When you are trying to lose weight, the scale can be a fickle friend. It can be so exciting to see the weight go down! But often the scale gets stuck… or even creeps up again for no apparent reason. Weight loss stalls are miserable, but knowing why the scale is stuck can help you get going again.
Your Body is a Chemistry Set, And the Scale is Sometimes Not the Best Tool
There are a large variety of reasons your scale might seem to be stuck on a certain number at times along your weight loss journey. This is because every cell in your body is reacting to changes in your environment every minute of the day. Like a huge uncontrolled chemistry experiment. Your body senses and responds to the changing variables related to your
- Food quality
- Air quality
- Sleep patterns
- Thoughts and moods
- Circadian rhythm
- The quality of ingredients in your personal care and cleaning supplies
- And a host of other things
There are really 3 primary problems with relying solely on the scale while you are losing weight. Understanding these pit falls can help you have better perspective if you choose to use it as a measurement tool.
The Scale Doesn’t Measure Health
Your regular bathroom scale cannot tell you how much of your weight is fat or muscle or excess water. This means that you don’t know if that extra pound is because you actually gained fat, gained muscle or are just a bit bloated. For this reason, I recommend that your weight be just one of several measurements you use to track your weight loss journey.
Your Weight Can Fluctuate Up to Several Pounds Within a 24 Hour Time Frame
This means that in order to truly understand your weight loss journey, you need to adopt a trend-based approach. This means instead of looking at the exact pound, consider thinking about the trend of gaining, loosing or maintaining over a longer period.
A simple way to implement this is to only allow yourself to weigh in once a week and try to replicate similar circumstances each time. Or, if you weigh more often than that, plan to only count it as a true gain or loss if it’s more than a 3 pound difference.
Your Psychological Relationship with the Scale Can Be… Complicated
Partially because the scale is so quick to change throughout the day, it can be a trap! No matter where you are on your journey, it’s a good idea to make sure your relationship with the scale is in check. Ideally, the scale should be a tool that helps you navigate your healthy lifestyle. If it has become for you a source of frustration and needless stress, maybe you should try hiding it for a while and pull it out in a month or two.
Now that we have discussed the practicalities of the scale as a weight loss management tool, let’s dive into some of the reasons why your scale is stuck. Perhaps if you can pinpoint a reason that resonates with you, you can discover the key in finally seeing some progress!
Hormone Disruption Can Cause a Weight Loss Stall
There are a growing number of chemicals that interact with your natural hormone production and regulation. When your hormones shift, the scale may stall out. Many women will notice a natural stall around the week before and/or during their menstrual cycle. This is completely normal and has to do with your hormones in that part of your cycle.
A natural and biological source of hormone disruptions does not present a reason to be concerned. However, prolonged hormone disruption can cause many more symptoms than just a weight stall and might be worth your sanity to look into recovering naturally.
If you believe this is your problem, I recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner who specializes in hormones to run a profile on you and address any abnormalities with bio-identical hormones if needed. These do not have the same terrible side effects of the synthetic ones.
The Whoosh Effect: A Pattern of Natural Weight Loss
Ever heard of a weight loss plateau? Well, the Whoosh Effect is a theory for why weight loss plateaus happen. Or, rather, one of the reasons it could happen.
The idea is that when you are actively “burning fat” the fat cells empty out their stored fat. But instead of flushing themselves out like we would prefer, then they fill up with water temporarily. It’s like a place holder for the fat just in case you decide to give up this healthy kick.
During that time if you stick with a healthy lifestyle, eventually the water flushes out in a big “whoosh”. Often this is accompanying a drop on the scale and some sudden definition to your body.
About 80% of the fat you lose actually leaves your body in the air you exhale! But no, breathing more won’t help you turn your fat into thin air!
Not Enough Rest or Restoration
There’s a great new trend that is surfacing in the fitness community. People are finally starting to embrace the idea of balancing intense workout sessions with sufficient rest and recovery between them. One of the catchy ways this trend is often described is “Train Hard, Recover Harder”.
When you aren’t getting enough sleep
- Your brain will need to work harder to accomplish the same task
- Your hormones will be off, including cortisol which is the stress hormone directly linked to belly fat
- Your body’s basic functions will slow down and restrict their functioning to put more energy towards the basics of just getting you through the day
So if your scale is stuck and you are working out, shift to improve your recovery between workouts and see if you start noticing more results.
Even if you aren’t exercising, try focusing on slowing down, getting better quality sleep and take intentional time to de-stress. This simple step can shift your body into a state of calm and the weight might just start melting off of you.
Your Healthy Lifestyle is Slipping
I will be the first to say that this happens to ALL OF US! When you do experience a weight loss stall (or the dreaded “extra few pounds”), time to quickly re-evaluate.
How’s the diet been?
How has your movement been?
Have you been stressed and forgotten to chill out?
Are you in a rut and just needing to change it up? A stall is a great excuse to try something different. And sometimes, the healthy lifestyle you have been trying to follow just needs tweaking.
A Self-Limiting Mindset: The Trickiest Reason for a Stall
Okay, on this one I might step on some toes. But if it offers freedom to just one person who reads this, I’m willing to risk it.
Sometimes we stop losing weight because we have a mental picture in our head of how we look, how big we are, how much physical space we take up. And consciously or not, our actions and our attitudes stop us from making real and sustainable change.
You might have been on a weight loss journey for years, telling yourself you want to lose weight and be thin. But if you are holding onto fears about the change, your brain and body could be working overtime to maintain the status quo.
The best tool you have against a self-limiting mindset is actually the self-talk in your head! Practice embracing your journey. Talk to yourself about what losing that next 5 pounds means in your life. Convince your mind to work with your body to go where you consciously want to go.