The Science of Scale Fluctuations (cont.)

(This is a continuation of the first part. You can find it here.)

Weight Loss isn’t Linear

Like I stated before there are so many ways you can change the course of your weigh-ins. Unless you eat the exact same thing every day and do the exact same things, in the same city, and moving at the same pace, you are going to land at a different point from day to day.

If looking for change then you have to watch the overall pattern to understand where you are really falling. That is of course, if you think the scale should matter in the first place. That is a different story though isn’t it?

The problem is that weight loss isn’t linear. Fat loss has shown to be more linear, but weight loss isn’t at all. What this means is that weight loss hardly ever has constant downward progression. There are usually two main determining factors for this.

1-Body fat percentage

2-Severity of Deficit

If you provide the same percentage of deficit for a male at 29% body fat and a male at 12% body fat you are going to see a much faster rate of weight loss for the male with larger body fat. Larger bodies store more water along with their fat mass and muscle mass. As you increase in fat and muscle you will also increase at a steady rate with water. This is why we can see someone just increase so fast in the scales as the weight comes on.

You don’t normally gain 6 pounds of fat when you go up 6 pounds on the scale. Depending on your body’s setup you can gain 2 pounds of fat and 4 pounds of water. Therefore the reverse is also true.

With deficit severity if you provided 2 females at 30% body fat with the exact same deficit they will, on average, lose at roughly the same rate. If you put one at a more extreme deficit, at least initially, the one with the large deficit is going to lose more excess water and more linear on the scale, at least in the beginning.

Larger deficits can bring stalls or plateaus at a quicker pace and since re-feeds and breaks are needed to help aid that, you will gain back the water you lost. Still, depending on how severe the diet and the situation, majority of the time a more severe deficit (>800) is going to provide more linear results.

The “Whoosh” Factor

The “whoosh” is when you are watching your weight day in and out and there is little to small changes even with big deficits. One day, out of nowhere, the scale will drop dramatically lower than it had been registering. This is known as a whoosh.

The “whoosh” could be any number of factors and no one knows for sure. One idea, and the one that makes the most sense, is that as fat cells empty, they refill with water. After a certain point and time, under unknown conditions, these cells alleviate the water and the “whoosh” is born.

The exact trigger that brings about this is unknown. Some hypothesize that it is much like water and carb loading. The body had loaded that area with stored fat, the fat leaves but the body isn’t sure yet that these areas don’t need to stay big and open for storage. So to protect itself it fills with water and doesn’t extract until it is sure that all systems are a go.

There has been a lot of correlations with re-feeds and whooshes, there has also been a lot of experiments with trying to time whooshes. I myself have found them to be hit and miss. The best method thus far is in the Water Manual in the section of “Method: Water-Only Manipulation.” It appears thus far using this method is best at triggering the whoosh and that even with the weight regain that is sure to follow after depletion, the overall trend is down.

For those of you who own the book and want to give it a shot if you feel you are retaining feel free to report to me your results. If you desire to have the manual you get it with the Fat Loss Troubleshoot package.

I will say that in order to see constant steady drops maintaining an adequate intake of minerals is key. With the right vitamins and electrolyte drinks I have found that you run into less stalls, therefore running into less whooshes.

The missing pounds

In this last section I want you to pull together all the information you have to understand how you can lose pounds of fat, but never see them on the scale.

Below I am going to write out 3 different scenarios. I will tell you my conclusion at the end, but it is up to you to figure it out on your own first what the problem is. I used to do this all the time in my “What did they do wrong” series. Perhaps I should bring it back?

Case# 1 – Bob

Bob is 5’8, 270, and 39% body fat. He has an average daily deficit of 20%. On weekdays he hits lower numbers than on weekends, putting him in a bounce situation with his numbers. In the beginning he saw more linear loss but has been stuck at the same weight for 4 weeks now. What could be a logical reason for Bob weighing the same?

