They’ve been the cause of many a panic, headache, bad mood, as well as joy, pride and feelings of self-control. Tears are shed and frustration, anger and disappointment take hold. The scales sure do have us under their thumb don’t they. I doubt there’s a person reading this who hasn’t at some point got on the scales and had some mammoth emotional reaction of some sorts, either positive or negative depending on the numbers presented to us.
I only people would realise how little the scales tell us and in terms of body shape, size, fat percentage and health, they actually mean not very much at all. A normal person easily fluctuates a few pounds up and down without any change to their actual body size, meaning that just because the scales say you’ve gained 2 kg, it doesn’t mean you actually have, and if you’re doing any sort of resistance or weight training this could show as a significant weight increase without size increase. Weight gain could easily be for one of the following reasons.
When carbohydrates are not stored as fat they are stored as glycogen, which holds three times its own weight in water. This does not mean carbs are evil. Without glycogen our muscles will not function.
Protein can also be stored as glycogen, though not as readily as carbohydrates.
Vitamin, mineral and electrolyte imbalances can cause fluid retention.
Muscle and blood contain around 80% water, whereas fat is only about 20-25%, so the more muscle you have, the more water you will hold.
Overtraining and undereating releases stress hormones that play a part in water retention.
Other hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone all influence water retention and loss.
The weather changes your weight! Chances are you weight more in humid conditions than dry.
Muscle looks smaller than the same weight of fat. If you are slim, lean, strong and toned, you might actually weigh a lot more than someone who is bigger and ‘chubbier’.
Weighing yourself at the end of the day after a full day of eating and drinking is going to results in being ‘heavier’ than you were first thing in the morning. This should be obvious, but you won’t believe the amount of people I’ve seen get on the scales after eating and panic that they’ve ‘put on weight’ in the space of 15 minutes. If you’re going to weigh yourself, do so first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, in light clothing such as underwear or nightwear.
Food and drink consumed, water retention, bowel movements and urination, how much you’ve been sweating; all these things fluctuate on a daily basis, and with them so will your weight.
This takes much longer than you think. You don’t ‘gain weight’ overnight after a hefty meal one evening. The process that food goes through to get turned into fat cells, and all the various distractions along the way that prevent this from happening (or counteract it by simultaneously burning existing fat stores) means that excess calories have to be consumed continuously to achieve weight gain, and not just as a one off occasion.
There is a time and a place for scales, if you use them wisely and un-obsessively. But given the fluctuations that are very likely to occur along the way, whether it’s weight gain or loss you want, what you are looking for is an overall upward or downward trend towards your goals, not a perfectly straight line. ‘Maintaining’ your weight does not mean you will be the same weight every day, so stop panicking over every tiny fluctuation – stress causes water retention anyway remember?!