There’s a reason why most of us dread stepping onto a weight scale – it fluctuates – a lot sometimes! The trending up or down feels frustrating, especially when there’s little rhyme or reason why.
It’s not that your overall health always depends on what number appears but have you ever wondered why weight fluctuates and when is the best time to weigh yourself?
Here’s a look at various reasons why weight ebbs and flows over 24 hours:
- Time of day and how to weigh yourself accurately
Stop if you find yourself stepping onto a scale multiple times a day. No matter how many days a week or month you intend to weigh, there is only one time to check – first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom and with little to no clothes on. This will be your most accurate weight.
To get as accurate weight as possible, always use the same scale placed on a hard, even surface (no bath rug or carpeting). First, check to ensure the scale is on zero before you weigh. Then, step onto it with bare feet evenly distributed and stand still for an accurate weight.
How often should you weigh yourself? It’s preferential to do so each day. Stepping on a scale every morning can prevent age-related weight gain. If you keep track of your weight on most days of the week, you will ‘catch’ yourself if you start to go up on the scale, making you aware of that, and from there, you can make small changes like reducing portion sizes or increasing exercise to blunt weight gain.
- Sickness or disease
Having an illness or chronic disease can cause weight fluctuations. For example, diabetes can cause both weight loss and weight gain, depending on whether insulin is being used effectively in those with type 1 diabetes or for people with type 2. If their blood sugar levels are uncontrolled, they may find themselves hungrier, thus eating more, leading to weight gain.
If you have an illness accompanied with vomiting or diarrhea, you’re more likely to experience weight loss.
Medication-related weight gain is not that uncommon. Many drugs can cause a noticeable gain in weight, such as steroids, antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, epilepsy medications, beta-blockers, and opiates.
If a medication is causing weight gain, talk to your healthcare provider. Talk to them first before making any medication changes. During the visit, discuss all available treatment options and make a plan to switch medications or at least make lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, exercising, and getting more sleep.
- Consuming too many salty foods
Sodium, the mineral (along with chloride) that makes up salt, causes more water to be retained in the body, influencing weight gain. Unfortunately, many of us consume more sodium than we need. So take a look at your diet and refrain from high-sodium foods such as processed meats (bacon, sausage, luncheon), salty snacks like chips and pretzels, and frozen pizza and TV dinners. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium daily.
- Consuming too many sugary carbs
Foods high in simple carbohydrates (carbs) lack fiber which helps to slow digestion and how fast sugars are absorbed. But consuming foods with a high sugar content – e.g., soda, muffins, donuts, cakes, ice cream, and other desserts – are broken down and quickly digested, leaving you feeling hungry soon after eating them. In addition, these refined carbs cause blood sugar fluctuations leading to feelings of hunger and food cravings. Also, when blood sugar spikes after eating refined carbs, the pancreas releases more insulin into the bloodstream to maintain normal blood sugar levels. However, the more sugary carbs you eat, the more insulin is released into your bloodstream, and the more your body will convert carbs to fat stored in fat cells of your body, leading to weight gain.
- Lack of sleep
One too many sleepless nights can cause weight fluctuations. In addition, lack of sleep often makes us feel hungrier than usual, thus leading to extra weight gain. If you suffer from insufficient sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, keep your bedroom dark and cool, allow no electronics distracting you from sleeping, and sleep with ‘white noise,’ such as an overhead fan.
Surprisingly, exercise is not the biggest weight driver. Of course, exercise expends energy, burning calories which can result in weight loss. But if adequately hydrated, you may not see immediate weight loss on the scale. That’s because the water you drink after working out replaces water you’ve lost via sweat.
But water has no calories. Therefore, it won’t cause any weight gain. One thing to remember: exercise burns calories that can result in weight loss but only when you keep calories in check. For example, exercise does burn calories. But, if you over consume more calories through eating than what you burn from exercise, weight loss will continue to be a struggle. Also, if you are building muscle mass, particularly by lifting heavy weights, you may notice a slight gain in weight.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.