A few pounds one way or the other on a given day is nothing to worry about.
If you’re conscious about your weight day to day, you might be concerned how much it can fluctuate.
But experts believe that most weight fluctuations are normal. Even if the scale rises for up to five pounds in one day, it’s probably due to water weight.
“Eating, drinking, urinating, having a bowel movement, and exercise can all impact your body's water composition and therefore weight," says Anita Petruzzelli, MD, of Hartford, Conn. For example, high-carb and high-salt foods can cause water retention and a boost in poundage, while exercise can lead to temporary water and weight loss.
You also tend to weigh less in the morning than later in the day because you don't have the added weight of a meal you just ate. During the day, when you're eating and drinking, those foods (and fluids) add weight — at least until they're digested and excreted, Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian in New York, told Self.
To demonstrate to her clients how much weight can naturally fluctuate, dietitian Alexandra Caspero of St. Louis, Mo., weighed herself on the hour, every hour, and her weight fluctuated four pounds in one day.
“Remember that weight gain is not always a bad thing. You will 'gain' weight on the scale if you drink a ton of water,” she says. “Sometimes exercise can make you 'gain' weight temporarily, depending on what activity you are doing and how much you are drinking throughout.”
Besides water intake, weight will naturally fluctuate from the weight of the food we eat regardless of calories, fluid retention (from salt intake, hormone fluctuation, or other things that impact fluid balance), whether you’ve gone to the bathroom, and whether you’ve exercised, says Samantha Brody, a licensed naturopathic physician in Portland, Ore.
Brody recommends weighing yourself first thing in the morning, not throughout the day. “More than that I have people weigh weekly and pay attention to how their clothes are fitting in general,” she said. “Sometimes healthy changes lead to weight gain (muscle) and when we are only looking at the scale it can give the wrong impression.”
Weight fluctuates normally between two and four pounds daily, said John La Puma, MD, a Santa Barbara-based internist and author.
“Sodium is responsible for many weight swings, and processed food and food at restaurants have a lot of it,” he says. “But sodium increases weight excessively because it holds on to fluid, and extra fluid or too little fluid is the big reason. Drink a pint of water: you're a pound heavier. Eat a big meal, and you're two pounds (or more) heavier. Go to the toilet, and you'll lose a pound or even two.”
Mostly, you get concerned over natural weight fluctuation because you weight yourself too much. Normally, people will weigh themselves once a day, but it’s better to do it once a week, or even once every two weeks on the same scale at the same time, “keeping in mind that the scale does not represent loss of body fat accurately and only reports weight loss (or gain),” says New York personal trainer Maik (CQ) Wiedenbach.
In fact, Wiedenbach suggests a novel alternative to a weight scale: a camera. Have someone take photos of you when you would normally weigh in, during the same time of the day under the same lighting. Use the same person and camera every time.
More often than not, “pictures will show more results than the evil and typically unpredictable common everyday bathroom scale," he says.
If you’re going to be a regular weight watcher, you also need to know that everyone’s weight will follow a predictable weekly rhythm of being less during the week and more on weekends, according to the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab.
You weigh the least on Friday morning and the most on Sunday night.
January 11, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN