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Understanding variable scale weigh-ins

The bathroom scale is a commonly used tool to track weight loss and gain, but have you ever noticed your weight can vary significantly from day to day, or even within the same day? This variability in scale weight can be frustrating and confusing, making it challenging to track progress accurately.

In this blog post, we will explore the factors that contribute to scale weight variability and what it means for weight management.

A man in athleisure holds an open dark coloured water bottle while he talks to someone.

Water retention

One of the main contributors to variability in scale weight is water retention. Our body weight can fluctuate by several pounds due to changes in water balance. This can be influenced by factors such as sodium intake, menstrual cycle, and hydration status.

When we consume a high amount of sodium, our body holds on to water to balance out the salt concentration in our body, resulting in a higher weight on the scale. Similarly, during the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes can lead to water retention, causing weight fluctuations. Staying hydrated can also lead to temporary weight gain, as our body holds onto water to maintain fluid balance.

Time of day

Another factor that can contribute to variability in scale weight is the time of day. Our weight can fluctuate throughout the day due to changes in food and fluid intake, as well as physical activity. It is common to weigh more in the evening than in the morning, for example, as we consume food and fluids throughout the day.

Similarly, weight can fluctuate after exercise, as our body retains water to repair muscle tissue. Therefore, it is recommended to weigh yourself at the same time of day to get a more accurate representation of your weight.

A vintage photo of a weighing scale.

Even more variables

In addition to water retention and time of day, other factors can contribute to variability in scale weight. These include bowel movements, clothing, and even the type of scale being used.

A full bowel can add a few pounds to your weight, while heavy clothing or shoes can also affect the number on the scale. Additionally, the accuracy and calibration of the scale can vary, leading to different readings. So, what does this mean for weight management?

Understanding weight management

Firstly, it is important to understand that the number on the scale is not the only indicator of progress. Variability in scale weight is normal and expected, so it is important not to become too fixated on the number. Instead, focus on trends over time, as this can provide a more accurate representation of weight loss or gain. For example, tracking your weight over a few weeks can help identify patterns and changes in weight.

Another way to track progress is to focus on other indicators such as body measurements, clothing size, and how you feel. These can provide a more comprehensive picture of weight loss or gain, and are not as affected by daily fluctuations in scale weight. Additionally, focusing on lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits and regular exercise can lead to improvements in overall health, regardless of the number on the scale.

A blue chart on a white background showing a trending decrease in body weight over a four month period.

Focus on the trend

In conclusion, variability in scale weight is a common occurrence and can be influenced by various factors such as water retention, time of day, and other external factors. It is important not to become too fixated on the number on the scale, as it can fluctuate significantly from day to day.

Instead, focus on trends over time and other indicators of progress, such as body measurements and lifestyle changes. By taking a holistic approach to weight management, we can achieve long-term success and maintain a healthy weight.


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Further reading

If you're curious to read more about various scale weigh-ins, I encourage you to read the studies below:


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