The Right Way to Use Your Scale
News Flash: Your scale probably isn't broken.
Here's the deal:
Anyone who has ever owned a scale or closely monitored their weight understands how frustrating it can be. One day things are moving in the right direction and you’re feeling great and then the next day the number jumps up/down drastically!
Then a vicious cycle of thought ensues and you start running down the list in your head wondering how/why this is happening.
Whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight, these fluctuations can really throw you off your game. I know I’ve experienced this many times myself and the inner dialogue goes something like this:
“I know I’m following my plan and eating well, working out, and last week I was on track and now I’m back where I started!”
After too many times of this happening, you might even just say “screw it” and give up altogether.
The truth is, these fluctuations in weight are totally normal and all part of the process of losing/gaining weight over time.
Why your weight fluctuates
So what causes weight to fluctuation from day-to-day?
There are many factors that can send the scale in either direction. From your hydration level, hormones, food, and water intake, as well as exercise. Your weight also changes depending on the time of day you choose to weigh yourself. This is why it’s recommended you weigh yourself first thing in the morning after using the bathroom, without any clothing on.
First thing in the morning you haven’t consumed any food/water for a long period of time and it will give you a more accurate representation of your weight. Now imagine how that might shift if you weigh yourself in the middle of the afternoon, post-workout when your body is retaining water, or before you go to bed and you’ve consumed a large dinner!
I won’t be going into detail around the specific factors that cause weight fluctuation in this article, but I will give you some helpful tips on how to manage them and how to focus on the bigger picture...your moving weight average.
Your Average Weight
Much of the weight gain and loss you see throughout a single day is completely temporary, and, usually, not even related to actual body fat.
How your weight is changing over time, however, is a more important indicator of whether or not you’re actually losing/gaining weight. Tuning out the daily fluctuations can be difficult (more on that later), but as long as your weight is steadily going up or down, you’re making progress towards your goal.
So how can you monitor your average weight?
If you’re following a specific diet plan to lose or gain weight, my suggestion would be to weigh yourself daily, under the exact same conditions. As mentioned earlier, it’s recommended to do this first thing in the morning, prior to drinking/eating anything, and after using the bathroom.
Weighing yourself in the morning one day, and the afternoon the next doesn’t allow enough consistency to accurately depict your weight over time because there are too many variables to consider.
Tip: Find a time that works for you and stay consistent by setting a reminder on your phone to weigh yourself and log your weight each day.
If you aren’t dieting for specific weight loss/gain goals and just want to monitor and/or maintain your weight over time, weighing yourself under the same conditions once a week is fine.
In order to keep track of your moving average, you’ll also need to record your weight daily. You can do this in a notebook/journal if you don’t mind doing a little math. You could also set up a spreadsheet that would average your weight over time if you’re into that kind of thing!
However, I highly recommend using an app called Happy Scale, as it does all of this for you! I’m not affiliated with Happy Scale in any way, I just really really love this app.
Happy Scale allows you to enter your daily weight and it will automatically calculate your moving average for you! This makes it super easy to tune out the noise of daily weight fluctuations and focus on what actually matters...your average progress!
In the screenshot below you can see how the column on the left shows the daily weight input that was recorded. The numbers jump up/down over the course of a couple of weeks! But in the column on the right, you can see that the moving average is consistently going down, which is a huge win!