I was on a call last week with one of my fabulous subscribers, Katie. It was an absolute blast talking with her – she’s smart, fun, and (my favorite) curious about tons of things, including fitness.
We got to talking, and she said something I’ve heard so many times: “I mean, I eat healthy and everything, but for example, I gained 3 pounds from yesterday to today!! It’s so frustrating, and I want to give up!”
Oh man, this is soooo common – and I’ve been through this a million times too.
One of the most frustrating parts of losing weight (or eating healthier) is that you THINK you’ve done EVERYTHING right. Portion control, check. Being cognizant of your food choices, check. Ensuring your plate is balanced, check. And the list goes on.
If you’re doing everything right, WHY DOES THE SCALE MOVE IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION?!?!
Actually, the scale fluctuates for lots of reasons. It doesn’t make it any less infuriating, but it does make it a bit easier to ride out the temptation to say fuck it and let loose like my 3-year-old (almost) niece did when she ate all the cheese at this year’s Christmas Dinner (She polished off a spread set for 6 adults in about 45 minutes. It was impressive.)
Anyway, back to the point.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a very visual person. I’m currently on a weight loss plan for my September wedding and have been tracking my numbers pretty closely. I thought I’d share my graph so far to illustrate that (1) weight loss is NOT linear, and (2) there are lots of reasons for fluctuations, which I’ve pointed out in the graph.
So, let’s hop aboard my own personal Non-Linear Weight Loss Express (which is more like a Greyhound Bus than Amtrak, as you’ll see)
Here’s a quick primer on wtf you’re looking at:
X-Axis: Days into the diet (I’m about halfway into it, and will stop after 90 days no matter what)
Y-Axis: My weight in pounds
Red Line: If weight loss were linear, a 1 lb per week loss (slowest I want to go)
Green Line: If weight loss were linear, a 2 lb per week loss (fastest I want to go)
Math Equation: A 1 lb per week loss, mathematically, is y= (-1/7)x + (Initial weight). 1/7 = 0.1428. Since my "X" is 0.1442, I'm actually just a bit faster than a 1 lb/week loss, even though the R^2 value is laughably terrible at 0.429.*
*Sorry to the non-nerds who are confused by this - basically I'm on track even though the fluctuations are wild.
I put the Red and Green lines in to illustrate the boundaries of where I want to be. A drop of less than 1 lb/week means I need to evaluate what I am doing and think about dropping more calories (or working out more, but usually not both). A drop of more than 2 lb/week means I am going too fast and I need to add back calories. Think of these lines as like a bowling alley bumpers – they keep me from rolling into the gutter.
As you can see in the Solid Blue line, my weight fluctuates daily. There are both gains and losses – BUT THE OVERALL TREND IS NEGATIVE.
I have a bit of time before September so this cut is NOT aggressive. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to change anything and will stick with the plan until the time is over.
You may have noticed I point out 5 peaks and valleys. These correspond directly with these factors that can contribute to weight fluctuations:
- Water weight / food volume: When people start diets, the first week is usually awesome. That’s because you’re physically eating less food, and so your body doesn’t have as much volume (or water) in it. Yay, water weight loss!
- Monthly cycles: Hormones, lovely hormones. This is what happens to me every month: (1) I chug along, everything is great! (2) I stall – ummm why is this not working anymore? (3) I gain weight, get bloaty, pick fights with people, and want chocolate. I also don’t weigh myself because I know it will just mess with my head, so for me it’s mentally best to keep off the scale for a few days. (4) Post-period, I lose a bunch of weight “overnight”. And it’s all the hormones’ fault. (Also, please note how this is about 3 weeks into the diet. This is about the point where people give up because “it’s not working” – but if you keep going, you see that it DOES work, you just need to give it time!)
- Sleep: When I don’t get a lot, I don’t lose as much. I got a TON of sleep that night and clocked in my lowest weight (so far).
- Cheat Meals: It was our anniversary, so John and I had a bottle of wine (…each) and split a pizza. Yay, lots of carbs and liquid adding to my weight the next day!
- Stress: Stress also makes it hard to lose weight. It was a stressful few days so I wasn’t surprised to see the scale turn up a bit.
There are other factors that contribute to fluctuations, but these ones are SUPER common.
When I hear something similar to what Katie and I talked about, I want to point out it's probably NOT anything you’re doing wrong. With so many factors, you need to look at the whole picture before making any decisions. Keep going, get more data, and make sure you have a good idea of what's going on before you pull the trigger on your next move.
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Do you have a question? Want me to explain something that just doesn't make sense to you? Email me or leave a comment below. You may just be featured on the blog or in an email ;)