Trying to lose weight? When starting a new diet or workout routine, weight fluctuation due to changes in water, fat, or muscle is normal! This can be very frustrating if your primary goal is to reach a certain number on a scale. However, I would encourage you to adopt a healthier view of weight loss and not get hung up on the scale. Keep reading to learn about the three different types of weight fluctuation that happen, as well as the difference between healthy and unhealthy weight loss.
Weight Fluctuation Due to Stress
Weight fluctuation is a common part of the healing process anytime your body undergoes stress. When I talk about stress, I’m not just talking about emotional stress caused by a big deadline at work or a difficult family situation. I’m also talking about nutritional and physical stress. Did you know low-calorie diets and high-intensity workouts put stress on your body and lead to weight fluctuation? No matter what type of stress you experience, it will affect your metabolism and can drive weight fluctuation in any of three ways:
- Water and waste fluctuation
- Stored energy fluctuation (fat and glycogen)
- Functional tissue fluctuation (muscle, bones, and organs)
Water and Waste Fluctuation
Fluctuations in water retention and release can be very frustrating because they may make your weight go up and down almost every day. Remember that this is a normal response that will even out over time. Stay hydrated, and don’t become a slave to the scale. Weigh yourself only twice a week at the same time of day. Average the two weights, then plot a line using a single value for each week over a period of a few months. This will give a far more accurate picture of weight loss than you’d get from daily weigh-ins.
Stored Energy Fluctuation
Generally you are not going to see a rapid loss of fat and glycogen (i.e. stored energy). During healthy weight loss, the percentage of calories derived from fat will remain fairly low. As discouraging as this may sound, when coupled with the natural loss of retained fluid this can easily exceed 1 to 2 pounds per week in the beginning. If sustained, this would add up to 52-104 pounds per year. So, again, it’s important to take the long view. Over time, significant weight loss can occur naturally and without compromising the state of your metabolism. Healthy weight loss will fluctuate, so the amount lost per month and per year is much more important than the amount per week.
Functional Tissue Fluctuation
In response to a low-calorie diet, your metabolism will shift and begin breaking down functional tissue, causing fluctuations in skin, muscle, bone, and organ tissues. Your body will let go of muscle in favor of maintaining the more fundamental functions of life. Even though muscle loss looks the same on the scale as other types of weight loss, this is an unhealthy form of weight loss. A healthy and productive metabolism, on the other hand, will lead to a regeneration of useful muscle. While gaining weight is not typically the goal, this fluctuation will aid in the desired long-term result. Since skeletal muscle is fat-burning by nature, this in turn leads to healthy weight loss. Furthermore, when calories are not too low, the thyroid will remain more active and allow the muscle to consume fat more readily—without interrupting the function of other systems in the body.
When it comes to weight loss, take the long view and try not to focus on the scale. Instead, set your sights on achieving a healthy metabolism through proper nutrition and well-programmed exercise. Healthy metabolism is the key to healthy weight loss!
For more detailed info on this topic, read my earlier post on weight fluctuation. Click on the following links for advice on how to balance your stress with nutrition and tips for staying motivated. To learn more about the science behind the latest fads in health and fitness, sign up for my monthly newsletter!
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