When people decide to get in shape, lose some fat and decide they want to lose a few pounds they are stricken with motivation and embark on a fitness journey. They start up a training program and get some nutritional guidance to set them on their way. There are many ways to track progress (you should use more then one – use as many as you can i.e. photos, bodyweight, measurements, clothes size – the more the merrier) but in modern day society due to the trend in weight loss programs and fads throughout the years the “bodyweight figure” on the scale is the end all and be all for most people. Although most people have heard and grasped that the scale doesn’t tell every part of the story, no matter how hard they try they always still tend to attach their perception of their results to the figure that comes up when they weigh themselves.
(At this point, you are probably thinking “that sounds like me” and thats okay.. but what I’m about to explain to you should help you have more of an understanding)
For now lets just accept that most people will still use a scale as their main indicator of progress, so what we will do here is explain some of the variables at play that will effect your weigh in that you NEED to be aware of and understand before you tie your emotions to your scale weight. This will in turn then allow us to use scale weigh ins to make logical and rational decisions and think clearly about the figure at hand. So what variables are at play? Lets take a look:
Carbohydrates & Water Weight, Fibre and Sodium Intake
A large variable in body weight is due to the food you have eaten, especially carbohydrates. For one if the food you have eaten the night before is still in your digestive system you will potentially weigh heavier, or even if you have eaten a lot later then usual you could potentially weigh heavier. As long as your in a calorie deficit, this is not body fat. Carbohydrates are also stored in the form of glycogen as a fuel source for activity. This will be the case if you have eaten slightly later the evening before then you usually would or if your last meal was larger then normal – this is still the case even in a calorie deficit as the food is still sitting in your stomach. A bigger variable at play is that for every 1g of carbohydrate you eat you store up to 3-4g of water with it. This simply means water weight, not fat gain even though you could weigh more the next day. In context, unless you eat the exact same foods and quantities at the same times everyday your daily weight can fluctuate drastically based on this alone.
The fibre content of our diet could also slow down digestion, leaving food sitting in your stomach which would also add weight to your morning weigh in. Again this is just food sitting in your digestive tract, not body fat. A lot of modern day foods, especially processed ones contain large amounts of sodium. If you consume more sodium then usual you could also be prone to more water retention – again this does not mean you have gotten fat. This is why its very wise to not bother getting on the scale if you have had take away food, or pizza or anything highly processed the night before – common sense will tell you of course scale weight could be up and weighing yourself will only toy with your emotions when you already know that logically it will be higher the next morning.
Again I repeat, unless you eat the exact same foods, portion sizes and at the same time each day your weight on a scale WILL fluctuate.
Your Sleep Pattern, Stress Levels and Physical Activity Levels
Your stress levels and sleep quality also play a huge role in both fat loss and weigh ins. If you have had a terrible sleep, thats broken every couple of hours and decide to where yourself 2 hours earlier then usual – of course it can be inaccurate. Poor sleep, lack of hours of sleep and high amounts of stress can all have an impact on your scale weight. Most likely in this scenario, when you weigh in higher you will become even more stressed, de-motivated and it will leave you on the potential point of a nervous breakdown. In context, set and create a scenario that needs to happen for you to have a valid weigh in. For example, if you usually weigh yourself at 7am, after 7 hours of decent sleep, and under relatively low stress conditions then it is pointless to weigh yourself at 6am after 5 hours of broken sleep when your a highly strung on stress. Both environments are completely different leaving your weigh in invalid.
An example idea is to create your own scenario that you will only weigh yourself in. E.g. You set your weigh in at 7am, only after a minimum 7 hours sleep, under relatively low stress levels and you have eaten your last meal between 8-9pm the night before. If it falls extremely outside of these aims, don’t bother weighing yourself.
Your False Perception Of Realistic Weight Loss
If I had one euro for every time I have experienced an individual become dissatisfied with the fact they have only lost approx 0.5kg/1pound in a week I would be extremely wealthy living in the Bahamas. Due to modern day dietary fads and programs and marketing ploys of special juices, teas, belts, and other methods etc that falsely promise you your dream results in 4 weeks peoples perception of the timeframe fat loss takes has become excessively unrealistic. The harsh reality is it has taken YEARS for fat to go on, its going to take a lot more patience then a few weeks for it to come off. You cannot expect to lose kilos of bodyweight over 7 days (and still feel alive anyway). Its totally unattainable. You cannot expect to lose 3-4kg on a scale every month for an entire year – you would be a skeleton at best when all is said and done. You want to RETAIN muscle, bone density and organ health, all of which you will diminish if you keep drastically trying to lose scale weight. The best advice you could take on board is learn about health and keeping in shape, build good habits, find something you enjoy, be consistent and strap yourself in for the long run.
Take Home Message
Losing 2kg/4.4 pounds on a scale in a week DOES NOT mean you have lost 2kg/4.4 pounds of fat. You lose water, and muscle glycogen from a reduction in carbs and SOME fat. Your body is composed of more then just fat and ALL of it is represented on a scale, and you then also have many variables that can cause this weight figure to fluctuate.
- Sleep – amount, quality
- Time you ate your last meal, time you weigh yourself at
- Changes in food types
- Poor digestión
- A higher then normal fibre intake in the days prior
- Sodium & Salt
- Water Intake & Water In Your Bladder
- CARBOHYDRATE levels to the gram – water weight (most people don’t eat the exact same food gram for gram each day so how will your weight be exactly the same)
As you can see there is far more then most people realise that comes in to play when you weigh yourself, so whats the point of this post?
Before you get on that scale each morning with all your hopes and dreams tied on to that magical number that comes up, you’d BETTER understand all the things that can effect it before you let your day and your emotions become ruled by that number, otherwise its going to be a long hard road for you.
Maybe its time to re-think tying all your fitness aspirations to just a scale?