
- Daily activity levels – It may be harder to notice the effect of weight on daily activity levels over time, but generally, those who weigh less tend to move around more and be more active.
- Fruits and vegetables you consume – Tracking the number of fruits and vegetables you eat each day is another sign that shows how healthy your diet is.
- Time spent cooking – A healthier weight may mean you spend less time in the kitchen because you’re eating more raw foods.
Focusing on the process and how you feel along the way is more important than focusing on the outcome of weight loss.
Focus on eating real food, exercising daily if possible, and the rest will follow!
Healthy Weight Loss Is A Slow & Steady Process
Looking at numbers on scales can be motivating and exciting, but don’t get too caught up in them. It is just one piece of the puzzle.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing, so any movement towards a healthier weight is good!
It’s also important to note that healthy weight loss can be slow and steady rather than overnight. Setting realistic goals are more likely to lead to success, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Take it one day at a time, one meal at a time, and find what works for you.
Healthy weight loss is a slow and steady process that takes time and patience. Be patient with yourself because the best weight loss journey is slow!
Be kind to yourself, let go of your expectations, and enjoy the journey!