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Weight Loss & Weight Fluctuation

Weight Loss & Weight Fluctuation

The Scale Tells the Whole Story Over Time

On any given day, the scale can lie and your true progress won’t be accurately reflected by your weight. This is because body weight can fluctuate on a daily basis due to the amount of fluid we retain.  Foods high in sodium, menstrual cycles, certain medications and bowel movements can increase fluid retention and skew your weight. However, over time the scale tells the whole story. If your weight creeps up after two or three weeks, you’ve been eating more calories than you’re burning.

The opposite is also true – if your weight decreases after two to three weeks, you’ve been eating fewer calories than you’re burning. A steady weight indicates the calories you’re burning and consuming are equal. (See "Weight Control 101" for more.)

Other Ways to Measure Progress

If you’re making progress in at least two of the following areas, you’re on the right track:

  • Inches lost
  • Body fat percentage
  • Clothing size or fit
  • Energy levels

Gaining muscle is another way to gauge your progress. For example, if you’ve gained a pound of muscle, this is not the same as gaining a pound of fat. Gaining muscle is beneficial to your metabolism and strength level. By consistently burning more calories than you eat, muscle gain will taper and fat loss will continue. The scale will eventually capture your results and you will lose weight.

Tips for Weighing In

Be sure to weigh yourself at least once a week. Those who have lost weight and kept it off check their weight on a weekly and even daily basis.  To minimize fluctuations, follow these tips for weighing in:

  • Wear similar clothing each time
  • Use the same scale
  • Weigh in at the same time of day
  • Maintain similar eating and drinking patterns prior to weighing in
  • Weigh in mid-week if you only check your weight weekly. Monday weigh-ins tend to be inaccurate because of food choices and eating habits on weekends

Regular weigh-ins allow you to react to small gains so they don’t become large ones. Daily weighing has been shown to prevent weight gain.  

1. Wing R and Hill J. Successful weight loss maintenance. Ann Rev Nutr. 2001. 21:232-41.
2. Levitsky DA, Garay J, Nausbaum M, Neighbors L, DellaValle DM. Monitoring weight daily blocks the freshman weight gain: a model for combating the epidemic of obesity. Int J Obes. 2006 Jun;30(6):1003-10.

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