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  #1   ^
Old Sun, Feb-24-08, 10:48
cricket56's Avatar
cricket56 cricket56 is offline
Registered Member
Posts: 6,654
Plan: my own low carb
Stats: 100/100/100 Male 50.0 inches
Progress: 100%
Default Why The SCALE CAN LIE

I thought this might be of help to anyone like me who wanted to toss the scale out the window!


by Renee Cloe,
ACE Certified Personal Trainer

A biologist at Berkeley shared something very revealing on the low-carb BBS system about 4 years ago that helps us all through the erratic weight fluctuations you invariably encounter: Fat cells are resilient, stubborn little creatures that do not want to give up their actual cell volume. Over a period of weeks, maybe months of "proper dieting", each of your fat cells may have actually lost a good percentage of the actual fat contained in those cells. But the fat cells themselves, stubborn little guys, replace that lost fat with water to retain their size. That is, instead of shrinking to match the reduced amount of fat in the cell, they stay the same size! Result - you weigh the same, look the same, maybe even gained some scale weight, even though you have actually lost some serious fat.

The good news is that this water replacement is temporary. It's a defensive measure to keep your body from changing too rapidly. It allows the fat cell to counter the rapid change in cell composition, allowing for a slow, gradual reduction in cell size. The problem is, most people are frustrated with their apparent lack of success, assume they have lost nothing, and stop dieting.

However, if you give those fat cells some time, like 4-6 months, and ignore the scale weight fluctuations, your real weight/shape will slowly begin to show. The moral of the story - be patient! Your body is changing even if the number on the scale isn't.


Common patterns of weight loss from tracking a lot of people who become assimilated into the low carb lifestyle, a pattern emerges.... the 2 week induction is pretty heady...weight lost just about every single day, enormous and unbelievable amounts of weight loss are reported. This is often followed by complaints that weight loss "stalls" or that the rate drops to only 1 pound per week.

Many people just don't know that fat-loss ...the actual goal when on a weight-reduction" diet, is rate-limited. In other words, the human body has factors that prevent more than a certain amount of fatty-acid release from storage...and even more factors that prevent those released fatty acids from being used up instead of stored back into the fat cells.

A priority of the human body is survival. Anything that threatens its survival results in the cascade of events to maintain the previous status quo. Water fluctuations are one way the body does this. you done good on Atkins' during induction...lost 10 pounds the first 2 weeks. Maybe 7 the first week and 3 the second. But, whoa! Weeks 3 and 4 there is NO loss! And weeks 5 and 6 is only 1/2 pound each!

So... what gives? Initially, the body jettisons the water attached to the glycogen stores that we diligently deplete to get into ketosis...this accounts for about 3-5 pounds of water. In addition, muscle stores of glycogen are not being replaced when used...which will account for the rest. All in all...MAYBE 1/2 pound of fat was metabolized during the first week... and MAYBE 1/2 pound of fat was metabolized the 2nd week. Of that 10 initial pounds, only 1 pound was fat and 9 pounds water...

The body senses this lack and sirens start shrieking: Warning! Warning! Losing water... new to get back to the status quo! Brain tells body to produce and release that vasopressin anti-diuretic hormone....more water is retained, and no weight loss noticed. Fat loss is still occurring, MAYBE even 2 pounds per week, because ketosis is firmly established and appetite suppression is in effect...but water retention is hiding that continuing fat loss. The body is preventing dehydration with this mechanism, and that's a *good* thing.

From the perspective of the scale, it can be discouraging. Which is why the mantra: Water retention masks fat loss (repeated frequently to oneself) is helpful. Water retention will mask ongoing fat-loss for as long as the body retains the water. We can combat this by drinking more water...but we aren't going to totally overcome this mechanism during the initial water-loss phase of the Atkins diet. By weeks 5 and 6, things start to get back in balance, and the scale will begin to reflect the true fat-loss...which, as mentioned before is rate-limited.

Individuals vary, but max weight loss runs about 2 pounds per week...under extremely optimal conditions... or 1% of body weight (whichever is the lower number). So don't use the scale as an excuse to undermine your progress. Even when the scale is in a stall, fat loss can be occurring.


We've been told over an over again that daily weighing is unnecessary, yet many of us can't resist peeking at that number every morning. If you just can't bring yourself to toss the scale in the trash, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the factors that influence it's readings. From water retention to glycogen storage and changes in lean body mass, daily weight fluctuations are normal. They are not indicators of your success or failure. Once you understand how these mechanisms work, you can free yourself from the daily battle with the bathroom scale.

Water makes up about 60% of total body mass. Normal fluctuations in the body's water content can send scale-watchers into a tailspin if they don't understand what's happening. Two factors influencing water retention are water consumption and salt intake. Strange as it sounds, the less water you drink, the more of it your body retains. If you are even slightly dehydrated your body will hang onto it's water supplies with a vengeance, possibly causing the number on the scale to inch upward. The solution is to drink plenty of water.

