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So, it’s Monday morning and you’re feeling positive.
Last week was a great week! You have followed your plan to the tee and even got your exercise in!
So in a flurry of excitement and feeling self-assured, you step on the scales looking for the good news to validate your perfect incredible week.
But then you look down and the feelings of shock and horror flood in. It hasn’t budged from the week before!
“How can this be?” you ask yourself. You’ve been in the a calorie deficit, so the weight should always decrease right? Unfortunately not.
While your body fat will always decrease, this isn’t always the case when it comes to weight.
Let us explain.
So what is actually going on?
Losing weight and losing fat is not the same thing. The scales do not represent just body fat alone. Picture this:
You fill your car up with fuel. As you drive your car from A to B, the amount of fuel (body fat) in your car decreases and therefore the weight of the car also decreases. However, along the way, you realise you need to:
- add water to your screen wash
- pick up your children from school
- pick up the food shopping
The weight of the car has now actually increased. But has the fuel (body fat) increased? Of course not. The fuel has continued to decrease. Whilst there is obviously a correlation in reducing/increasing body fat and weight, this correlation is more distinguishable when looking at it across a longer term, months, not daily or weekly.
Here are some of the factors that may contribute to bodyweight fluctuations:
1. Carbohydrates
With every 1 gram of carb that we consume, our bodies will store 3-4 grams of water.
After a heavy carbohydrate meal, you will naturally store more water.
People are constantly led to believe that carbohydrates are the enemy.
This misconception is then further falsely re-enforced in the early stages of a no carb diet when a person experiences a large loss of “weight “in the first few weeks. However, this huge loss is attributed to water, not fat. Eliminating carbohydrates does not result in greater fat loss or progress in comparison to normal conventional diets containing carbohydrates (if calories are equal). P.s Carbs ARE NOT the enemy.
2. Salt
Sprinkled a lot of salt on your food? Sodium causes the cells to hold onto extra fluid. Again, increasing the amount of water you retain. Drinking more fluids will help to flush it out.
3. Exercise
Exercise causes microtears in our muscle fibres and the body must repair these tears as part of the rebuilding process. In order for this to happen, the body produces an inflammatory response that sends fluid into these areas, therefore increasing the amount of water we retain.
4. Stress
Had a stressful week at work? Are you home-schooling? Stress increases the production of cortisol in our bodies, which directly causes fluid retention. It also indirectly causes the release of a hormone called ADH which is an antidiuretic hormone, meaning the body will hold onto more water.
5. Sleep
Had a couple of bad night’s sleep? Like stress, sleep increases the production of cortisol.
Even one or two bad night’s sleep can increase cortisol production and therefore fluid retention. Adults mainly need around 7-9 hrs sleep a night.
6. The Menstrual Cycle
Most women who menstruate experience symptoms such as bloating one to two days before the start of their periods. This bloating is due to premenstrual water retention and is likely caused by a fluctuation in your hormones.
Throughout your menstrual cycle, your weight is likely to fluctuate a lot due to other hormonal reasons. Therefore it is essential to compare your body weight from week 1 of your monthly cycle to week 1 of your next monthly cycle.
As you can see there are a lot of reasons why the scales might appear to lie to us, but they are in fact telling us the truth. Do they clearly represent your progress? Not in the short term. Diets like Keto, juicing to name a few, will deceptively satisfy you in the short term because you are misled by the scales. But long-term sustainable results? There’s a reason they’re called fad diets.
Take time to understand and recognise some of reasons above why the scales are fluctuating or mis-representing your progress.
The scales do not directly correlate to progress on a day-to-day basis.
Mis-understand the scales - misunderstand your progress.
Taking pictures and measurements can be a great tool to assessing progress too.
Key points:
• You are in a calorie deficit and making progress every week regardless of what the scales say.
• Hips don’t lie” said Shakira. Take regular measurements.
• Take regular progress pictures. This will give you a clearer indication of your progress.
• Consistency is key.
• Cut ties with the belief system that the scales directly correlate to progress. They don’t.
• Don’t allow the scales to impact your motivation negatively or positively. Just trust the process.