The Dreaded Scale: Why it’s not Always and Effective Measurement of Weight Loss

If you’ve ever stepped on a scale and wanted to throw it out the window, you are not alone.  Measuring your progress solely by the number on the scale will set you up for an emotional ride that doesn’t always capture the full picture.

Here are some things that can influence the number on the scale that has nothing to do with the amount of fat you’ve lost:

  1. Eating a meal high in sodium. If you’ve enjoyed a meal at a restaurant and noticed your weight went up, it is most likely due to the water retention from the higher sodium meal.
  2. Weighing in at different times of the day or time of the month. A good time to weigh yourself is in the morning after using the restroom. Also, it is common for females to retain more water before menstruation.
  3. Eating more carbs. For every gram of glycogen stored comes with 3-4 grams of water.
  4. Are you constipated? Stool weight does not equal fat gain. A high fiber diet can also contribute to increased stool weight. Therefore, if you’ve been eating more fruits and vegetables and the scale went up, it is likely due to the amount of added fiber in your diet.
  5. Did you finish a hard workout? Muscle repair process may cause some water retention.
  6. Did you eat a large meal? The sheer volume of the food you’re eating could make the scale go up.

As you can see, the scale by itself is not always a reliable measurement of your progress.  Assessing the weight trends over weeks or months may be a more accurate representation of the effectiveness of a diet or exercise plan rather than the day-to-day weight fluctuations.

Lastly, don’t neglect some of the non-scale wins you may be experiencing:

-Are your clothes fitting better?

-Do you have more energy throughout the day?

-Did you try new recipes or learn a new skill?

-Are you consistently eating nutrient dense foods 80-90% of the time?

-Has your performance in the gym improved?

You can’t always control the scale, but you can control your habits.  Be patient, stay committed and results will follow.

Please consult a Registered Dietitian if you would like further guidance to maximize your fat loss progress.


Written by: Tiffany Hsu MS, RD, CD, CSSD Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition at PRO Medical

Tiffany helps adult athletes and recreation exercisers maximize performance, optimize recovery, and achieve health goals through nutrition. Instead of prescribing a rigid meal plan, Tiffany enjoys educating clients to feel confident in making their own food choices for a sustainable and personalized fueling plan. Tiffany also provides nutrition counseling for the 20/20 Lifestyles program.

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