Why does my weight fluctuate while I’m trying to lose weight and make healthier choices is a popular question among dieters. In fact, watching the scales fluctuate becomes a challenge for many people to overcome.
You probably know by now that striving for 1-2 pounds of weight loss a week is a good goal. Trouble is, at the rate you’re going with your natural weight loss plan, sometimes it seems like that number goes up before it goes down again. It’s frustrating, especially after being so disciplined with healthy eating and making sure to exercise every day.
When you’re trying to lose weight, get fit and be healthier, the number on the scale isn’t always the best gauge for measuring your progress.
There are a few different factors that determine what the scale readout is going to look like for the day.
Why Does My Weight Fluctuate from One Day to Another?
1. Water Retention is Probably the Biggest Culprit
Men and women alike may retain water from time to time. Here’s why: The cells of our body are constantly in search of that state of equilibrium in trying to balance salt with water.
Both salt and water are needed for healthy cells. When we eat food that contains salt, our body works to balance that salt with water. So our cells hold onto the water we drink, as well as get from foods we eat, in order to maintain that salt-to-water ratio in our cells.
Processed Foods are High in Salt Content
If you’re eating out, or eating canned foods at home, you are eating unhealthy amounts of salt. The best choices at the super market are fresh and fresh frozen vegetables and fruits. You’re probably reading food labels for counting calories, but it’s just as important to look for salt content.
One way to lower salt content from canned foods is to simply strain and wash the contents prior to using.
Any type of jerky, even made with lean meat such as turkey or venison, is likely to contain higher amounts of sodium. When we eat salty foods like this, our body wants to compensate so we get thirsty. We drink water to quench our thirst, and then our body decides to hold onto that water weight to balance out the water-to-salt ratio in our body.
If you haven’t thought much about salt intake and how it affects the numbers on your scale, you can try cutting down on your daily salt consumption. Remember that even foods that are listed on the label as “healthy” may end up being high in sodium.
Take soy sauce, for example. You might like to sprinkle some into your healthy stir-fries when cooking. However, soy sauce contains as much as 1,000 mg of sodium per Tablespoon. That’s nearly half of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. So you could be enjoying an extremely weight-loss friendly meal, but once you add soy sauce, you might expect to see a few extra pounds showing up on the scale
2. Hormone Fluctuations
For women, hormone fluctuations throughout the monthly menstrual cycle affects how well our body is able to process sodium.
After ovulation, women’s bodies enter the luteal phase for the last 2 weeks of their cycle. This is when progesterone levels rise, and estrogen drops. At this time, our kidneys must work harder to process sodium. The PMS-related bloating that occurs during the last 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle typically results in an increase of numbers on the scale, sometimes as much as 5 pounds, which actually has nothing to do with body fat.
If you’re a woman and you want to see less variance in your scale readout especially during the last 2 weeks of your menstrual cycle when you’re prone to water retention, you can try to become more aware of how much sodium is in the foods you eat.
One easy way to reduce sodium is by avoiding processed foods. Even if billed as healthy, natural, low-fat or low-carb, many packaged foods contains high amounts of sodium. This is designed to improve the taste so consumers will be more likely to enjoy, crave, and purchase these foods.
3. More Muscle Mass Can Cause Weight Variations and Gain
Another reason why the scale number isn’t something to fixate on while working toward weight loss goals is that muscle mass can cause us to become heavier, even though we’re heading down a healthy path. Why is this? It’s simple, fat weighs less than muscle.
If you’ve committed yourself to an exercise routine, especially if it involves strength training, then you’ve likely added muscle mass to your body. Weight lifting using machines and/or free weight is likely to cause you to put on muscle mass. Also, if you routinely do a cardio workout on the stair master or elliptical, you may experience an increase in your quads and glutes, both of which are bulky, heavy muscle groups which are likely to cause your scale reading to go up.
If you don’t want to bulk up with too much muscle mass, you can still lift weights and do other exercises that condition your muscles. The key, though, is to modify your workout. Try the below tips to build lean, long muscles instead of big, bulky ones that also add pounds to the scale readout:
Stretch before and after doing cardio or lifting weights. This will elongate the muscles for more of a lean, wiry appearance.
Go for more reps using lighter weights. This will firm and tone your muscles rather than make them look big and bulky.
Weight fluctuating while you’re dieting is to be expected, especially when you are incorporating healthy eating and healthy habits into your life.
So, don’t freak out when you step on the scale and your weight is up. You know you’ve been doing all the right things, so just give your body a chance to catch up. And most of all do not start beating yourself up with a lot of negative thoughts, self talk, and a defeated attitude.
Scales are no more than a way to see where you’ve been, and where you’re headed. Your weight will undoubtedly fluctuate, so it’s best not to wonder why. Just keep steady without weighing your self worth on the bathroom scales.