Is the Scales Accurate?


Too often, we believe what the scales is telling us rather than what new habits we have formed, leaving us discouraged and frustrated rather than celebrating success. We can sometimes forget that the overall number on the scales includes a combination of muscle, fat , bone and water weight. 

 Fat loss effectively comes from calorie deficit; either less food than you normally eat or burning more calories through increased activity however there are other influences. 

Skeletal muscle composes up to 40% of the adult human body weight and is influenced by genetics, physical activity, nutrition, hormones and disease.

Having more muscle creates a higher demand for energy, since muscle will need to maintain itself at rest and during exercise. Perhaps one of the most meaningful benefits of resistance training during a reduced-calorie intake intervention is that it helps to prevent the loss of fat-free mass (muscle). So muscle is good for our metabolism i.e. our body’s ability to burn fat.

 Our weight can fluctuate wildly over the course of a 24-48 hour period, by up to five to six pounds.

 Here are 5 Reasons Why The Scales May Fluctuate:

1. What did you eat or drink today? All food and water have water weight to them and can influence your weight on a daily basis which is why I don’t recommend weighing yourself on a daily basis. Try aiming to weigh yourself once per week and at the same time each week for more accurate results.

2.How much salt did you have today? Consuming salt will make you retain water. The more water you are holding, the more you will weigh. If you want to decrease the amount of water your body retains unnecessarily, reduce the amount of salt in your diet and increase your water and eat your electrolytes.              

  • Calcium: Vegetables (e.g., asparagus, collard greens, dried apricots and figs), Cows Milk and Milk Products.

  • Magnesium – Leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, kale), whole grains, nuts,

  • Potassium – Cooked spinach, sweet potato, bananas, avocado, peas, kidney beans, tomatoes,

Make these electrolyte-rich foods part of your daily foods.

 3.How much  carbohydrates are you consuming  

No, not all carbohydrates are bad but eating carbohydrates can make you hold onto water.

Low-carb diets, especially very low-carb diets, may lead to greater short-term weight loss than do low-fat diets. But most studies have found that at 12 or 24 months, the benefits of a low-carb diet are not very large.

Which is why people often lose a lot of water weight when following a low carb diet. A moderate amount of carbohydrates are recommended particularly in the form of fibre.

 3.Ladies, what time of the month is it?   Your menstrual cycle will also likely cause water retention, increasing or stalling the scales

4.Fewer Visits to the bathroom today? This will mean increased water weight so ensuring to drink plenty of water throughout the day is key to supporting the elimination of water in the body

While there are a number of things that can impact your weight it’s likely that the scales may not be as accurate a measure for weight loss as once thought. Instead of the scales, why not try the following ways to track your progress other than the Scales: 

  • Take your measurements at different areas of the body to see where you're losing inches.

Body measurements, here are the principal measurements that you could use to track your progress over 4-6 weeks using a tape measure:

  • Chest: Measure all the way around your bust and back on the line of your chest

  • Waist: Measure its narrowest point, usually just across the belly button

  • Hips: Measure all the way around the widest part of the hip bones

  • Upper arm: Measure above your elbows, around the fullest part

  • Take a photo for yourself, in similar clothes and in same place every month or 6 weeks, giving yourself a chance to compare how you look.

  • Go by how your clothes fit, are they loser?

  • Keep a food journal

 Remember that your journey to a healthier life is a marathon, not a sprint!

 Changes from day to day are practically meaningless and incredibly difficult to quantify, so go with changes over a longer period of time, what’s more important is what you are doing each day and working on improving your healthier habits.  

References: 1, 2


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Elaine Baxter is a Nutritionist, weight loss expert and founder of Food Wise Weight Clinic based in Enfield, Co Meath Ireland. Elaine has a particular interest in the role our gut plays plays with our health, after experiencing her own digestive issues, she overcame these symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. Food Wise provides one to one coaching, empowering people to make changes including simple mindset techniques.

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