Why constantly checking your weight doesn't always help

The most common strategy when it comes to monitoring weight is jumping on the home scales.

Some folks go the OCD route, weighing themselves daily while others keep them hidden entirely, as they can't bear to think how far that red needle will tilt to the right.

Me? I'm a blue jeans guy – meaning, I think they help tell the story.

But what's best practice when it comes to this system of self-assessment? What's healthy? And how much does weight fluctuate, even on a daily basis?

One of the biggest culprits, according to physiologists, is water retention.

Uncontrollable factors

Nobody can gain / lose one kilogram of fat overnight, but sometimes it feels like that. Not only can a glass of water change weight immediately, but a high carbohydrate diet means your kidneys hold on to sodium, which leads to water retention, which leads to weight gain.

Other things that affect daily weight fluctuations:

  • Menopause, birth control, period cycles
  • Exercise, as the body repairs itself with water, so a little (short-term) weight spike is normal; and
  • Cortisol, a hormone that's affected by stress and sleep.

Relax when it comes to your weight ups and downs. The concern is when portion control is out of control from a high carb, high salt, and non-exercising diet. Minor weight fluctuations be gone – this is when weight gain arrives in force and should be monitored.


Keep an eye on it, but don't obsess

Regarding the frequency in jumping on the scale, Chad Timmermans (Physiologist and Elite Sports & Exercise Psychologist) opined:

"I don't weigh clients in my clinic any longer. The goal is the process (and monitoring) of eating well and doing exercise, then the weight takes care of itself. A successful week is about healthy food and movement, not necessarily what the scale says. Simply measure the notches on your belt to tell the fat reduction story.

"Clients will weigh themselves at home, and that's an individual choice. I recommend not too often because if weight isn't coming off, it reduces motivation. If you're not too concerned about your weight – weighing once per month is fine. If you seek that extra motivation – once per week."

Solid advice

Some final points on my day of weight:

1. If you're at a healthy weight, feel more and weigh yourself less. It's just a number;

2. If you're at an unhealthy weight? Acknowledge it. Then do something about it;

3. Know where you are in the BMI range – it's not a perfect measure, but it's still useful;

4. Know your waist to height ratio – it's a better measure than BMI; and

5. Weigh yourself on a Monday. If some weekend over eating / drinking was had, it will show and motivate you for a healthy week.

And lastly, the scale only tells you what you weigh, not who you are.

A diary of assessment

To see what I mean, here's my experience hitting the scale every hour for a full day, and here's the story those digits told me:

  • 530am: 80.5kgs I feel good when I hover around the 80kgs mark.  Consumed 375mls of water with mint.
  • 630am: 80.1kgs Bathroom break. My morning #2 ritual while reading USA sports on the ipad, then a workout – 4x rounds of: 250m row, 10 burpees with 10kgs dumbbells into a curl-press, 250 skipping ropes. 375ml of water.
  • 7:30am: 80kgs 375ml of water, and ate 1 mandarin, olive oil on 6 florets of broccoli.
  • 8:30am: 80.1kgs Jogged 5km with a client.
  • 9:30am: 80kgs 375 ml water. Two cups of kaleslaw topped with two fried eggs.
  • 10:30am: 80.2kgs
  • 11:30am, 12:30pm: 80.1kgs 375mls of water.
  • 130pm:  80kgs Snacked on ½ avocado with grounded black pepper, two small squares of watermelon skewers with feta and mint (leftovers from a dinner party).
  • 230pm: 80.1kgs 375ml of water, 330pm: 80.2kgs.
  • 430pm: 79.9kgs (two pee breaks).
  • 530pm: 80.3kgs After a 2/3 portion of lamb ragu pasta was reheated and mixed with a heaping portion of steamed spinach.
  • 630pm and 730pm  80.3kgs. 375mls of water.
  • 830pm: 80.2kgs One glass of red wine.
  • 930pm: 80.2kgs
  • 530am, next day: 79.3kgs After the world's longest morning pee break.

Weight goes up, weight goes down, but I'm pretty relaxed about the numbers. I'm fine with my weight around 80kgs at 5'11" (180cms) tall.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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Do you rely on the scales as a measure of your health and fitness? Share your opinions in the comments section below.