The struggle is real.
When you first start trying to lose fat, you’re going to notice some pretty weird things happening when you track your weight.
One day you step on the scale, and it says you’ve dropped 2 lbs.
And damn, you’re stoked. Good things seem to be happening.
You’ve diligently stuck to your diet, pushed hard in your workouts, and you rightfully expect things to keep moving in the right direction.
But the next time you go to track your weight, the scale tells you that you didn’t actually lose any weight at all. And, that in fact, you’re now a 1/2 lb heavier than you were when you started.
That scale, it turns out, can be a bit of a bastard.
But this is all very normal, and I’ll show you how to track your weight in a way that clears all this up.
Why fluctuations happen
Most of these ups and downs are because certain foods influence how much water your body holds onto.
For example, any carbs you eat that aren’t immediately used by the body for energy are stored away as glycogen in the muscles and liver.
And for every gram of glycogen you store, you’ll also hold onto 2 – 3 grams of water.
So cutting back on your carbs can lead to pretty dramatic weight loss in a very short period of time.
But the reality is that it’s mostly just water weight.
And as soon as you eat a carb-heavy meal, your body will replenish its glycogen and water stores, and the scale will spike back up.
The fluctuations this can cause are not insignificant either.
I’ve had clients spike up by 3 – 5 lbs overnight after a big pasta dinner with the family, and it can take several days for the water to clear out and to get back to baseline.
Sodium causes the scale to spike up for a similar reason.
A meal that’s higher in salt will lead to more water retention which impacts what the scale says when you go to track your weight.
To further confuse issues, exercise can move the scale in either direction.
If you had a sweaty workout and haven’t replaced your lost fluids yet, you’ll be lighter on your weigh-in.
On the other hand, strength training will tear your muscle fibers and cause some (good) inflammation and short-term water retention.
And, of course, strength training will help you add muscle over time, which will muddy the waters even more when you track your weight.
This is one of the reasons I advise not relying entirely on the scale to measure your progress.
I’ve gone into detail on some other metrics worth watching here if you want to get a better idea on what’s really going on.
And then, of course, maybe you just haven’t been as strict with your diet as you think, and now the effects are starting to show up when you track your weight.
The evidence is clear that most people underestimate just how much food they eat and this is why accurate tracking is so important, especially early in a diet.
Even something seemingly minor, like underestimating the amount of dressing you put on your lunchtime salad, can add up and make a real difference over time.
You can get away with a cheat meal or two without much change on the scale. But drag that shit out for a few weeks and nothing good will come of it.
So how to track your weight?
The answer is to weigh in every single morning.
Do it sans clothes, post-poop, and pre-coffee or water. And always use the same scale in the same place.
Please don’t get too concerned with what the scale says on any given day; write it down, get dressed, have a coffee, and get on with your day.
At the end of the week, you should have the results of seven individual weigh-ins.
Next, add these numbers together and then divide them by seven.
If you didn’t manage to do all seven weigh-ins, then just divide the total by the number of weigh-ins you did.
This will flatten out the fluctuations and give you an average daily weight for the week. This will be the number you will use going forward to identify which way you’re trending.
If next week’s average is lower, the odds are that you’re losing fat and should keep doing whatever you’re doing.
On the other hand, if the number trends up or stalls for more than a week, you need to look at your diet and training and see what’s going on.
Over time, this approach will give you a much more accurate idea of what’s happening than the traditional once-a-week weigh-in.
Tracking weight leads to better choices.
And from the standpoint of behavior change, when you regularly track your weight it can lead to better food choices and greater adherence to your diet.
Research has shown that people who step on the scale daily tend to have a better body composition than those who don’t.
But most crucially, remember the scale is only one metric and, arguably, not even the most important one.
So please don’t get disheartened by whatever it says. The more objective and analytical you can remain when interpreting the data, the better off you will be.
Fat loss is very rarely a linear process. And there will definitely be ups and downs along the way.
Keeping a positive attitude when you track your weight will make the journey more pleasant and sustainable.
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