Stepping on the scale can become an anxiety filled event that leaves people wondering where they went wrong when the numbers don’t move in the right direction. Everyone who has been on a journey to lose weight has been there before. Even though you are following your plan and exercising regularly the number may go up several pounds creating unnecessary guilt that you have somehow failed. If it’s not always food that makes the weight creep up on the scale then what is it that causes these fluctuations?
Every time you step on a scale you are measuring every part of your physical being at that moment in time, which means it measures your fat, muscles, organs, tissue, blood and water weight. Body fat is not the only thing being measured. While organs and body tissue don’t change much, fat, muscle, and water do change which can result in fluctuating numbers on the scale.
Water weight can affect your total weight anywhere from 1-5 pounds and sometimes even more. Many dietary factors can make these fluid shifts happen. To start, starting a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can cause a dramatic shift in your water weight. As you cut back carbohydrate intake, your body starts breaking down the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) to use as energy and this breakdown causes the body to excrete large amounts of water. Once the body begins to use stored fat for energy, weight loss slows. This is the reason why most people lose a significant amount of weight right away on a low carb, high protein diet.
When a person following a low carb plan eats a carbohydrate-rich food they can easily gain 1-3 pounds. However, this weight gain can be misleading because it is usually your body replenishing the fluid it lost and not gained fat. This 3 pound fluctuation becomes frustrating for many people and they end up yo-yoing back and forth with fluid weight thinking it must be the half cup of rice they had the night before that caused them to gain that 3 pounds when in fact eating the rice just allowed them to regain some of the fluid they had lost from following a low carb plan. Carbohydrates do not affect your weight quite that simply. Excess carbohydrates can lead to increased calories and stimulate insulin production, which may promote fat storage and increase in appetite. This kind of weight gain will happen gradually, not dramatically overnight.
Sodium is another dietary component that can lead to fluid gain. Excess sodium can cause the body to retain fluid, leading to these frustrating daily weight fluctuations. Some people are more sensitive to sodium than others. Watch your diet and see if your weight gain corresponds with a high sodium meal the day before.
The best way to tell if you are retaining fluid is to pay attention to your body. If you get indentations on your ankles and lower legs from your socks then you are retaining fluid. If you wear rings and they become tight and leave an imprint in your fingers when you take them off, it’s fluid. Any kind of puffiness in your skin is a good indication of water weight.
True body fat gain happens gradually and likewise we lose it gradually. Check your weight weekly instead of daily and look for overall trends. Choose other ways to measure your success. You’re weight is only a number that can be useful if used periodically. It certainly doesn’t define your overall success towards your health goals.
About the Blogger:
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, an author, triplet mom and dog butler. Learn more on our team page.