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Why Your Weighing Scale May Lie?

August 3rd, 2009 · 6 Comments ·


I have a friend who weighs herself twice a day. Actually, daily weighing is unnecessary, yet many girls cannot resist to look at the scale every day. They step on it right after they wake up (before hey brush their teeth), step on it again right after they reach home. If you also do that everyday, you should familiarize yourself with few things that may influence its readings. Once you understand how these mechanisms work, you may free yourself from the daily battle with the bathroom scale.

First thing first, water makes up about 60% of our total body mass. Two factors influencing water retention are water consumption and salt intake. Excess salt (sodium) plays a big role in water retention. Salt is highly concentrated in salty chips, nuts, and crackers. However, a food does not have to taste salty to be loaded with sodium. The more highly processed a food is, the more likely it has high sodium content. Therefore, it is better to stick to the basic unprocessed food like fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meat, beans, and whole grains. Check out my article of How Much Salt Should You Eat and How To Reduce Salt Intake?

Most people tend to forget about the actual weight of the food they eat. Swallowing a bunch of food before you step on the scale is no different than putting a bunch of rocks in your pocket. The 2 pounds that you gain right after a huge dinner is not fat. It is the actual weight of the food and drink.

In order to store 1 pound of fat into your body, you need to eat at least 3,500 calories. In other words, to actually convert dinner entirely to be 5 pounds of fat, it would have to contain a whopping 17,500 calories. This is not likely. So, when the scale goes up 3 or 4 pounds overnight, don’t worry, its likely to be water and the weight of your dinner.

Keep in mind that the 3,500 calorie rule works in reverse also. In order to lose one pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in. Generally, it is only possible to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. When your weight drop by 10 pounds in 7 days, it is physically impossible for all of that to be fat. What you are really losing is water and potentially some muscles too.


The reason I mentioned about the above matters because they bring us to the scale’s behavior. Scale does not just weigh fat. It also weighs muscle, bone, fluid (blood), internal organs, hairs and even your fingernails. The problem with the scale is that it does not differentiate between all those stuffs. In fact, it does not even know how to differentiate between fat and weight. It also does not tell you how much of your total body weight is muscle and how much is fat.

Therefore, when you lose “weight,” that does not necessarily mean that all you have lost is fat. In fact, the scale has no way of telling you what you lost (or gained). If you lose muscle, not a good sign. Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns, even when you are just sitting around and not doing exercise. That is one of the reasons why a fit person with decent amount of muscles is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter.

In short, the next time you gain or lose weight within a short time, do not be too happy nor sad suddenly. Only time can tell whether the loss or gain is sustainable.


If you are really keen to find out about your fat loss progress, instead of just measuring the weight, measure your body fat too.  Check out the article of 4 Ways To Measure Body Fat.



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Category: Weight Loss

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6 responses so far ↓
  • mesho // Aug 3, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    just in time
    5 days ago I weighed and I was 57 kg after 3 days I weighed agian and it was 55 < I used two different Scales I was wondering how ??

  • Pin Tan // Aug 3, 2009 at 5:22 PM

    1st should stick to the same scale and what the number shown is not absolute. most of our scale are not calibrated. so don’t take the number too seriously. I also wanna say the weighing machine can only tell you your weight fluctuation, and not your absolute weight. Different scale give you slightly different number coz again they are not calibrated.

  • bsim // Aug 4, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    My weight is so consistent for the last three years but yet my pants size had gone down from M to S. Everyone has been telling me I’m “thin”. Have to admit that I’m not flabby like I used to be three years ago. The wonder of exercise!

  • Fittron // Aug 6, 2009 at 10:24 PM

    Great post. Very informative. I know a number of people who weigh themselves 3 or 4 times a day. It’s very counter productive because naturally we don’t see the results we want in checking every day.

    Focus on eating right and living healthy. Then the weight will take care of itself.

  • eitelj99 // Aug 25, 2009 at 10:09 PM

    You hit the nail on the head. I think many people believe that a scale is a measure of how “fat” they are, or it’s an accurate measurement of how much fat they’ve lost – That’s totally incorrect.

    In my opinion, if you are one of those people who tend to frequent the scale each day, you need to cut back to say once a day – in the morning is best. Weigh yourself the same time each morning – before coffee, breakfast, drinking any water, etc-. But remember, if burning fat is your goal, it’s more important how you look in the mirror and how well your pants fit than what the numbers on the scale are telling you.

  • Reestus Rat // Dec 20, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    A litre of water weighs 1kg, a decent dump will get rid of half a kilo. Until you get past 10kg difference you’re within the margin of error on your scales.

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