Case#2 – Jane

Jane is 5’4, 131, body fat unknown. Jane teaches an aerobics class every night at her gym. She has been struggling for years to lose her final few pounds of body fat. Over the past 8 week Jane started to a lifting program and is really progressing in her weights. Jane basically eats the same thing everyday so she knows it isn’t her food intake causing the stall. She barely sees any movement on the scale and it has stayed basically the same for 7 weeks now. 7 weeks is way too long, what is wrong here?

Case#3 – Carol

Carol has been dieting for 12  weeks. She is 5’7 and 244 pounds. She has been eating 5-6 meals a day, training 4 times a week, and following a food point systems. She start at week 1 at 240 pounds. She is up 4 pounds. What is wrong?

The answers:

Case#1 – Bob

Bob just isn’t in that large of a deficit. 20% overall can mean little visual scale loss, especially if on the weekends he is eating higher sodium filled foods, which is very common.

Case#2 – Jane

The average woman with effort and newbie gains can gain approximately ½ pound of muscle a week. That rate can be faster in a beginner especially. Also remember with increased training that means increase in glycogen storage. So it would seem that Jane is actually doing very well to be staying the same weight instead of increasing. It is likely or at least very possible that Jane put on a few pounds of muscle and water, and dropped some body fat. We also have to take into account her already lean level which will increase her chance for muscle gains and body fat loss at the same time.

Case#3 – Carol

Carol is likely eating too much. She is also not tracking her food intake diligently. On top of that, the more aggressive the training on obese individuals the worse they are going to retain water. If she is new to training she could have added a little muscle as well. If carol targeted her intake better and hit a more aggressive deficit she would likely start to see the scale move.

So, how did you do? Did you master the logic of scale fluctuations?

Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. I do not claim to cure any cause, condition or disease. I do not provide medical aid or nutrition for the purpose of health or disease and claim to be a doctor or dietitian. This is merely an opinion blog. Read full disclaimer here -




  1. shari

    That was a great follow-up leigh Thank you!
    I like the “what did they do wrong” yes lets bring it back.
    Also it was a good reminder to look at my water manuel! I think I will pull that out today.

  2. Sheila

    Love the information, Leigh, keep it coming.  In the flts, you list efa pills as part of the meal plans.  I had already been taking 3 tbsp. of Udo’s oil blend a day based on two other training programs.  However, when I compared the fat and calories between the pills and the liquid form, I did notice I was taking in alot more fat/calories (although I was restricting starchy carbs to 2-3x daily).  Udo’s website indicates we should get 1 tbsp. per 50 lbs of bodyweight.  So my question is should I be taking in the smaller amount of fat via the pill form or is it ok to continue with the liquid form; if so, how much per day?  Thanks so much for your advice — I am going through menopause and the old methods don’t seem to be working anymore.  The internet is full of former “BFL” winners who are now all experts and I’m so frustrated with their narrowmindedness.  It is so refreshing to have your input.  Keep up with your creative endeavors as well —  you are talented and the world needs more of your expression.  Sheila         

  3. Sinead

    great follow up article, Leigh! I’d like to see the “what did they do wrong” feature more often, too; it’s a good way to let us troubleshoot for ourselves and see if we can see what the problems are. Maybe when we hit those problems ourselves, we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on. (by the way, I got Bob and Carol right!)

  4. Kim W

    Leigh, Great part 2….and love the what did they do wrong part. I wasn’t around when you did it in the past, and would love to see it pop in and out of your blog!

  5. etana finkler

    I think the lightbulb is switching on…

  6. Carra

    Neat articles.

    So how long would you say is too long to wait until you make a change if you aren’t seeing results. 9-10 weeks?

  7. Anna

    Awesome follow-up, Leigh. It’s amazing how often sometimes I need to hear something said to start finally “absorbing” it, so-to-speak. It’s so helpful to have these situations broken down.

