How many times have you got on the scale and saw a larger number than the previous time and felt your heart drop, felt your self-esteem drop, felt your spirits drop? If you are like most North Americans, it’s happened more times than you care to recall. But I bet you haven’t stopped to think – are you GAINING weight? Or are you weight stable?
Weight stable? Doesn’t that mean your weight is the same all of the time? No, no it doesn’t. And in this week’s episode of the Wellness Simplified Podcast that is exactly what I’m talking about – what it looks like to have a stable weight, why getting weighed once a week isn’t necessarily the best plan (getting weighed NEVER or 2-3 times/week is more useful than having your self-worth hinged on that one weekly number), and a number of reasons your weight can be up or down that has nothing to do with fat or muscle loss or gain.
Are you GAINING Weight? Or are you weight stable?
If you don’t have time to listen to the full episode, here are the basics, there are a number of things that can cause your weight to be artificially high on any given day, and some of those include:
If you still have undigested food in your stomach, including food from the previous day, and/or haven’t recently had a bowel movement or are constipated, the weight of that food and/or waste is going to artificially inflate your weight.
Higher Carbohydrate Intake
If you had a higher intake of carbohydrates the previous day, your weight is likely to be up because carbs HYDRATE your muscles. This is a good thing, but can also make it look as though you’ve gained weight if you eat a lot more than usual on any given day.
Probably the #1 culprit of false weight spikes is sodium. Salt is hidden everywhere, and even if you don’t add salt to your food it’s easy to go above the 2000-2300mg/day recommendation for women and 2200-2500mg/day recommendation for men. Many people are consuming more in the 3000mg and higher range which is not only going to make you feel uncomfortable with bloating and sore joints, but can spike your weight 2-7 even more pounds depending on how much you’ve consumed, and how sensitive your body is to salt. What’s more, your weight can STAY UP for up to a week, so making sure to take in lots of water and keeping sodium down is the best way to flush it back out of your system.
It’s not as bad as sodium, but higher sugar levels will also spike your weight. Sugar is, after all, a form of carbohydrate so it makes sense that it can cause an artificial weight gain, but like sodium it can take up to a week before your weight drops back down depending on how sensitive you are to it – and everyone is different, you don’t know until you’ve tested it!
Lack of Sleep
Even a single poor night’s sleep is enough to cause inflammation in your body to make it look like you’ve gained a few pounds the next morning. Personally, I know after a bad night my weight will be up at least a pound, if not more, and it’s not until I get a good night’s sleep or two that it comes back down.
Females have the added excitement of those monthly cycles, and the changing hormone levels throughout the month can also make your weight fluctuate. Each woman is different, some will find their weight is the lowest during their period but highest during ovulation, others may notice the opposite. I find my weight goes up during both ovulation and for my entire period.
Exercise is a healthy form of stress – but it can also cause inflammation and increased stress levels. Additionally, strength training can cause our weight to be up for a day or two as our body works to repair those small tears in the muscle that makes us stronger. If you are trying to lose weight and working out hard every day and not seeing a change on the scale, you are probably over stressing your body and causing that inflammation response. Take a few rest days.
Hand in hand with sleep is stress. If you have elevated stress it causes the release of cortisol which is going to cause you to hold on to extra water weight, and it’s not until we being to learn stress resiliency techniques and how to manage stress levels that cortisol will stop flooding our system and our weight will relax.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying some now and then but it’s important to know that it’ll make your weight go bonkers for up to a week. First, it usually goes down making everyone feel excited, but then it goes up, up, up, until eventually 5-7 days later it goes back to “normal”.
The New Year’s Weight Loss
Ever wonder why everyone is so darn successful a week into New Year’s? After they spent NYE drinking, eating salty and sugary foods and then having a terrible night’s sleep? A week later they’ve been eating healthy, probably lower carbs than they had been previously, not drinking, hopefully getting some good sleep then – BAM! Down 4 or 5 pounds no problem? Then week 2 maybe they are down another pound and then it slows even more and they start getting discouraged? It’s because that first week they were flushing out all those things that artificially inflated their weight. Which is great initially for a morale boost, but then when they are barely losing anything they get discouraged quickly so it can be both a good and a bad thing depending on the person.
Some other articles you might be interested in:
And if you are looking for someone who can help you figure out a nutrition plan that helps support your life, makes you feel better and keeps you accountable I’d love to help you. You can learn more about hiring me as your nutrition coach here.