Motivation Articles

7 Times the Scale is Lying to You

Knowing When to Ignore the Scale

The scale can be a valuable tool in any weight-loss journey. It can tell you where you started and help you track your progress. It's the tool people use most as a measure of success--or failure.

As useful as the scale can be, don't forget that it's just one tool you can use, not the only tool. It's entirely possible for those numbers not to budge, but you find yourself having to tighten your belt because you've lost inches. Used regularly, the scale can help you check in with yourself and help you catch upward swings in pounds before they become double-digit problems. But used too frequently, the scale can drive you crazy.

If you find yourself weighing in often (multiple times per day or every day of the week) you're not doing yourself any favors. There are certain times when weight fluctuates, and seeing every fluctuation can be disheartening and really mess with your head and your motivation.

Many people find it difficult to give up the scale entirely, which is fine--but there are a few times when the scale isn't doing you any favors. Take the results with a grain of salt in these situations.

7 Times to Ignore the Scale

1.  Right after you've eaten.
You ate a meal and now the scale is up five pounds? What gives? No, you didn't actually gain that body fat from eating a heavy meal. It's more likely that your blood volume has increased due to the quantity of food you've eaten, and the weight of all that food is still sitting in your stomach and digestive system. Likewise, high sodium content can cause you to retain fluid. Chances are you're not going to like what your scale is telling you for a few hours or days, but that doesn't mean the meal you ate caused real, permanent weight gain.

2. During your first few weeks of a new diet or exercise program.
When you first start exercising or eating healthier, it's tempting to start jumping on the scale constantly to see progress. If you do, you may see some pretty significant losses, which can be really motivating! But don't get discouraged when those numbers slow down a few weeks into the new plan.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a rapid weight-loss is normal in the first few weeks of almost any weight-loss program. When calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds onto water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that's mostly water (not body fat).
Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at

Member Comments

  • I'm on the scale at least twice a day. I measure all my progress by the scale. - 11/26/2014 10:21:01 AM
    8 morning post hard workout. Sore muscles make me heavier.
    I measure daily but don't believe ANY reading until I see the 3 day trend. - 11/25/2014 9:39:55 AM
  • The key for me is to understand "fluctuate" which means up AND down. If it only goes up, I need an honest look at what I'm doing, The only way for me to stay in my goal range is to weigh in every morning. Avoiding the scale is how I gained the weight in the first place. - 9/30/2014 6:54:02 AM
  • I use the scale at the gym and tried cutting it down to once every other week... just to give myself a little more time to see progress - still leaves me depressed! Thanks for the article! - 9/29/2014 9:51:09 AM
  • I am having the opposite problem. I am losing weight , but not inches. I have lost 10 lbs and zero inches in the last two months? - 8/10/2014 7:47:14 PM
  • I really hate the scale. I know that the weight lose on the scale isn't everything but for me it is the devil . It just throws me into a tail spin if I have been good and I haven't lost anything. So I try to stay away from it. - 7/31/2014 1:19:49 AM
  • This article helps tremendously in not being too dependant on the scale. My personal trainer had told me never to weigh after exercise or it won't be accurate. I think the trick is not to let the scale discourage you. I used to allow this then gave up on my weight loss. But not anymore! I'm in it for the long haul. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? - 7/30/2014 1:48:38 PM
  • While I understand the philosophy behind not weighing yourself every day, if I do that, I will have a problem. I use daily weight as a guideline for how I am doing. I know that one or two pounds up is not really a problem, but I do try and figure out why and how I can behave differently. If I only weighed once a week, and I was up 5 lbs, then the next week I was up another 5 lbs, it would be much harder to recover. - 7/23/2014 6:04:08 PM
  • I also agree with the philosophy of weighing myself every morning, as a matter of course, before I get in the shower. I don't think it is obsessive at all and agree with others statements that it is more accurate than once a week, which can be very discouraging if you catch yourself at an "up" moment.

    In fact, it is when I get away from weighing myself every day that I find it is easy to ignore what I am actually doing and slip into bad habits. I did this the last few months and am paying the price for it now with a greatly unwanted weight gain. When you are weighing yourself every day, it is difficult to deny you are off track if the scale is going consistently up. - 6/5/2014 2:55:44 PM
  • I take issue with the idea that daily weights are "bad". Like anything, it's all in how you interpret your data points. As long as you understand the normal fluctuations of body weight it makes MORE sense to weigh frequently and look at trends. If I only weighed once a week and happened to catch myself on an off day, I'd be far more discouraged that I am looking at my weight as a trend line.
    I write each day's weight on the mirror with a dry-erase marker; it really makes the loss obvious that way even when it's not a linear progression. - 6/4/2014 7:42:21 PM
  • We do once-a-day weigh-ins (first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom), but then take an average of the week's measures and track the changes in the weekly average. - 6/4/2014 2:50:35 PM
  • This article made me laugh... Pretty much too many factors to even BOTHER with weight! Use pictures or the mirror!!!! - 6/4/2014 12:17:42 PM
    I weigh myself every day, but that's because one higher sodium meal the night before a weekly weigh-in can throw you all off. Any of the things in the article the day before can do it, so I don't find that as accurate. It also helps me see the consequences of my food choices (I'm a recovering junk food addict) and keep me away from them if I want my numbers to go down a little every few days. I don't get obsessed with it - I understand it's all about averages and even more so about the size I'm losing, not the number on the scale. Good article though! Lots of truth to it. - 6/4/2014 11:55:25 AM
  • The day after eating ANY Chinese food - even if it is steamed veggies with chicken in ginger sauce. Also? A day or two after eating Chipotle - even if you've skipped the rice. Anytime you've eaten something super salty it is good to avoid the scale for a day or so because it can really mess with your head. Every time I eat Chinese food I gain two pounds, even if it is from their "light" menu. - 4/8/2014 11:01:15 AM
  • I just learnt my lessons about weighing as a woman. I am sure I want to weigh just once a month now, that should work better for me. - 4/5/2014 7:34:19 AM

x Lose 10 Pounds by January 30! Get a FREE Personalized Plan