Why Isn’t Weight Loss Straight Down?
Why isn’t weight loss always straight down?
In a perfect world when we are trying to lose weight the scale would go down every week. Not many people have experienced that linear weight loss because there are many factors that affect the number on the scale. In fact just being too concerned about the number when you step on the scale can affect weight loss. So can how long it has been since you’ve eaten, what time of day you are weighing, how much water you drank ( or didn’t drink because dehydration is a factor in weight gain), hormone fluctuations, retaining water because of the carb content in your last meal and of course, stress.
When carbohydrates are ingested while the body is at rest, insulin helps store them as glycogen in the muscle and fat in the body. When it stores a gram of glycogen, it bonds it with 3 grams of water. (1) Not much by itself but it adds up pretty quickly if you reward yourself with that candy bar after a good workout.
Too much protein can also cause water retention. At the University of Leeds they studied water retention in dogs and found that carbs and too much protein caused weight gain in the form of water retention. Interestingly enough, fat did not cause water retention or weight gain. (2)
It has been known for a while that stress is a key factor in weight gain and U S News and World Report had an article discussing the 5 ways stress makes you gain weight. Stress triggers food cravings, makes insulin less effective, leads to more belly fat, insomnia and sabotages your workout. (3) Having a good strategy to combat stress such as exercise, meditation, playing with your dogs or children and breathing exercises may seem unimportant, but they really are essential.
It is also important to not weight too frequently. Once a week is sufficient. If you’re the kind of person who obsesses about the number on the scale it might be beneficial to find someone who can track the numbers without letting you see them. Trust that the weight loss process is more about making consistent healthy choices than it is number decline.
- Murray, Bob, and Christine Rosenbloom. “Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes.” Nutrition reviews vol. 76,4 (2018): 243-259. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuy001
- Golob, P et al. “Increase in weight and water retention on overfeeding dogs.” Quarterly journal of experimental physiology (Cambridge, England) vol. 69,2 (1984): 245-56. doi:10.1113/expphysiol.1984.sp002803
- Godman, Heidi and K Aleisha Fetters. “5 Ways Stress Makes You Gain Weight” health.usnews.com, Feb 23 2022 https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/ways-stress-makes-you-gain-weight 3.29.22