When you begin to focus on your health in hopes of changing your body composition, it is normal to want to see weight loss occur consistently (along with a loss of inches). However, more often than not, it may feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. This is the nature of measuring via the scale.

If you find yourself watching the scale like a hawk, it is easy to start to feel defeated as you observe fluctuations in weight that occur from day to day. While weight fluctuations are common, they can be frustrating and demotivating. Even when you’re looking at the number objectively, it is never a welcome observation to see the scale jump up, particularly after you’ve hit a new low or have been cruising along at a consistent rate of weight loss. If you’ve hit a point in your journey where your weight continues to jump back and forth from day to day, it is helpful to understand why your weight is fluctuating. This is why we encourage all people to track a variety of measurements. Here are some potential reasons why your weight may fluctuate.

Your hydration status has changed

Staying well-hydrated is of critical importance for overall health, but if you’ve recently increased your water intake or you’ve been really inconsistent with drinking enough water, remember that your weight is also an indicator of your hydration status. Yes, your weight is measuring your level of fat, bones, organs, muscles, and waste, but hydration also has to be factored into that equation. When you are dehydrated you weigh less, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Or let’s say you bump your water intake up significantly one day and you gained 2 pounds overnight, that could be a sign that your body was depleted of water of the day before.

Remember that things like supplements and alcohol intake can impact your hydration status too. For example, creatine is a very popular supplement that can cause temporary weight gain as fluid is pulled into muscle. Or alcohol can pull water away from tissues acting as a diuretic, thereby causing dehydration. If you have questions about supplements you are taking that may cause weight fluctuations, talk with your doctor.

You added in a heavy lift or started a new strength training program

The long-term benefits of weightlifting are well known, but many don’t understand that weight will fluctuate as you add in more heavy lifting. If you’ve stayed on point with your nutrition but wake up to weight gain, remember that intense exercise increases your level of inflammation. When you lift, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers, which causes the body to hold on to water as the process of muscle repair kicks in. In the long run, the rebuilding of muscle fiber causes positive changes in body shape and tone, so don’t let a temporary weight gain prevent you from staying consistent with your program.

Your sodium intake was higher than usual

If you’ve had a day full of eating out or munched on more processed foods than normal, your sodium level will be impacted. By eating more salt on any given day, you retain more water in your gut. You’ll often feel bloated as a result, and along with the bloat, your weight can increase. Just focus on eating more whole foods, limiting your sodium, and drinking more water when you know that sodium has been higher. You may see a significant flush the next day or two.

Your carbohydrate intake went up

Carbohydrates are not the enemy, but even a slight increase in your carbohydrate intake can cause you to want to immediately go back to a lower carb diet. If you’ve had a period of eating lower carbs, or following a keto type approach, you can easily put on a fair amount of weight in a short period of time as you add carbs back in. Keep in mind for every additional gram of carbohydrate consumed above your average, you can hold on to another 3-4 grams of water weight.

You are constipated or have been more irregular than usual

If you aren’t getting rid of waste daily, your weight could be a reflection of holding on to that waste. If you experience consistent, but minor, daily weight fluctuations and you’ve started to have more irregular bowel movements, that could very well the culprit. Try to increase your fiber and water intake and see if you can get things moving again.

Female hormones are shifting

Most women know that weight can fluctuate as part of the menstrual cycle, but some are surprised at just how much weight can shift, either with ovulation, or the week before your period is due to start. You are more likely to hold on to water weight during these specific points in your cycle, and some women can gain up to 5 pounds of water around these times specifically. If you are tracking your weight and cycles, watch for consistent trends from month to month so you can prepare yourself mentally to see those weight fluctuations show up.

Your healthy habits, including sleep or stress levels, went off track a bit

Just a few days of added stress or poor sleep can be enough to cause your weight to go up, just as a few days and nights of dedicating yourself to proper stress management and good quality sleep can cause your weight to go down. Understand that both sleep and stress can impact your hunger and appetite hormones, so while you may not consciously recognize changes to your eating habits, you may find yourself snacking more or making different food choices at your meals. And don’t forget to consider your weekend habits. There have been studies conducted specifically to study weight trends from Friday through Monday. Many individuals will hit their lowest weight on Friday, after following a consistent plan for their nutrition and exercise, but then loosen the reigns a bit over the weekend. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that their Monday weight is quite a bit higher as a result of different choices or patterns. Aim to keep your weekends just as consistent as your weekdays and you may not have to deal with wide swings, though there still may be some smaller shifts.

Recognize that your weight fluctuates often and that is normal

Keep in mind that any time you have something to eat or drink, your weight can immediately increase as well. If you are having rather large losses and gains, of around 3-5 pounds, often and consistently, review any medications you may be taking to see if this could be a factor or talk with your doctor. Try not to let the number on the scale dictate your mood for the day, and just look at it as another piece of data. If you continue to struggle with having a healthy relationship with the scale, or you have trouble interpreting the number as just another number, consider weighing less frequently.

Like anything else in life there will be peaks and valleys, so stay the course and soon those peaks and valleys won’t seem like such a big deal!

Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash