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The Science of Scale Fluctuations (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of the previous post. Find Part 1 here.)

Weight Loss Isn’t Linear

Like I previously stated, 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 place while moving at the same pace, you are going to land on a different number from day to day.

If you are looking for change, then you have to watch the overall pattern to understand where you really fall. That is of course, if you think the scale should matter in the first place. That’s 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 a 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 and muscle mass. As you increase in fat and muscle, water will also increase at a steady rate. This is why scale numbers can increase so quickly for some people as weight is added.

You don’t normally gain six pounds of fat when you go up six pounds on the scale. Depending on the setup of your body, you can gain two pounds of fat and four pounds of water; and therefore, the reverse is also true.

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

Larger deficits can cause stalls or plateaus at a faster 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, the majority of the time a more severe deficit (>800) is going to provide more linear results.

The “Whoosh” Factor

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

The “whoosh” can happen for any number of reasons—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 lose the water within and the “whoosh” is born.

The exact trigger that brings this about is unknown. Some hypothesize that it is much like water and carb loading. The body loads 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 cells with water and doesn’t extract it until it is positive 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 them. I myself have found them to be hit and miss. The best method thus far is in The Water Manual in the section, “Method: Water-Only Manipulation.It appears that 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 goes down.

For those of you who own the book and would like to give it a shot if you feel you are retaining, feel free to report your results to me. If you want the manual, it comes as a part of 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 will experience less stalls, therefore you experience less “whooshes.”

The Missing Pounds

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

Below I am going to write out three different scenarios. I will tell you my conclusion at the end, but first it is up to you to figure out what the problem is on your own. 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″, weighs 270 pounds, and is at 39% body fat. He has an average daily deficit of 20%. On weekdays he hits lower numbers than on weekends which puts him in a bounce situation. In the beginning, he saw more linear loss but has been stuck at the same weight for four weeks. What could be a logical reason for Bob weighing the same?

Case #2 – Jane

Jane is 5’4″, weighs 131 pounds, and her body fat percentage is 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 eight weeks, Jane started a lifting program and is really progressing in her weights. She basically eats the same thing everyday so she knows the stall is not being caused by her food intake. She barely sees any movement on the scale; it has remained basically the same for seven weeks. Seven weeks is way too long, what is wrong here?

Case #3 – Carol

Carol has been dieting for 12 weeks. She is 5’7″ and weighs 244 pounds. She has been eating five to six meals per day, training four times per week, and following a food point system. She started Week 1 at 240 lbs. She is up four pounds. What is the problem?

The Answers:

Case #1 – Bob

Bob just isn’t in that large of a deficit. A deficit of 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 a half pound of muscle per week. That rate can be faster for a beginner especially. Also remember, increased training means an increase in glycogen storage. So it would seem that Jane is actually doing very well to be staying the same weight instead of it 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 for 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?

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