By Jennifer Nelson for Life & Beauty Weekly


Have you ever stepped on the scale in the morning and smiled because you’d dropped a pound or two? Or, upon seeing higher-than-usual numbers, blamed your unexpected weight gain on heavy shoes or the lunch you just had?

Most women play some version of the scale game whenever they weigh themselves, but the truth is there are at least eight reasons why the numbers can fluctuate so much. Remember these, and the next time the scale doesn’t co-operate, you’ll know why:

You’re wearing clothes. On average, clothes add up to 2 pounds to your actual weight. “To keep your weigh-ins consistent, weigh yourself naked,” says Gillian B, BASc RYT, spokesperson and wellness consultant for Truestar Health. “Jeans, a belt and a sweater can really add up!” At home, weigh yourself in the nude first thing in the morning. At the doctor’s office, take off your shoes and jacket for a more accurate reading.

You’ve just finished working out. When you exercise at a high intensity, you burn glycogen calories (carbs), which hold water weight. You might see a 5-pound dip on the scale after a high-energy spinning or Zumba class, but don’t do a happy dance just yet. “During an intense workout, our body expels a lot of moisture in the form of sweat,” says Gillian. “Weighing yourself after a workout can be deceiving and can lead to disappointment when you step on the scale next time.” The drop isn’t a true weight loss; it’s a loss of water weight, which will quickly go back on once you rehydrate. In fact, to recoup the water you lost during your workout, Gillian recommends drinking 20 ounces of water per pound lost during a workout.

You’ve just had a big salad or vegetable soup. Eating fibre-filled foods like veggies can make the scale numbers go up temporarily, but don’t despair. Fibre is not digested or absorbed by the body. It’s considered a non-nutrient, which helps to move food through the body and aid digestion by attracting water to the small and large intestines. Later, once the fibre has done its job, you should see the scale go down again.

You attended happy hour last night. A night of drinking can add a lot of unexpected calories — and weight. “A shot of vodka is approximately 70 calories a pop…they add up quickly!” says Gillian. Keep that in mind before you order another cosmo or dirty martini. Plus, alcohol impairs judgment and stimulates appetite, which may tempt you to reach for those diet-busting sliders and nachos. “Even with the calories aside, alcohol is extremely dehydrating and can leave you thirsty for days after,” says Gillian. “It is said that it takes at least three days after a night out for your body to return to its ideal hydration level.”

You had a Chinese takeout for dinner last night. Consuming high-sodium foods like canned soup and frozen meals can push the scale upward, and so can the consumption of soy sauce and MSG in Chinese food. Water helps the body absorb excess sodium so that it can eventually be flushed out. As a result, high-sodium intake can equal temporary water-weight gain.

It’s that time of the month. Water weight adds extra pounds right before you start your period. Researchers think hormones are the culprit: A shift in estrogen and progesterone right before menstruation can cause water retention and swelling. “Weight gain due to water retention is the worst in the days just before the actual period begins,” says Gillian. “How long it stays varies for individuals, but it should taper off as you get towards the end of your period.”

You haven’t, um, gone in a while. The numbers on the scale may rise if you’re constipated. Gillian recommends lots of fibre — at least 25 grams a day from fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and nuts — plus plenty of water and exercise to move things along. Once you’re regular again, the added weight will fall away.

You’re under the weather. If you have a cold or the flu, you may not eat as much as usual, which can slow down your metabolism and add a pound or two. On the other hand, if you can’t keep any food down because of a stomach bug, you may see a drop in the numbers on the scale. In either case, your weight will stabilize once you’re healthy.

Jennifer Nelson
is a Florida-based writer who writes about lifestyle and health issues for many publications and websites, including
Prevention, and

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