Weight loss spurts
October 21, 2004 7:33 AM   Subscribe

DietFilter: I'm on a diet, and losing weight, which is nice. But in weird spurts, which is, well, weird. I sit at approximately the same weight for 2 weeks. Then I lose 5 pounds in 2 days. Then I sit at that new weight for 2 weeks. Repeat. This seems weird to me, but I've never watched my weight this closely while dieting before. Is this how it usually goes, or am I just weird?

Weird, I tell you. Weird.
posted by jacquilynne to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Have you tried a different scale? I've see the same kind of uh, weird pattern and I suspect it's our scale's calibration or sensitivity being a bit off, rather than a sudden loss of pounds.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2004

Your weight will vary from day to day for various reasons. Between the amount of food in your digestive system, the amount of water you drink, and measurement error, a variation of five pounds is not unusual.

So if you really want to follow it that closely, a more reliable approach is to use a moving average, which is easily done as described in The Hacker's Diet.
posted by sfenders at 8:10 AM on October 21, 2004

It might be that you are indeed losing overall weight from your body, but when you notice the big drops, it's really only water weight.

I don't think your experience is odd at all. I believe this is a common phenomenon, and it's called 'hitting a plateau' or something to that effect. One of the secrets of successful dieting is to not get discouraged during the days of stasis.
posted by naxosaxur at 8:10 AM on October 21, 2004

I'm thinking it's your scale. My first (digital) scale developed a "memory" where it wouldn't budge until I lost 2 or 3 pounds. My new scale is better, but I still don't trust it. I'd hate to spend even more money on this little project but I may have to...
posted by JoanArkham at 8:27 AM on October 21, 2004

I have also experienced the strange fluxs. I have agraph of my weight (self link) that shows this.

Thanks for the rolling average link sfenders....I will look into implementing that on my site
posted by mmascolino at 8:33 AM on October 21, 2004

This has been happening to a friend of mine. Some weeks she loses nothing, other weeks as much as six pounds, with no discernible change in regime between weeks.
It can be pretty depressing if you lose nothing between weighings when you feel like you've been flogging yourself. This of course is why they recommend only weighing once a week, but I wonder whether it is useful to keep a daily chart so you can see an overall down trend as mmascolino has done.
posted by biffa at 8:55 AM on October 21, 2004

That's been my experience, too. I don't understand the mechanism, but that's how it seems to work. I tend to hold steady and then lose about once a week. Sometimes the loss is preceeded by a gain.

I think there are so many factors in weight (hydration, water retention, food in your gut) that measuring it is a pretty messy process. As sfenders mentioned, John Walker gives a good treatment of the phenomenon in The Hacker's Diet.

It's important to be patient and not to give up just because you seem to have hit a plateu when in reality, it's just the way it goes.
posted by callmejay at 9:04 AM on October 21, 2004

Response by poster: I'm actually using the hacker's diet tools so I have the rolling average thing in my spreadsheets. But it means I weigh in every single day, so I'm really aware of the strange patterns the actual measurements take. I try to keep the measurements as consistent as possible (to the point that I won't let the people at Curves weigh me in, because it wouldn't be second thing in the morning, while unclothed, on my scale, and I don't need random weigh ins that include my running shoes messing with my mind) though I know hydration and elimination still play a big part in how much I weigh.

I'm sure it's not my scale, which is not digital.

To give you more of an idea, these are my last few weeks of measurements, with the sudden drops in bold:

304, 304, 305, 304.5, 304, 305, 304.5, 305, 304, 302, 300, 300, 300, 301, 301, 300, 300.5, 301, 301, 302, 301, 300, 297.5, 295, 295, 294, 295, 295, 295, 294.5, 294.5, 295, 294, 294, 295, 295, 292

I'm willing to bet that tomorrow's number will be slightly lower than 292, as well, and this will be yet another drop cycle, after which I will hover at 290-1 for a couple of weeks.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2004

Are you exercizing, too? If it's an exercize routine that's new to you, you will initially build muscle, which is much heavier than fat.

Whenever I start a new exercize routine, I notice initial bloating and no weight loss, potentially even making me look heavier until my body adjusts. Eating well and resting between exercize days seems to get this period of bloating/muscle gain over more quickly, eventually getting me to the point of burning calories efficiently and losing weight.
posted by Shane at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2004

i'd be inclined to say you're dropping water weight too.

When I haven't been hydrating properly (ie, monday after binge drinking all weekend), i'll be five pounds lighter than what I usually weigh in at during the middle of the week.
posted by fishfucker at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2004

Are you on a low-carb diet, by any chance? I did Atkins a couple years ago and I noticed that my weight loss came in spurts...in fact, on a lot of low-carb websites they called this phenomenon a "whoosh." Of course, I can find no scientific data as to why the weight was whooshing, but it was comforting knowing that others were experiencing the same thing.

[Incidentally, kudos to you for your weight loss so far!]
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:55 AM on October 21, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not on a low-carb plan, I'm doing Weight Watchers and going to Curves, though I only started Curves a month ago and have been dieting since June.

I can't even begin to tell you all how comforting it is to know that this isn't abnormal. I've been sort of semi freaking out about it for last month and a half or so, and it's really nice to get some reassurance that it's pretty much expected.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:13 AM on October 21, 2004

I'm sure it's not my scale, which is not digital.

It could still be your scale. Analog scales work (and digital bathroom scale as well, as far as I know) by displaying the amount of compression of a spring inside and springs can have non-linear compression - in other words the scale could be more or less sensitive at different weights. That might result in what look like "sticking points", which could account for your weight "sticking" around 304, 301, 295, and, so far, 292.

Plus it seems like you're focusing on too small weight changes that even if they are detectable by your scale could be more noise than signal. So using a moving average or weighing yourself less often seem like good ideas. However, I've never dieted (please don't hate me) so feel free to ignore the last part.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:15 PM on October 21, 2004

Yay WW! Me too (17 pounds and counting). Once you have been on the plan for a few months and look at your average weekly weight loss, it should work out to about a pound a week and you'll know you're on track.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:06 PM on October 21, 2004

mmascolino: weigh trends uses the hackers diet and a neat flash interface to track your weight gain/loss over time. it can also spit out a png graph for your website.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:12 PM on October 21, 2004

This is how it works.

There are a lot of reasons for it, including water retention, glycogen storage in the liver, and, er, elimination patterns.

This is why most diet books recommend that you weigh yourself only once a week; or, if you insist on weighing yourself every day, that you plot your trend rather than obsessing about each daily fluctuation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:01 PM on October 21, 2004

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