When tracking weight loss, we often use scales as an indicator and a way of monitoring progress. We tend to focus on the number we see on the scales, which can either be extremely motivating, or contrastingly demotivating. In my opinion, jumping on the scales can give us a good indication of what way things are going, especially in individuals who have higher levels of body fat thus more to lose.

If this is a method that you personally choose to utilise, it’s important to remember that you are only looking at one exact moment in time. There are many factors that cause body weight to fluctuate daily, weekly and monthly. I highly recommend that everyone takes pictures of how they look, be mindful of how clothes are fitting and generally how they feel as markers of progress. However, that’s not the point of this post.

This is an education as to the many factors that may affect your scale weight. You think you’re doing everything right, you’re consistently in a calorie deficit (consuming less calories than you need to in order to maintain your current bodyweight), you’ve been doing lots of exercise, your clothes are starting to fall off and yet your weight hasn’t changed! How can this be??

Here’s a number of reason why:

  1. Carbohydrate: Our bodies can store between 400-800 grams of glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate in our body) in our muscles and liver. For every gram of carbohydrate that we store, we retain 2.5-4 grams of water in our body. This could result in a fluctuation or increase of 2kg on the scales, that’s 4 and a half pounds for those who still use the old money. This is why we can see rapid weight loss in an individual when they eat very little carbohydrate and do lots of training in a short period of time.
  2. Training (Inflammation): In the short term, training can increase water retention through inflammation. The healing process of inflammation which may result from a bout of training, can increase water retention by up to 8%.
  3. Hydration. Our bodies are roughly 50-65% water, so our hydration levels will have a direct impact on scale weight.
  4. Toilet Habits: When you last went to the toilet and how much food has been consumed in the previous day or two will have a direct impact on scale weight.
  5. Salt. A very high salt meal may result in more water retention.
  6. Menstrual Cycle: Women will retain most water around the luteal phase, thus increasing scale weight. A way around this would be to compare scale weight at the same point in the menstrual cycle each month.

In conclusion, all the aforementioned variables can have an impact on scale weight. Using other markers of progress such as circumference measurements and photos will help ensure fluctuations in scale weight don’t leave you feeling downbeat after putting lots of effort into exercising and eating well.

When it comes to staying healthy, there’s never one method of measurement. Relying solely on the scale is where the scale gets its bad rap.

Still, weighing yourself can be tricky. What kind of scale should you get it? Should you weigh yourself if you’re trying to build muscle? Do the rules change if you’re just trying to lose weight?

In other words, what exactly is the right way to weigh yourself?

Weigh yourself…

  • 1x week
  • in the mornings
  • same way every time (e.g., after pooping, with or without clothes)
  • with a tracker
  • only if it doesn’t trigger anxiety or disordered eating

Weigh yourself once a week

If you’re tracking progress, you might be tempted to hop on the scale on a daily basis — but don’t.

“There’s no reason to weigh yourself more than once a week. With daily water fluctuations, body weight can change drastically on a day-to-day basis,”

“Weighing yourself at the same time on a weekly basis will give you a more accurate picture.”

Weigh yourself in the morning

When your weekly weigh-in rolls around, don’t hop on the scale after drinking a bottle of water or eating a meal. For the most accurate weight, weigh yourself first thing in the morning.

“Weighing yourself in the morning is most effective because you’ve had adequate time to digest and process food (your ‘overnight fast’). It won’t be affected by what you’ve eaten or haven’t quite processed yet,”

 Keep factors consistent

If you want the number on the scale to be accurate, you have to keep the variables to a minimum.

If you weigh yourself naked one week and decked out in workout clothes the next, the number on the scale is going to be different — but it’s going to have nothing to do with how much weight you’ve gained or lost.

Be consistent when you weigh yourself. Weigh yourself at the same time. If you go to the bathroom before you jump on the scale, go before you do it again next time. Weighing yourself without clothes? Keep it that way,  or try wearing the same clothes week to week.

Track your progress

You’re weighing yourself once a week. You’re seeing the number on the scale go down. But if you really want to squeeze the most benefit out of your relationship with your scale, you need to track your progress.

Tracking your weight loss — whether that’s by keeping a spreadsheet of your weekly weigh-ins or using a weight loss app — will help you get a better overall picture of what’s happening with your body.

It’ll help you identify patterns, make sure things are moving in the right direction, and can also motivate you to keep going when you feel like abandoning your diet and weight loss goals.

Make it automatic Even better? Invest in a smart scale, which connects to an app on your phone. Not only will the scale and app automatically track your weight loss progress, but smart scales also measure things other than weight, like body fat percentage and muscle mass, which can give you a better overview of your health as a whole.

Completely ditch the scale

It’s OK to give up the scale, especially if it’s not making you feel any healthier or better about yourself.

Tried it and all it did was give you anxiety? Ditch it.

Does its presence trigger a spiral of negative thoughts? Dump it and consider that 2 pounds lost!

Sometimes the best measurement is progress, including discovering that the scale isn’t for you.

For people with eating disorders or disordered eating habits, a scale in your home can be completely unnecessary. Weigh-ins can be left to meetings with your healthcare provider so you can focus your energy on other things that make you healthy and happy.

Use the number on the scale as one way to gauge your health — not the only way

It’s important to remember that while the scale is a helpful way to gauge your progress, it’s by no means the only way. Part of weighing yourself the right way is recognizing that the number on the scale doesn’t always tell the whole story.

If you choose to weigh yourself once a week, invest in a smart scale that gives you more information than just your weight, like body fat percentage and muscle mass — but also track your progress in other ways too.

“There are many other ways to check in besides the scale, including your energy levels… how tight your clothes are fitting, and tracking food and exercise,”

By learning and relying on other signs, you may ultimately be able to ditch the scale — especially after it runs out of batteries.

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