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“The problem with this is sometimes people will overlook the actual aesthetics of their body and just stare at the scale.”

 

To many people on a weight loss program, the scale is the end all be all.  Truth be told, it is a great way to keep track of progress, but it’s not without its faults. In this article I want to go over some of the biggest pitfalls of judging progress strictly off the scale.

I’m going to talk about how the scale can lie, and I want to make clear that just because the numbers are not dropping doesn’t mean that you’re not losing.

Having worked with nutrition for the better part of my life, I have had the opportunity to not only see the physiological side of weight loss, but also the psychological side. Some people have the belief that if they achieve a certain weight that they are going to look a certain way.

The problem with this is sometimes people will overlook the actual aesthetics of their body and just stare at the scale.

Each individual is built differently. Some are taller, some have a larger frame, and because of this, if you achieve the weight of your favorite model or actor, you might not have the same look as them.

To be clear, the most important thing that people need to look at is the one thing they tend to overlook the most: “How do I feel?” This needs to be the number-one factor. If you’re losing weight or even achieving the look you’re aiming for, if you do not feel good you’re not going to have any lasting effects. You need to concentrate first on how you feel, and then on how you look. These aspects tend to work synergistically together.  Once you get this proper mindset down, then you can move forward to making lifelong changes.

Let’s say you’ve been working your program and are feeling great, but the problem is that the scale is not moving.  The scale can be a tricky thing.  We all know that water cannot make us fat because it contains no calories. But one thing that many people forget is that just because it does not make you fat, does not mean it cannot make you heavy. If you weigh yourself, then drink a gallon of water and step back on the scale, you will now be eight pounds heavier. You did not gain eight pounds of fat, you are just heavier because the water has not had time to leave your body. This seems super simple once you think about it, but a lot of people don’t realize how much water truly affects that number on the scale. 

Here are some things that will influence the amount of water your body holds, and in turn will affect the number on the scale:

Timing of your weigh-in
Many people do not realize that over the course of a day you can fluctuate 5-10 pounds based on how much muscle you have, your size, how much you’re drinking, or external factors like hot weather. If you weigh yourself first thing in the morning it will give the the truest weight because you will be holding the least amount of water. If you weigh-in at night, you could be a lot heavier based on how much you ate or drank before the weigh-in.

Amount of sleep you are getting
While you sleep, your body releases water through breathing and sweat. Your muscles are relaxing and repairing themselves from the day.  During this time you can lose a great deal of water. If you have a night that is short on sleep, your heart rate could be raised throughout the day and you tend to hold more water.

Sodium intake
The amount of sodium you take in regulates how much water your body will hold. If you ingest a lot of salt or sodium over the course of a day, your body will hold a lot of water.

Dietary fiber intake
Dietary fiber is found in things like fruits and vegetables. Because of its makeup, dietary fiber holds a lot of water. It can not make you fat — because your body cannot absorb it — but eating it will have an impact on the scale.

Carbohydrates
When we eat carbohydrates our body eventually stores them as glycogen — a source of fuel for future activities. For every gram of glycogen, our body stores three grams of water. Many people who have gone on high-protein diets have lost a quick few pounds. The reason for this is the decline of glycogen held by the body, thus the loss of the water held by the glycogen.

Amount of water you are drinking
As crazy as it sounds, when we hold water the best way to rid the body of the excess is to drink more water. When your body feels dehydrated, it releases an anti-diuretic hormone called vasopressin. The body does this as a security measure to slow the release of water. When you continually drink water, your body senses that it has more than enough, therefore it starts releasing it on its own.

The intensity and type of your workouts
Working out causes damage to the muscles being worked. Just like any type of injury, your body creates inflammation. Doing this causes the body to hold water. Many people go up in weight after a hard workout and get discouraged, not knowing that they did not actually gain fat, they’re again just holding water.

Knowing what causes your body to hold water will help you to truly address your weight-loss goals. It can help you find out if you’re achieving success, just holding water, or if you need to adjust some things in your program.  But don’t get caught in just looking at the scale — make sure you consider all the facts and factors first!!