You hear the sound of your alarm and know it’s time to check off the first thing on your daily to-do list: weighing yourself. You walk over to your scale, step on it, and look down at the number staring back at you in horror. You’ve gained two pounds since yesterday.
Fortunately, here’s what we know to be true: It’s impossible to gain two pounds overnight.
Okay, maybe it’s not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely. Gaining two pounds from one day to the next would require you to eat about 7,000 calories more than your body needs to maintain its weight—that’s nearly 17 quarter pounders or 21 hot fudge sundaes! It’s also pretty unlikely to gain even 0.5 pounds of true weight—that would require eating about double your daily calorie goal.
So, what gives?
The dreaded (but totally normal) weight fluctuation
We call this a weight fluctuation—a small increase or decrease in weight from one day to the next, that’s not a true weight gain or weight loss. According to a study published in Physiological Reports, your weight can fluctuate by 2 to 4.5 lbs in a day. In fact, most people experience at least one or two weight fluctuations per week, and usually, the number on the scale isn’t going in the direction we’d like it to on our weight loss journey.
Why our weight fluctuates
Now, let’s set an all-too-familiar scene.
Last night, you enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, with a side of bread and salad—all within your calorie goal. The next morning, you see the scale jump up a few pounds.
The stories you tell yourself:
“I shouldn’t have eaten that bread yesterday.”
“I’m a failure.”
“I’ll never reach my goals.”
“I should just give up now.”
The reality: You didn’t gain two pounds overnight.
More specifically, your body is probably holding on to some extra water weight from the:
- Carbs—for every gram of carbohydrate you eat, your body holds on to about 3 grams of water
- Sodium—salt holds on to water too (and sauces and dressings are sneaky sodium culprits)
If you think about it, all beverages and foods weigh something too, so it makes sense that the scale may increase throughout the day, or from one day to the next. When it comes to weight fluctuations, how much sodium you’ve eaten, how hydrated you are, how many carbs you’ve consumed, the scale you use, and how much (or how little) you’ve used the bathroom, all influence your daily weight and impact the larger, unexpected swings we see on the scale.
So, how do you know if weight gain from one day to the next is just a fluctuation or a real cause for concern?
A tool to overcome weight fluctuation frustrations
True weight is a term that we use to represent a more accurate weight (and weight loss), and drown out the noise of daily weight fluctuations.
Your true weight is an average of your last three weigh-ins.
When you take the average of three weigh-ins, you get rid of the unusually high or low weights (the extremes), to give you a more accurate idea of your true weight.
For example, if you’re calculating your true weight on a Friday, add up your weigh-ins from Wednesday (203 lbs), Thursday (199 lbs), and Friday (201 lbs), and divide the total by three. The number you get is your rolling average, or in Noom terms, your true weight. In this case, your true weight is 201 lbs.
The true value of your true weight
Let’s take a look at a real-life example of just over a week’s worth of weigh-ins:
If you look at your weight from one Monday to the next (April 11 to April 18 in this example), it looks like you’ve gained one pound in a week, going from 203 to 204 lbs. But, if you take the 3-day average from the first Monday to the next Monday, you’ll actually see you’ve lost 2 lbs:
- True weight for April 11 (average of April 9-11): 203 lbs
- True weight for April 18 (average of April 16-18): 201 lbs
If you were to weigh yourself weekly, and your weight hits a fluctuation high on your weigh-in day, you might think that your hard work isn’t paying off. But weighing yourself daily helps you (and Noom) notice these trends over time, and realize that the scale is not your enemy. Instead, the scale is a helpful tool that you can use to understand how your choices impact your weight fluctuations from day-to-day, and measure your long-term progress.
No obsession, just information.
So, whenever you’re feeling down about the number on the scale going up, remember that your true weight isn’t always the number on the scale—it’s the average of your last three weigh-ins, which you now know how to calculate!
As a Noom user, you can leave the math to us. We’ll continue to provide you with customized tools to track your progress, and the guidance and feedback that you need to achieve your weight loss or maintenance goals.
If you aren’t a part of the Noom program, sign up today and let us help you navigate weight frustrations, reach your health goals, and make peace with the number on the scale.