You get up in the morning, have a wee and do a number 2. You stand on the scales, and they show a GAIN of 1.5 kg. What?! You know you’ve been eating well, exercising and doing everything by the book! What Is Going on Here?


Let’s go through what scales can show you and what it’s impossible for them to show you.

The figure you see does not show what your body consists of

Is it fat? Is it muscle? Is it water? That’s the whole point – the scales have no idea what you look like.If you do strength training and want to reduce your subcutaneous fat and increase your muscles, what you see in the mirror is more important than what the scales show. Rely on how your clothes feel and what you see in the mirror.

You’ve gone up (or down) xx grams compared with yesterday

It is completely normal for weight to fluctuate from one day to another.

There are many possible explanations:

  1. You ate some salt yesterday – e.g. that sushi lunch you had yesterday may affect your weight today. It’s partly down to the rice (and there tends to be a lot of rice in sushi) and also the sugar in the rice, as well as the soya sauce, which is salty. The salt leads to retention of fluid, and fast carbs do the same thing. Sushi rice IS a fast carb and 1 g carb retains about 2.5 g fluid.
  2. You have your period. It is common for people to gain 2 kg as early as 10 days before menstruating. I suggest you learn to live with it – I can’t think of any way out.
  3. You sat in the sauna. Don’t be fooled: you have not lost fat (which is what you wanted to do) – you’ve lost fluid. You sweat in the sauna – it’s what happens. It’s not the same thing as permanent weight loss. Drink a glass of water and you’ll be back where you were.
  4. You had a curry last night. With all the trimmings. And wine. And sweets afterwards. And crisps. And a little more wine. The most idiotic thing you can do the following day is to weigh yourself. Obviously, you’re going to have gained weight – junk food contains salt, sugar and other stuff. Obviously, you should stop weighing yourself, especially if you don’t understand what you’re seeing and end up in a panic.
  5. It’s hot outside. When it’s hot, the body works hard to regulate its temperature and that can affect weight – you tend to retain more fluid. All of this may explain holiday weight that disappears quickly once you’re back home.
  6. You did some strength training yesterday. People usually weigh more after strength training. After strength training, the body needs to recover from the stress of lifting weights. In order for the muscles to recover effectively, the body stores more glycogen, and that often results in short-term weight gain – it definitely does not consist of fat. Are you going to stop strength training just to get a lower figure on the scales? Are you mad? No way!
  7. You eat a low carb diet. Obviously, you’ll lose weight quickly, particularly at the start since your glycogen stores will be depleted. The same applies to juices, detox products, soups, drinks …
  8. You do too much cardio exercise. Too much cardio causes higher levels of cortisol and that in turn can cause fluid retention in the body.
  9. You’ve just been to the toilet and done a number 2. Of course you’re going to weigh less!
  10. You’re stressed. See the item on cardio exercise.

Some common mistakes concerning your relationship with the scales:

You avoid weighing yourself during your period (you get a period every month – your weight goes up then).

• You’re afraid to weigh yourself and see what the figure shows … though that’s rather like sticking your head in the sand and refusing to face reality.

• You weigh yourself every day and what you see affects your entire day – down means you give yourself a pat on the back and up means ‘I’m going to give up on the whole thing’. And you do these things at regular intervals …

• You move the scales from one place to another to see whether they show a lower figure than the one you saw first.

• You shift the position of your feet to see whether that makes a difference to the figures.

• You like the weight you saw after you’d been ill or had an upset stomach – never mind that you’d been hugging the toilet for three days …

The scales are neither your friend nor your enemy trying to mess you around … They are a tool to measure your progress.

But not the only tool!

You need to understand the information the scales give you and what it’s for. It’s for you to see the big picture, the trend, and tell you where you’re going. It’s not meant to make you happy every day or even every week. What can happen, however, is that you are so driven by the information that you allow yourself to forget about lifestyle change by committing self-sabotage. But the scales can never tell you whether you’re going in the right direction with your new habits, whether your clothes are getting too loose, whether you’re setting personal bests at the gym or whether you’re starting to feel more energetic and are sleeping better. The scales are your guide, but they can’t tell you about the condition of your health. As a trainer, I believe it’s more important to know that you feel full, strong, happy and you fit into your old jeans than that you’ve gained 300 g this week. When you understand what the figure on the scales means, you can start seeing it for what it is – one tool in your armoury.

If we’ve eaten too much one particular week, we KNOW – so what do you expect? That you’re not going to be able to see it and feel it? We KNOW when we’ve eaten well, and just because there was a bit of weight gain – God knows why – do you really think the scales are messing with you? Again, they don’t show the whole picture – or at least, not always.

What is the right amount of weight loss?
Any weight loss is the right amount of weight loss – weight loss is, after all, just that: weight loss, whether it’s 100 g of weight loss or 300 g. Be careful with weight loss that is excessive – that is not always a good sign. Nor can you ‘place an order’ for 500 g of weight loss per week – calories are one thing, but hormones play a part as well, and there’s a considerable risk you’ll be disappointed.