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Are you elated when the scale goes down or depressed when it goes up? You are more than just a number on the scale. Your scale only measures one thing—your weight. Your weight can fluctuate every day, sometimes by as much as 5 pounds,  depending on a variety of factors. There are a lot of reasons the scale reflects a certain number and there are other things you can measure to determine if your diet is a success or not. 

Here are several factors that affect your scale weight.

What have you eaten today?

Most people weigh themselves first thing in the morning. Just know that water or your morning coffee will affect the number. 

What did you eat yesterday?

Did you have a large steak and mashed potato dinner before bed? The food in your digestive tract will show up on the scale.

How much sodium did you have?

Salt will make you retain water, the more water you are retaining, the more you will weigh.

Carbohydrates can also lead to water retention, particularly refined carbs like bread and pasta. These foods also raises insulin, if insulin is high, you hold onto more sodium, retaining water. Carbs are stored in your muscles as glycogen, again, more water retention.

What time of the month is it? 

Your menstrual cycle will also cause water retention, high levels of estrogen leading up to your period cause bloating and an increase in blood volume and inflammation, meaning more overall weight.

Progesterone levels spike in the second half of your cycle, leading to water retention. You may notice your breasts get sore right before your period? Progesterone causes your body to pull fluid from the blood vessels to the tissues, making them fuller and tender. 

Have you pooped today? Did you poop yesterday?

The average bowel movement is between ¼-1lb. If you aren’t pooping every day you are holding on to extra weight but you’re also not eliminating estrogen and toxins that you’re body is designed to get rid of.

When did you work out last? 

Exercise makes you sweat, so you may lose water, or you could be drinking extra water during exercise, especially in the summer. 

Pumping iron brings blood flow to the muscles and will also lead to inflammation as the body works to repair the muscle damage from the workout. 

Muscle weighs more than fat? A pound is a pound, whether it’s muscle or fat. Muscle is almost twice as dense as fat so it takes up less space.  A pound of fat takes up about twice the space as a pound of muscle. When you build muscle and drop body fat you will look much leaner although you may still weigh the same.

Strength training will increase bone density. On average, bones make up about 15% of body weight. This won’t lead to weight fluctuations but over a long period of time can lead to more weight on the scale.

There are other ways to measure progress besides scale weight.

Look at your body composition rather than your weight.

Measurements are a great way to track results and it’s what my online clients do once a week. Measurements tell a different story in weight loss. Losing .25 to .5 of an inch off of your measurements each week, especially the abdominal area, is very common for my online clients. Who cares if you’re the same weight, you’re literally shrinking in size! Go by the circumference of your biceps, hips, chest, belly and thighs to measure progress.

Progress pictures are another way to track results and my online clients do these once a month. It’s super common to feel as if you’re not getting anywhere. Sure, measurements are coming down, but it’s hard to put into perspective what that ½-1 inch loss looks like. When you see your progress photos and the actual results, it’s really eye opening and a huge motivator!

If your mood depends on the number you see between your feet, you may want to consider taking a break. Set goals that don’t focus on weight. Maybe getting in your first pull up or stringing together 10 solid pushups. By getting stronger over time, you’ll likely be losing fat as well.  Pay attention to the things that matter—how your clothes fit or how you’re sleeping. You’re not a number!


If you’re struggling to reach your fitness goals consider working with me 1 on 1. We’ll discuss your goals, lifestyle, challenges, and situation. Then we work on a plan that works best for you, send me a message and let’s talk!

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