If you’re on a mission to lose body fat so that you can look leaner and be healthier you need to prepare yourself for some setbacks.
Because it’s only a matter of time before you jump on your bathroom scales and notice that your weight hasn’t changed, or worse yet, has gone up despite working hard on your diet and exercise habits.
As frustrating as this don’t let it freak you out.
Because scale weight doesn’t tell you the whole story when it comes to your progress. If your body was made up of 100% body fat it would but that’s obviously not the case.
Water, muscle, organs, food contents and poop all contribute to your body weight. So if the number on your bathroom scale doesn’t change or moves up how do you know it was because you gained body fat?
Unless you are getting your body fat % accurately measured you don’t. (“Accurately” doesn’t mean using the Tanita scales at your local gym
There are many reasons why you could be losing body fat without seeing the number change on your bathroom scales, such as:
- Are you approaching or on your period? Weight gain of up to 8 Ibs isn’t uncommon due to bloating and water retention during this time.
- Have you been under lots of stress? If so, that can bump up your body weight via water retention too (increased outputs of the stress hormone cortisol interact with aldosterone receptors which cause water retention).
- Have you skipped a trip to the bathroom today? Poop is pretty heavy!
- Have you eaten lots of fiber rich foods? Eating more fruits, veggies, and wholegrains than usual adds bulky weight to your digestive track which is going to show up on the scales.
- Did you weigh yourself at a different time of day or after drinking/eating? For accurate results you need to step onto the same set of scales, at the same time of day, and wearing the same clothes (underwear or nude first thing in the morning after a pee is best).
- Have you drank more water than usual?
- Have you started/stopped taking any medications or supplements?
- Chinese, fast food or any other foods high in sodium can cause an increase in body weight due to water retention - did you eat some last night?
- Have you eaten more carbs than normal? If so your weight could be up due to increased water retention and carbs stored in your muscles.
- Even a tough workout can increase your body weight due to inflammation.
So is it possible that you’ve lost body fat but aren’t seeing that fat loss translate onto the bathroom scale?
Do you see why you shouldn’t let your scale weight freak you out?
But what if you can’t answer yes to any of these things – does that mean you’ve gained body fat?
But as much as you want your weight to drop off in a perfectly linear fashion – that’s just not how it plays out. Weight loss generally occurs on a downward fluctuating trend.
If you’ve seen an increase in scale weight despite eating well and being active chances are one of the above is masking your results.
This is why I get my clients to use additional measures to track their progress such as full length profile photos (front, back and side), and measurements at certain parts of their body.
These simple additions can be really helpful in highlighting what’s going on when they run up against a weight loss plateau:
- If body weight, girth measurements and profile pictures all point towards a weight increase I know it’s time to make some adjustments to their food intake and activity level to get them back on track.
- If weight goes up yet their body measurements and profile pictures point towards fat loss, I let them know there’s nothing to worry about - fat loss is probably being masked by one of the reasons I just discussed. In this case I simply advise them to continue on the plan we’ve set out - in such cases weight loss usually kicks back in at the next weekly check-in.
And if weight loss doesn’t kick back in I make some changes depending upon what I think that individual needs, this could be an decrease in calories, an increase in activity or a change in their approach such as switching from tracking to following a meal plan for a few days.
The message I'd like you to walk away with isn't to throw out your bathroom scales, its to stop using them as the ONLY measure of your progress and start embracing the fact that your body weight naturally fluctuates for many reasons.
Do that and you'll save yourself a lot of stress and frustration!
I hope you found this helpful.
PS. If you’re feeling stuck and would like help to lose body fat, tone up and feel healthier click the link below to apply for coaching.
My clients typically lose 0.5-1.5kg per week by following a nutrition plan that fits into their lifestyle and allows them to continue eating foods they love!
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