By Mary Perry, Zone Director of Clinical Trials
With the holiday season in full gear some of us may abandon the scale all together or wonder why there are big fluctuations from day to day.
Poorer eating habits, holiday parties, stress, lack of sleep and being out of routine are just some of the culprits. Here are some other contributors to a fluctuating scale.
1. Hydration/Sodium Intake: Hydration status is a major factor in weight fluctuations, especially when the changes are in the 3-5-pound range. Caffeine tends to take the place of water this time of year. If you haven’t been as diligent at keeping your body hydrated over the course of a day, it may appear as though you’ve lost weight. This will be short lived until you return to a hydrated state. The same holds true if you’ve increased your sodium intake over the day (think processed foods). This will cause your body to retain fluids, which will be reflected by an increase on the scale.
2. Carbohydrate Intake: Carbohydrates are known to store water so if you’ve had a day where you’ve consumed more carbohydrates than normal (e.g., candy in the office, goodies at home, holiday parties), you’ll likely see the scale jump at your next weigh-in. Don’t stress, as these habits would have to be repeated daily for it to be true weight gain. This is the reason why those who start on a low-carbohydrate eating plan will often see a significant decrease in weight their first week as they lose the water that accompanied their higher-carbohydrate intake.
3. Hormones: The holiday season can definitely result in hormonal fluctuations between the stress of getting things done, lack of sleep and the various social situations we encounter this time of year. This may lead to changes in eating habits that can cause temporary bloating and weight gain.
4. Constipation: No need to elaborate here, but one thing worth noting is that if you’ve increased your fiber intake and you’re not taking in enough fluids, it can result in constipation. On the flip side if you’ve been relying on take-out and convenience foods and you’re fruit and vegetable consumption isn’t at the level it typically is, the same may hold true.
5. Weight-Lifting: Keeping up with our exercise routine may be one way to combat some of the weight fluctuations this time of year as well as the stress. If you see the scale go up after starting a weight-lifting routine or changing up your current routine, don’t get discouraged. Weight training can cause tiny tears in muscle, which can lead to temporary fluid retention.
6. Medications/Medical Conditions: There are certain medical conditions known to cause fluid retention as well as medications that can aid in getting rid of that excess fluid. This time of year can be tricky for those on these types of medications due to changes in eating habits. Always check with your physician and read the back of the label to know the side effects and be mindful of your hydration status. As we age, our sense of thirst lessens, which is why dehydration is a big issue in an aging population, especially when they are taking these types of medications.