You’re exercising. You’re eating better. But the scale says you’ve gained weight! What gives? - Diligent Fitness

You’re exercising. You’re eating better. But the scale says you’ve gained weight! What gives?

14th January 2015 by Kieran Igwe Nutrition 0 comments

I got an email from someone in distress working through the 12in12 fat loss nutrition course.

Even though she’d lost 5 lbs and a few inches, her weight went up after two days of working on one of the new habits.

She wasn’t sure if it was coincidence, part of her monthly cycle, if she was doing something wrong or if the plan just flat-out wasn’t working.

In today’s post I wanted to share my reply and some ideas on what to do when you’re not making progress.

My response to the scale going up after losing weight:

Seeing the scale move up is frustrating for sure.

At the same time, 2 days is a short space of time to gain 2 lbs of fat. Which makes me think it’s fluid retention, not fat. Fluid comes and goes, making even the most dedicated student feel like they’re not making progress.

Each of these habits takes time to play out. And as much as I’d like it to, weight loss rarely happens in a linear fashion. There’ll be ups and downs on a day to day and even a week to week basis.

That makes it hard to evaluate how well something’s working over a short timeframe. So as long as the trend each month is moving in the right direction we’re golden.

The advice for now; keep doing what you’re doing. Stay focused on stopping at 80% full on each of the 4 meals. If the trend isn’t headed downward over the next 3 weeks then we’ll adjust.

One final tip that might help; only use the scale once per week for your weekly progress update. Although I understand that relying on the scale might be one of the hardest habits to change! K

The thing to try when you should be losing weight but aren’t

Ok, let’s say you’ve given it time. You’ve made an effort for a few weeks and aren’t seeing results on the scales. What now?


Let’s take a look at one simple truth the diet and exercise industry seems keen to keep us confused on. The one thing we need to do to make the scales go down.

Scale weight is mostly related to food quantity – how much you eat

While there are 1001 ways to modify how much you eat (see 1001 different diets), there’s only one variable that’ll consistently make the scales go up or down. And that’s how much you eat.

Sure, food quality’s important too. But what you eat relates more to your body fat % (how wobbly you are). Whereas how much you eat relates to what you weigh.

So if you’ve been working on losing weight for a few weeks and nothing’s happening on the scale it’s worth looking at how much you eat each day.

Record what you eat

The easiest way to start monitoring how much you eat isn’t by counting calories. But simply by recording everything you eat for seven days.

A few simple steps:

  1. 1. Print the meal diary (here’s copy:
  2. 2. Weigh yourself and write your weight at the top of day 1.
  3. 3. Write down anything and everything you eat and drink over the next 7 days.
  4. 4. Weigh yourself on the day 8 and write at the bottom of the meal diary

Ask me what I ate today and I’ll give you a rough account. I’ll probably forget the bar of chocolate I grabbed on the way to work. And the handful of nuts while waiting for my lunch. And the beer I drank while I made dinner.

So this only works if you record what you eat either while you’re having it or immediately after. Trying to recall what you had at the end of the day? Not so much.

Recording what you eat usually changes it for the better.

Keeping a food diary makes you accountable for what you eat. So you might find that writing down everything you eat is all you need to do to get the scales moving down.

If you lost weight after recording what you ate, good for you. Use your meal diary as your food plan for the week ahead.

If you stayed the same or gained weight then we need to find a way to reduce how much you eat next week.

My favourite ways to reduce how much you eat is to practice stopping each meal when you’re 80% full. A couple of strategies to help:

  • option 1) serve slightly smaller portions than you usually would at every meal
  • option 2) consciously leave a mouthful or two each time you eat

In practice if you have a bag of crisps for a snack practice leaving the last 3 or 4 in the bottom of the bag and throw away. If you normally have a large jacket potato with chilli for dinner choose a smaller potato for your jacket and serve a spoonful less chilli.

It’ll seem like a waste. Something inside you will resist and try to make you feel guilty for leaving it. But as soon as you’ve put that last bit of food in the bin you’ll remember the bigger goal and feel pretty smug.


Weight loss is rarely linear. There are ups and downs day to day and week to week. As long as the trend each month is downwards you’re on the right track.

Scale weight is mostly related to food quantity – how much you eat.

If you’re not losing weight (and you’ve given your plan a few weeks) try the meal diary and record what you eat for 7 days.

If you’ve recorded what you ate for 7 days and didn’t lose weight try one of the strategies for slightly reducing how much you eat each day.

Worst case scenario you’ll realise that right now you’re not in a place where you’re committed enough to record what you eat, which is cool.

Best case scenario you do the meal diary for 7 days, you lose weight and it gives you a blueprint for getting the results you want.

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