  8. Amanda

    I’d also love to see the “What did they do wrong” feature! I’m another person who wasn’t around for the first series, but it sounds great. 🙂

  9. RJ

    Great series Leigh!   I think scale fluctuation/water weight is a very important subject for people to understand that want to “lose 10 pounds”  too many people stop their efforts when they hit this goal, not understanding that it will spring right back due to water fluctuations

  10. Matt

    Great stuff Leigh.

  11. Greg

    You mention that it doesn’t matter what the scale says unless you need to make weight. Can I use the water maunal for figuring that out?

  12. jeanne

    Perfect set of articles on this Leigh. I will make sure to pass it around.

  13. Jessie

    I am giving this to my wife. Actually I am going to nail this to the bathroom scale for my wife. Actually I am going to throw the scale out and leave the print out of this article in its place. LOL

  14. Leigh Peele

    Glad everyone is digging the article.  I will make sure to throw in more of the “what did they do wrong?” bits in the future.

    Greg-Yes you can use the Water manual for making a weight class.



  15. Susan

    I love this article! the whoosh part was very interesting, that seems to happen to me quite a bit, just this past couple of weeks, I weighed 169 then two days ago, I hit 168, this morning I was 165.8! now it may not stick around perhaps I was a bit dehydrated or whatnot, but past experience has been that it will only lower from there, but it seems to be delayed for sure…a week, sometimes two no change, then boom two pounds overnight! weird…anyhoo, thanks for the info, very cool!

  16. Muscle Guy

    I am not clear with your “whoosh factor”, it  would be nice of you, if you please try to explain it in a bit detail.

  17. Jim Doolittle

    Good set of articles. I log nutrition and exercise at I have noticed quite a few people there who have weight loss that is nearly perfectly linear. Doesn’t seem plausible to me and I won’t call them on it because their progess pics do show definite progress. In some cases, I think they are simply not reporting values that go up relative to previous value but there are other people who weigh nearly daily and show the same trend.

  18. RG

    So, I had a related experience today. As I mentioned elsewhere I’ve been dieting for ~10 weeks, and it’s gotten slow and I’m getting frustrated and wondering if I should just call myself done. I was hoping for another 4-8 pounds, but maybe my body knows something. I had a 1.5 pound whoosh on Friday and then ate a muffin, kept craving food and giving in. On Sunday I wrote what felt like an irritable comment here and I gave myself a talking to “that is not okay” and decided it was time to listen to my body. I ate some french bread pizza because I had the ingredients for it, and then Monday and Tuesday I kept eating carbs – a box of pretzels – plus 1/2 a bag of chocolate, 60 g of protein each day, a bag of broccoli, 2 pints of blueberries, high-fiber granola bars. Not complete junk, but close and basically what I “felt like”. I didn’t count calories though in my head I remembered it so I could look at the package later. I slept fitfully last night, and my morning had a 2 pound whoosh. That’s 3 days out of 5 of eating “whatever” at close to goal weight, lots of carbs, and looking at the calories I’d expect maintenance or a small gain. Maybe I’m allergic to chocolate? I’m expecting those pounds to reappear in the same way that excess salt pounds disappear, though it shows up in inches. I am hypo and female so I think something funny is going on hormonally and am wondering if I need to lower my thyroid med for weight loss, so I’ll make an appt to get that checked.

  19. Mike

    Hey Leigh, remember that poem I wrote to you, “The Whoosh that Wouldn’t”? You still have it somewhere? If you do, care to post it? I can’t locate it at the moment. I think folks would get a kick out of it. 🙂 Wonder if you could find an image to accompany it, I’m thinking like a Dr Seuss character with a spigot sticking out of his stomach. 🙂

  20. Laura

    Great article Leigh. I’ll have to go back and read the water manual. I honestly haven’t because I figured it was geared more towards competing with the water manipulation. I’ll have to give it a shot one of these days & report back. The fat cell theory is really interesting.

  21. Jim Doolittle

    Had a woosh this morning! Last night I was 199.6lb and this morning I was 192.4lb. had a BM but that doesn’t account for all that. My waist looks smaller as well. Weird!

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