Are you afraid to measure your weight loss progress?
Normal human body weight fluctuates every single day.
Here’s how to measure body weight without going crazy...
From a young age, we are taught that a lower number on the scale is a good thing. As we navigate through the pressures of adolescence, body weight often becomes correlated with self-worth:
If you measure body weight and perceive the number as high, you think you are fat, and if you are fat, you are less of a person.
This is the beginning of a negative cycle that can last a lifetime, and for what? A simple measure of body weight, otherwise know as the measurement of your gravitational pull.
If this resonates with you, it’s time to get a grip. Your gravitational pull does not define you, and if you feel that it does, overcoming this irrational belief is the first step to gaining control over weight loss. Yes, having a healthy body weight is important, but being obsessed with meaningless daily values can cripple your approach to living a healthy life.
The truth is that daily body weight measurements do not reflect increases or decreases in body fat.
It is not physiologically possible to gain or lose body fat at such an accelerated rate. Instead, daily body weight fluctuations are almost entirely the result of water/sodium retention, hormonal status and stress.
To hammer this point home, I recently measured my body weight every morning for 2 weeks.
I am a 34-year-old male. I am not trying to gain weight or lose weight. I lift weights on a regular basis and stay active by walking daily and by swimming once or twice a week. I don’t eat the exact same food every day, but my calories stay roughly the same (without counting).
Here's what happened with my body weight over the course of two weeks:
- On the night of the 21st (my heaviest day), I took an epsom salts bath because my body legitimately felt overworked
- I kept my diet low-sodium on the 26th to further demonstrate how salt affects body weight (lower salt diet = lower body weight)
- My body weight is higher the days after I workout.
- My body weight is lower the days after swimming, walking and rest.
- I tend to eat a bit more on workout day days (which likely at least partially explains the next-day weight increase) but this increase is always transient and goes back down after 48 hours, meaning that my day-to-day body weight measurements appears to have very little to do with my food choices. The human body is wired to stay the same weight, and does a good job at doing so.
- Stress appears to be the factor that affects my body weight the most: The days after I stress my body through weight training, the heavier I tend to be. Even if this increase is because I eat a bit more on training days (as most people tend to do this whether they think they do or not), the extra food isn’t stored as body fat, it’s legitimately just extra food weight that my body eventually works off.
If you're going to measure body weight as a way of tracking weight-loss (which is a logical and effective idea), please do so with a firm understanding of the following:
- Your body weight doesn’t define who you are. It is simply a metric that reflects the sum of your daily actions, not only regarding food, but regarding stress, sleep, self-care and more. Change your actions, change your body weight, no emotions attached.
- Body weight fluctuates day-to-day: some days you’ll weigh heavy and other days you’ll weigh light. This is absolutely normal, and these daily fluctuations reflect changes in water, not body fat. The only meaningful number is the average trend over weeks and months (not days), as this will reflect changes in body fat.
When you measure body weight randomly it can be completely misleading:
Weigh yourself on a heavy day? This can affect your psyche, make you upset, and can lead to poor food and self-care choices (because "What's the point if I'm just going to get fat anyway?"; the mind is a powerful thing when mistakenly viewing correlation as causation).
Weigh yourself on a light day? This will surely make most people happy, but can actually reinforce behaviours that aren't actually leading to fat loss (most people will weigh less during happier/less stressful times, even if food choices haven't been great).
The solution: Weigh yourself often. Do so without emotion. Remember the factors of stress/sleep/water/sodium when assessing numbers.
Measuring body weight is just one method to track progress. When fat loss is the goal (more so than just weight loss), body weight won’t give you the whole picture. Other important tracking metrics include:
- Progress pictures
- Physical strength/performance
- Sleep quality
- Energy levels
- How clothes fit
When you’re trying to lose weight, the scale will sometimes stall, which can be discouraging if you’re not tracking some of the metrics above.
- These metrics are tracking the success of your current weight loss plan, they are not tracking your self-worth.
- Body fat takes weeks to lose, not days (daily changes are water weight). Losing 1lb per week is excellent progress.
If weight loss stalls for more than a week, its time to adjust the plan- don’t fall into the trap of thinking your self-worth as a human has anything to do with your weight loss results. Adjust the plan, keep tracking, and eventually you’ll find the tweaks that work for you.
Losing weight is a process that takes time and patience. If you track the things you can control- without emotion- you have the recipe for success.