A lot of people have the wrong idea about weight. They assume it is a linear, one-dimensional process that can be measured in pounds or kilograms on a scale. This assumption causes many to become discouraged when they see their weight go up, not down. The truth is that weight is not so stable, and in fact, goes up and down for many different reasons. Understanding why this happens can help you have a better perspective on your weight – or if you are trying to lose fat, it will help you stay patient while the body gets rid of excess water, glycogen, etc. Are you still asking yourself “Why does my weight fluctuate so much?” Read on to know more!
8 Reasons Why Your Weight Fluctuates From Day To Day
Eating Foods High In Sodium
When you eat a lot of foods that are high in sodium, your body retains water to dilute the sodium concentration (7). This means that if you have recently eaten things like pizza, chips, bread with cold cuts, bologna sandwiches without mayonnaise, breakfast cereal with added salt (read the label!), etc., then you could weigh more than usual after eating these. You should not retain this weight after your next bowel movement.
Eating Too Much Carbs
If you’ve had pasta or rice lately and notice an increase in weight on your scale but can’t figure out why it seems higher than normal this is usually what has happened. Carbohydrates cause the body to retain some water as glycogen which causes us to ‘look’ puffy and bloated (6).
In women, estrogen fluctuations during the menstrual cycle causes the body to retain a little water weight (5). In men, testosterone also fluctuates which can also cause slight changes in weight. Both of these fluctuations are completely normal and will not affect your overall health. In addition, hormone cycles vary from person to person so it is important to have a regular checkup with your physician if you notice any significant changes in mood or libido that continue for more than two weeks, even though your weight may remain constant.
During and after exercise, your muscles draw water into their cells to help them recover from physical stress. This causes you to weigh a little more immediately following the workout – which is muscle weight – not fat – so it can be discouraging if you are trying to lose weight, but don’t see the scale move down immediately.
If you’re dehydrated, it’s normal for the scale to show an increase in weight as water will be pulled into your tissues as you begin to rehydrate. This is especially important if you are exercising regularly or hiking/walking long distances, as dehydration can quickly become serious due to the risk of heat stroke. Just be sure to drink lots of water after any exercise routine or time spent outdoors so that you do not experience dizziness, fatigue, etc (9).
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
If you drink alcohol, it naturally pulls water into the system to dilute the concentration of ethanol in your bloodstream. This process can cause our weight to increase by five pounds or more immediately after drinking, but this is (again) water weight and not fat.
Some medications like caffeine pills, diuretics (which are sometimes prescribed for high blood pressure), or birth control pills can cause an initial temporary gain in weight when taken because they draw water into the cells which weigh more than normal (10). Once the body adjusts to these substances however, there will be no long-term changes in body composition other than losing fat/losing water weight if necessary.
You may notice a temporary weight gain if you have been sick with anything from a head cold to the flu – this is usually because of the body using energy to repair itself. In addition, if you are dehydrated from being sick, it is common for an increase in weight as water is immediately pulled back into the cells for rehydration.
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What Can You Do About Weight Fluctuations?
Weight fluctuations are normal. We’ve determined that day-to-day fluctuations have more to do with water weight than actual fat. Therefore, there are a few things you can do to reduce the fluctuations.
Eat High-Fiber Foods
High fiber foods will help you feel full for longer which is great if you are trying to lose weight – they also prevent overeating by slowing digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream (2). Most people do not eat enough high-fiber foods every day so start out slowly by adding more fresh fruit (high in fiber) and veggies (also rich in fiber) to your diet each day until you feel fuller on less food.
Weigh Yourself Properly
Inaccuracies on the scale can make your fluctuations seem more extreme than they actually are. To avoid this, you must learn how to weigh yourself properly to get accurate readings. Here are some tips to ensure that you’re weighing yourself the right way.
Use The Same Scale
It’s important to use the same scale when you’re weighing yourself. Different scales may give you varying readings, which can make the fluctuations in your weight seem more extreme than they actually are. Make sure to use the same scale every time you’re weighing yourself so that accurate comparisons can be made.
Use The Same Time Frame
Try to weigh yourself at the same time each day, which for most people is first thing in the morning, before going to the bathroom or eating breakfast. That way you can make accurate comparisons from day-to-day.
Dress Down Before Stepping on The Scale
To get an accurate reading, you should take off all of your clothes and accessories before weighing yourself. That includes your shoes, socks, wristwatch, or any other jewelry you may be wearing or carrying. If you weigh yourself with these things on it will affect the reading and give you a false weight.
Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods
Eating foods rich in magnesium will help regulate the body’s fluid levels which, if imbalanced, can cause fluctuations in weight (8). Most people do not get enough magnesium through natural sources like leafy green vegetables and other whole grains but it is also found in seeds, nuts, legumes, bananas, avocados as well as some seafoods.
Rely On Other Measurements, Other Than The Scale
It’s important to rely on other measurements besides the scale to track your progress. These include your weight, circumference measurements (waist, hips), and how you feel overall. Use these measurements along with the scale to gauge your progress. For instance, if you’re losing inches but gaining weight (which may be due to muscle gain), you’ll be able to tell that you’re making progress even if your weight is staying the same or fluctuating up or down.
Eat Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium works together with sodium to control your muscles’ contraction and relaxation so that you maintain regular blood pressure – it is also essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption (3). You can find potassium in foods like avocado, sweet potatoes, yogurt/kefir, bananas, seeds/nuts/legumes.
Cut Back On Sugary Drinks And Processed Food
Limit processed grains because this type of carbohydrate causes insulin levels to spike which leads to storage of fat and also increases cravings (1). Cut back on sugary drinks like soda, juice, and alcohol as well as cured meats (i.e. processed deli meat) because these types of foods contain cancer-causing compounds called nitrates/nitrites which are associated with chronic disease when consumed regularly.
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Cut Back On Alcohol
If you’re trying to lose weight it’s very important that you limit the amount of alcoholic beverages that you consume each week if not each day – even ‘skinny cocktails’ can be high in calories so try adding more fruit juices for flavor instead. A good rule is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per for men – always have a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks to slow down the process of intoxication and ensure you stay hydrated (4).
Don’t Stress Too Much About It
Most fluctuations in weight are only temporary and will even out as time goes on – if you’re not gaining or losing weight, then your weight is staying relatively stable which is great! Remember that our bodies adapt very quickly to lifestyle changes so it’s important not to get upset about fluctuations because they are quite normal. If you are trying to lose weight it’s best to keep a food diary over the course of a month to figure out what specific habits contribute most heavily to your daily calorie intake.
Do not restrict yourself too much, however, otherwise you will end up depriving yourself of an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Also, remember that no single food is the reason for weight gain/loss – it’s what you do everyday that makes all of the difference.
The Bottom Line
As long as you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, your weight should fluctuate just slightly depending on what substances are being removed from the body. The more hydrated you are, the less you will retain water or have ‘normal fluctuations’ in your weight due to these substances. But don’t stress out over minor changes! Just try to avoid unhealthy habits which can cause serious damage to your overall health and well-being.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Dietary fibre and satiety (2007, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Electrolytes (2021, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Facts about moderate drinking (2020, cdc.gov)
- Fluid Retention over the Menstrual Cycle: 1-Year Data from the Prospective Ovulation Cohort (2011, hindawi.com)
- Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition (1992, academic.oup.com)
- Increased salt consumption induces body water conservation and decreases fluid intake (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions (2018, hindawi.com)
- Water, hydration, and health (2010, academic.oup.com)
- Which Drugs Cause Weight Gain? (2020, drugs.com)