So you’ve been weighing your oatmeal, and counting your slices of hand tossed pepperoni for a few weeks now. What do you need to know about seeing results?
When you should weigh yourself and how often
This depends entirely on your preference, but IMO there are two basic ways to approach this, and it depends on whether or not you pass the marshmallow test. TL;DR: Somebody offers you a marshmallow, but also informs you that if you wait an hour, they will give you two. If you can wait for the extra mallow, you “Pass”. If you go for the instant gratification… you um… well you fail, and IMHO you should work on that. Several of lifes truly great achievements (and weight-loss is a big one), are nothing more than small, seemingly insignificant victories, coupled with patience, and consistency. If you can wait for the larger payoff then, counter-intuitively, I would say feel free to weight yourself every day. Why? Well… because weight loss is nonlinear
What do I mean by that? To spare you a thousand words, here’s a picture:
The little ups and downs WILL happen, and if you’ve got the discipline to hold off for the extra marshmallow, then you probably have the discipline to stick with the plan, despite the emotional setback of seeing an extra two pounds on the scale occasionally, for like, no reason. So maybe you know the science, and you trust the science. Is there really a need to weigh yourself everyday? Technically no, but I mean c’mon. Look at the image above. data is beautiful. Small side-note here, that’s my actual weight graph for the first few months of my weight-loss journey. It’s not some fudged data to make a point, but I digress.
If you have trouble trusting in the long term, and you have to constantly see forward progress, I’d suggest spacing out your weigh-ins, at least 2 weeks, to ride out the ups and downs. This will help to normalize your data, and you should see a much more consistent downward sloping line of data.
What to do if the numbers go up
Well, this depends on how you approached the previous section. If you weigh yourself like I do, every morning post-pee and pre-shower, and the number goes up, Don’t Panic. The goal is to lose fat, and weight is just this inaccurate measure of fat. For instance, it’s quite easy to gain a pound of weight without gaining any fat. Don’t believe me? Drink a pint of water. Voila! You just gained a pound.
If however, you weigh yourself once every two weeks, then still Don’t Panic. At least not until it happens twice in a row. It’s not uncommon for weight to fluctuate as much as 3-5 lbs. Even at a 1000 calorie deficit, you could have lost 4 pounds of fat, but gained weight. However, if it’s been a month with little or no loss… then you might have hit a plateau.
Avoiding the weight plateau
Sometimes, you can be hitting your deficit, and for a week or two, not lose any weight. You may just have to ride it out. If you picked up a new workout routine, your strained and sore muscles could be retaining water. If there is a lot of sodium in your diet you can also be retaining water. However, if it persists longer than a few weeks, then you could be maintaining, not cutting.
There might be a reasonable explanation for this. Remember when we calculated your TDEE based on your weight? Well if you don’t weigh what you did then, then your TDEE won’t be what it was then. The general workaround here is to recalculate your TDEE every 10 lbs you drop. If you’re using a tracker, such as MyFitnessPal, then you can usually “Reset your goal”, and it will take your new weight (if you’ve been recording it along with your food) and calculate a new TDEE.
Then there’s the possibility that you’re counting wrong. If this is the case, you need to go back and scrutinize every bit of your log. Are you weighing solids by volume? Are you weighing cooked meat, but using pre-cooked nutritional information? Are you not logging everything you’re eating? Maybe some snack is “not enough calories to matter”? Did you forget to add that massive dollop of sour cream to the burrito you logged?
I know you’ve heard stories about your friend who eats 5000 calories and doesn’t gain weight, or a friend who only eats 1000 and struggles with their weight. Sadly these people are not special snowflakes, they are just bad at math. It’s hard truth time. Your food log, and your activity log are just tools to help you hit a caloric deficit. Your body is the real log. If the weight is not coming off, then you are not eating less than you burn. Whether you’re wrong about calories in, or calories out, or both, somewhere you’re slipping. Find the leak, and plug it.