You step on the scale Wednesday morning and you’re ECSTATIC because it reads 150, a new low weight.

Then, you step back on Friday morning…. 151.2. You panic. You start to question EVERY single food decision you made Thursday.

You hop back on the scale Sunday and it reads 150.7. Now you’re extremely confused and frustrated, wondering why the number can’t just stay the same.

The truth is, the number on the scale is not meant to stay the same. Day to day fluctuations are inevitable and, especially for a population of general lifestyle clients like mine, should not be something to stress hardcore over. What’s more important are the trends that we see on the scale over a longer period of time, such as weeks to months, not the short-term movements.

A scale is simply a tool that measures weight, which is your gravitational pull to the Earth. The scale weight does not give us a depiction of our overall body composition (fat mass vs lean mass), much like more accurate methods of measurement can, such as a DEXA scan. So, say you’re gaining muscle and losing fat at a pretty even rate. This would cause the scale to level out, correct? Your physique would be showing changes, though. That’s why it’s extremely important to focus on non-scale measures of progress along with the scale.

It’s also important to understand the factors behind why you’re scale weight may be up or down and know that it isn’t automatically fat that you gained or lost overnight. These factors include:

  • Not getting the same amount of sleep as usual/inadequate sleep
  • Weighing in earlier than usual
  • Eating a meal later than usual
  • Hormonal fluctuations / menstrual phase
  • Irregular or infrequent bowel movements/constipation
  • Intense training sessions
  • Inadequate consumption of water
  • Chronic stress
  • Consuming more sodium than normal
  • Traveling
  • Weighing yourself on a different scale than normal
  • Alcohol consumption 

This list goes on and on.

It’s also imperative to ensure you’re weighing yourself properly. Make sure that you’re weighing yourself multiple times per week (at least 3x per week) and getting an average for accuracy. Also make sure that you’re using the same scale each time, weighing yourself fasted as soon as you wake up in the morning (with no food or drink in your system) after you go to the bathroom, and with minimal or preferably no clothes on. These factors all make a difference!

In addition to the scale, be sure to focus on non-scale measures of progress such as:

  • Measurements
  • Progress pictures
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increased strength / performance
  • Clothes fitting differently
  • Improved mentality around food
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Improved recovery
  • Improved libido

At the end of the day, our weight is excellent data for us to keep track of various changes and make adjustments to our plan over the long-term. But I also don’t want you putting all of your stock into the scale, either. Use it as a tool, but don’t allow it to be the be-all, end-all to your progress and success.

-Kaylin Hauge BS, CSCS

Disclaimer:  The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.