Here’s a common scenario to which I’m sure a few of you can relate. After several weeks of consistency on your nutrition plan, you’re feeling like a rock star. You see some subtle physical changes and feel like you’re making strong progress. So you step on the scale, confident that your weigh-in will validate those feelings.
You’re up in weight.
WHAT?! How can that be?!?! All of a sudden, the positivity flies out the window. You no longer see the physical changes and you recognize your previously perceived progress as false.
But here’s the thing: weight fluctuations, increases, and plateaus are normal and expected within the scope of your fat loss goals. I repeat: normal and expected.
Fat loss is never linear and weight fluctuations do not detract from the progress you ARE making.
From both personal experience and experience with my nutrition clients, I’ve felt and witnessed the cruel and damaging impacts the scale can have on our mental state and perception around progress. Even as progress occurs, the smallest scale increase can be enough to unhinge us.
However, it’s critical to keep in mind everything the scale DOES NOT tell us. Rarely does anyone see an unexpected weight increase and think to themselves “hmm, maybe I should get some more sleep tonight” or “I’ll work on improving my water intake.” More often than not, emotions err on the side of discouragement and the resulting (ill-informed) inclination is to unnecessarily restrict calories and maybe even double up on workouts.
Here’s just a small sample of reasons the scale fluctuates:
- You’re under-slept.
- You’re retaining water. Perhaps you’ve had a particularly salty meal or two.
- You had a larger-than-usual hearty meal the day before.
- Your body is at equilibrium. You’re at a comfortable weight and there is simply no need to lose anymore.
- Ladies, you’re at the point in your cycle where hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are elevated and causing weight fluctuations.
- You’re gaining muscle.
- You’re under a lot of stress and cortisol levels are whacked out. Maybe a heightened recovery strategy is in order.
- You’re overtraining and internally inflamed.
- You’ve been chronically under-eating, and your body is combatting further fat loss as a fight or flight response. In this case, you’ll want to consider a prolonged period of eating at maintenance.
Did you know that it takes 3,500 calories in excess of your maintenance calories to gain one single pound of body fat?
This is REALLY hard to accomplish in a short amount of time!
YES, the scale can be a useful tool to measure tangible progress and trends over longer periods of time. But if you’re working towards a specific goal and want to keep tabs on data and progress, consider leveraging a body composition technology that provides more meaningful information, such as muscle mass, body fat percentage, basal metabolic rate, and more. And let’s not forget about good old-fashioned photos! Take a photo every few weeks or months and you’ll get a perfectly reliable view of progress.
Breaking up with the scale can be hard. But when it’s feeding a negative relationship with yourself, it might be time to toss it.
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