A common mistake many people make when measuring their weight loss progress is to focus solely on what the scales say during a one off, weekly ‘weigh in’. Whilst the scales can be a useful tool to track what is happening, they should never be the only method you use. Furthermore, you should ensure that you work out a weekly or monthly average rather than looking at a ‘snap shot’.
This is because weight rarely shows the full picture – it can significantly mask fat loss, and therefore your hard work, for a great number of reasons. The most common factors affecting the scales are:
- your menstrual cycle; weight can increase by up to 5lb during the luteal phase. This soon disappears once you reach the follicular phase.
- how much water you have had to drink; this can have a significant impact if you are weighing later in the day when you are more hydrated.
- if you ate a large meal the night before or have eaten prior to weighing; the contents of your stomach will vary each time you weigh.
- your bowel contents; if you need a number 2, will weigh more than if you have an empty bowel.
- water retention; often referred to as ‘oedema‘. This can occur for number of reasons and the stress of dieting can be a huge contributor
- your body composition – if you are training then you will be building muscle which can mask fat loss even though you will be looking leaner.
- if you have consumed carbohydrates. They are by no means to be avoided but it is important to note that for every 1g of carbohydrate you eat, you could be storing up to 3g of extra water.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many other reasons why you could in fact be losing fat but that is not reflected in your weight. This is why when I work with any client I use the following FOUR methods to track progress:
1. scale weight,
2. weekly measurements,
3. progress pictures,
This allows the client and myself to see the bigger picture. It prevents the perception that ‘nothing is happening’ when you are clearly adhering to a calorie deficit.
Whilst the scales are useful, remember that how you look and feel in your clothes is much more important than your relationship with gravity!
If you would like to learn more or discuss any of the points further, please get in touch with Rebecca Flannery, Evidence-based Nutritionist.