When you start weighing in regularly, you soon discover your progress is rarely straightforward. Those ups and downs on the scale can be puzzling and frustrating. What’s going on?!
Many factors contribute to variations in how much body weight you lose each week, even when you’re doing everything right and following the same healthy routine.
Being aware of them helps you stay focused on your weight loss goals. Here are 6 things to keep in mind when you step on the scales.
Time of the day
Your body weight increases as the day goes on. This is normal because the food and drink you consume add their weight to your total mass until they are digested.
Your body will be at its lightest in the morning, when your stomach and bladder are empty. Wearing heavy clothes and shoes also means the scales will register you as heavier. To account for these variations, follow the golden rules for weighing-in:
- weigh yourself at the same time of the day
- with the same amount of light clothing or no clothes at all
- go to the toilet first.
Different sets of scales are likely to be calibrated differently from your usual set. So, don’t expect your weight to be exactly the same if you’re weighing yourself somewhere else.
For the most accurate and consistent results, weigh yourself regularly on the same set of scales. If you are losing weight, the reading will go down over time.
Keeping a record of your body measurements provides extra information about fat loss. If you find your weight is stubbornly staying at the same point but your waist measurement has decreased, you can take comfort in the fact you are heading in the right direction.
This method is useful when you are going away for a while because it allows you to track your progress even when you can’t weigh yourself.
Glycogen is a form of glucose that your body stores in the muscles and liver. It is your main fuel for exercise and physical activity, just like petrol for a car.
Glycogen is packed into the muscle cells with water: 3g of water to 1g of glycogen. If you drastically cut your carbohydrate intake then you use up this stored muscle glycogen and water. This can register as a big weight loss on the scales, although you have not necessarily lost any fat.
Unfortunately, without glycogen you won’t feel very energetic. Also, as soon as you start eating carbohydrate again, the glycogen and water levels in your muscles are replenished and the scales go up.
Time of the month
Some women retain fluid before menstruation. This shows up as a weight gain on the scales, but it is a fluid gain, not a fat gain. By weighing yourself weekly you will start to see a pattern with 1 week in each month registering a heavier weight in comparison to the other weeks.
Muscle versus fat
Regular exercise, particularly resistance training with weights or body weight, leads to increases in your muscle density and weight. This is usually balanced out by a loss of body fat so that overall the scales register a weight loss.
The best way to distinguish between fat loss and muscle gain is to regularly check your measurements. If they continue to go down, especially your waist measurement, this means you are still losing body fat.
Some scales have a body fat percentage feature, and this is another way of checking on your fat loss progress.
Miscalculating calories in and calories out
Once you have been on a weight loss program for a while, it can be all too easy to underestimate your portion sizes and overestimate your physical activity. Without realising it, your total calories from food creep up while the amount you burn up goes down.
Counteract this tendency by using the online diary 4 or 5 times each week to monitor your energy equation. It is the best way to avoid slipping back into bad habits and will ensure you achieve the weight loss results you deserve.