7 Things That May Move the Scale but Don't Actually Make You Gain Weight

Our weight can fluctuate throughout the day based on a variety of factors. Find out if you're actually gaining weight or if it's just temporary.

The scale can be a helpful tool for tracking your progress on a weight loss journey, but it's certainly not perfect. Depending a variety of factors, the scale can look completely different within the same day—something you may know all too well.

"Your weight can fluctuate by a few pounds every day," says Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D., nutrition editor at EatingWell. "The number on the scale depends on lots of factors including, how hydrated you are, what you ate and when you last pooped.".

Below, you will find seven reasons why the scale could seem like it's creeping up—some are out of your control and some are not—which may help to find the right time of day or week to step on the scale for the most realistic number.

You Just Worked Out

Think weighing yourself after a sweat session will give you a more ideal number? Think again. Weighing in after a workout can actually make the scale go up

Especially if you're just starting an exercise regimen or are just getting back into the swing of things, you're putting extra stress on your muscles, which causes short-term inflammation. Don't panic! This is the good kind of inflammation that in turn leads to an anti-inflammatory response. This can just cause temporary water weight retention, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

It's That Time of the Month

Your period will often lead you feeling bloated, and that water retention can cause the scale to temporarily shoot up. Add hormonal fluctuations and food cravings on top of that, and you have a recipe for a short-term scale increase.

It might be best to avoid the scale during this time and focus on taking care of your body instead. Load up on fiber and electrolytes to keep yourself regular, and allow yourself time to rest. Plus, you do not need the extra stress than you already may be feeling this week!

You Eat Lots of Salty Food

Whether you've had a night of overindulging or you regularly consume lots of sodium, this can have a fleeting impact on your scale. Eating salty food causes water retention, and if this is an occasional thing for you, don't sweat it. However, if you routinely consume more salt you need—the daily limit for a 2,000 calorie diet is 2300mg—your weight may actually be creeping up. This can cause puffiness and constipation as well, so it's best to hydrate and wait a day or two to let your body process instead of getting freaked out by the scale.

pink scale with pink measuring tape draped on top
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You've Been Trying to Drink More Water

So you've bought a reusable water, and you've set a goal of filling it up several times a day. That's a great goal! However, if this is a big step for you, it may take some temporal adjustments on the scale (and your bladder) until your body can handle a big influx of water throughout the day. Drinking water can actually help you reduce bloating and even lose weight if you're using it to replace sugary beverages, so just hang tight while your body adjusts.

You Ate a Big Meal Recently

It's just downright mean to weigh yourself after you just ate a big meal. According to the Mayo Clinic, food can take up to eight hours to pass through your digestive system, which can cause you to retain a little extra weight until the process has ended.

Additionally, sodium and sugar can cause additional water weight retention, along with bloating, so give yourself a break from weighing in the next day. Chances are, you're going to be better off mentally by sipping some water and taking a walk than punishing yourself by stepping on the scale.

You've Been Putting on Muscle

Regular exercise is a scientific-backed method for weight loss, but that doesn't exactly mean the scale will follow. Depending on the types of workouts you do, you could still be losing weight while putting on muscle.

For example, fitness influencer Anna Victoria only lost a total of five pounds during her major body transformation because she was losing fat and gaining muscle. Don't get us wrong—one pound of muscle is equivalent to one pound of fat—muscle just takes up less room than fat. This can be the cause of a smaller waistline but the same (or a higher) number on the scale.

Your Digestion Is Off

The rule of thumb for when to weigh in is usually in the mornings before you've eaten breakfast and after you've had a bowel movement, so it's really not ideal to step on the scale if you're backed up. Without making you too squirmy, being constipated means there's waste just sitting in your digestive tract, and it's causing you to carry excess weight until it passes. Help yourself get regular by filling up on fiber, staying hydrated and taking long walks before stepping back on the scale.

The Bottom Line

While setting goals is an important part of your weight loss journey, it's important to be realistic when setting them. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about a healthy weight range rather than trying to identify a specific number for yourself. Additionally, focusing on adopting healthy lifestyle practices—like getting enough sleep, eating more veggies and moving daily—instead of what's currently flashing on the scale, will keep you happier and healthier along the way.

"It's important to remember that weight is just a number," Valente says. "There are plenty of other ways to assess your health. How do you feel at the end of the day? How much energy do you have? Are you strong enough to do the things you love? Are you nourishing your body with healthy foods and also foods you love to eat? Taking care of yourself and your health is important and it is not reflected in the number you see on the scale."

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