Why Does the Scale Go Up When My Size Goes Down?

You train hard. You’ve eaten right, hydrated properly, and created the perfect body-sculpting combination of weight training and cardio. You even noticed that your favorite jeans are fitting better and OMG, look at the cuts beginning to appear in your arms! To give yourself a final vote of confidence, you strip down and step on the scale only to find yourself gasping for breath as you scream, “WTH?!” That’s right, despite all your efforts, you’ve gained a few pounds.

Many people are total slaves to the scale. We rely on it to be our true test of health and success when in reality, we should all probably toss it in the trash as it does much more harm than good – at least from a mental aspect. The truth is, there could be a few reasons why your scale went up even though your jeans are fitting looser. 

Muscle gain – The most likely reason is muscle gain! That’s right, more muscle means more “weight” on the scale. While a pound is a pound, whether it’s muscle or fat, the difference is that muscle is much denser than fat, which means it has more volume and, when measuring only in pounds, is heavier.  The good thing is that muscle takes up less space, making you look smaller, tighter, sculpted, and “toned”, allowing you to fit into smaller sizes. 

Post-workout gain – Another factor to consider is how soon after your last workout you’re weighing in. If you’re a person who loves to step on the scale immediately following a serious sweat session, try not to! Remember, your body weight is made of everything – your organs, bones, tissues, etc. – not just your body fat. When you engage in an intense workout, your entire body can swell and gain up to 15 percent due to dehydration, inflammation and muscle damage. This means even if you scorched 600 calories and squatted and pushed your way to exhaustion, you may not see the payoff immediately on the scale simply due to water. 

Potty time needed – Another reason why you may see your weight creeping up is because you’re constipated. Sometimes, when we start eating healthy it takes our bodies a while to adjust. If in your weight loss quest you’ve cut back considerably on carbs and are consuming more protein, you are also likely struggling to ‘put out’ what you’re taking in. Just going one day without regular bathroom time can make the scale pop up by 1-2 pounds. If this sounds like you, up your water intake and add an additional serving or two of veggies and add some fiber to your diet. 

So, what’s a solution that will keep your sanity in check while also allowing you to monitor your progress? First, stop relying on your scale. Sure, it’s okay to do a gut check every couple of weeks but again, there are so many factors that can cause the scale to increase, making it an unreliable tool to judge progress. Instead, try measuring yourself once a week. Measure everything from your neck to your arms and abs right down to your thighs and calves. If the number on the tape measure is decreasing, you shouldn’t care what the scale says.

Another form of progress which usually makes my clients unhappy at first (because they think there is no change) and then thrilled to see after are pictures. While you may dread taking them, they are a huge motivator moving forward. And since we can never recapture the past, it’s a good idea to take them every 4 weeks and put them side by side for progress measurements.

You should also use your clothes to measure. Find an outfit that’s a size you want to be (or a size you used to be) and once a week, try it on. If you find yourself getting closer to fitting into it at the end of each week, then give yourself a serious pat on the back because you are making progress. 

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