Excess salt (sodium) can also play a big role in water retention. A single teaspoon of salt contains over 2,000 mg of sodium. Generally, we should only eat between 1,000 and 3,000 mg of sodium a day, so it's easy to go overboard. Sodium is a sneaky substance. You would expect it to be most highly concentrated in salty chips, nuts, and crackers. However, a food doesn't have to taste salty to be loaded with sodium. A half cup of instant pudding actually contains nearly four times as much sodium as an ounce of salted nuts, 460 mg in the pudding versus 123 mg in the nuts.

The more highly processed a food is, the more likely it is to have a high sodium content. That's why, when it comes to eating, it's wise to stick mainly to the basics: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, beans, and whole grains. Be sure to read the labels on canned foods, boxed mixes, and frozen dinners.

Women may also retain several pounds of water prior to menstruation. This is very common and the weight will likely disappear as quickly as it arrives. Pre-menstrual water-weight gain can be minimized by drinking plenty of water, maintaining an exercise program, and keeping high-sodium processed foods to a minimum.

Another factor that can influence the scale is glycogen. Think of glycogen as a fuel tank full of stored carbohydrate. Some glycogen is stored in the liver and some is stored the muscles themselves. This energy reserve weighs more than a pound and it's packaged with 3-4 pounds of water when it's stored. Your glycogen supply will shrink during the day if you fail to take in enough carbohydrates.

As the glycogen supply shrinks you will experience a small imperceptible increase in appetite and your body will restore this fuel reserve along with it's associated water. It's normal to experience glycogen and water weight shifts of up to 2 pounds per day even with no changes in your calorie intake or activity level. These fluctuations have nothing to do with fat loss, although they can make for some unnecessarily dramatic weigh-ins if you're prone to obsessing over the number on the scale.

Otherwise rational people also tend to forget about the actual weight of the food they eat. For this reason, it's wise to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before you've had anything to eat or drink. Swallowing a bunch of food before you step on the scale is no different than putting a bunch of rocks in your pocket. The 5 pounds that you gain right after a huge dinner is not fat. It's the actual weight of everything you've had to eat and drink. The added weight of the meal will be gone several hours later when you've finished digesting it.

Exercise physiologists tell us that in order to store one pound of fat, you need to eat 3,500 calories more than your body is able to burn. In other words, to actually store the above dinner as 5 pounds of fat, it would have to contain a whopping 17,500 calories. This is not likely, in fact it's not humanly possible. So when the scale goes up 3 or 4 pounds overnight, rest easy, it's likely to be water, glycogen, 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's only possible to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week. When you follow a very low calorie diet that causes your weight to drop 10 pounds in 7 days, it's physically impossible for all of that to be fat. What you're really losing is water, glycogen, and muscle.

This brings us to the scale's sneakiest attribute. It doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, water, internal organs and all. When you lose "weight," that doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost fat. In fact, the scale has no way of telling you what you've lost (or gained). 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're just sitting around. That's one reason why a fit, active person is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue.

Robin Landis, author of "Body Fueling," compares fat and muscles to feathers and gold. One pound of fat is like a big fluffy, lumpy bunch of feathers, and one pound of muscle is small and valuable like a piece of gold. Obviously, you want to lose the dumpy, bulky feathers and keep the sleek beautiful gold. The problem with the scale is that it doesn't differentiate between the two. It can't tell you how much of your total body weight is lean tissue and how much is fat.

There are several other measuring techniques that can accomplish this, although they vary in convenience, accuracy, and cost. Skin-fold calipers pinch and measure fat folds at various locations on the body, hydrostatic (or underwater) weighing involves exhaling all of the air from your lungs before being lowered into a tank of water, and bioelectrical impedance measures the degree to which your body fat impedes a mild electrical current.

If the thought of being pinched, dunked, or gently zapped just doesn't appeal to you, don't worry. The best measurement tool of all turns out to be your very own eyes. How do you look? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are your rings looser? Do your muscles feel firmer? These are the true measurements of success. If you are exercising and eating right, don't be discouraged by a small gain on the scale. Fluctuations are perfectly normal. Expect them to happen and take them in stride.

It's a matter of mind over scale.

Last edited by Kristine : Sun, Feb-24-08 at 16:57. Reason: fixing formatting
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  #2   ^
Old Sun, Feb-24-08, 12:05
Ptrcmcc6's Avatar
Ptrcmcc6 Ptrcmcc6 is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 4,570
Plan: Eating healthier
Stats: 185/178/150 Female 5 feet 3 inches
Progress: 20%
Location: Jersey Shore

Very interesting reading. Although I'm a scale-a-holic I tend to really not let the numbers bother me anymore. Of course, I'm excited when I see the numbers go down but I've learned to accept the fact I am eating healthier and as long as I continue to eat this way.....the numbers will eventually go down. No matter how slowly it takes........ .
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  #3   ^
Old Tue, Mar-04-08, 05:54
XSugarBabe's Avatar
XSugarBabe XSugarBabe is offline
Registered Member
Posts: 52
Plan: Atkins Induction 4eva
Stats: 393.8/290.4/198.0 Female 6' 1"
BF:Not today thanks
Progress: 53%
Location: SA

Thanks for sharing this Cricket! You always seem to find some gems to read.
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  #4   ^
Old Fri, Mar-21-08, 18:04
rachelratz's Avatar
rachelratz rachelratz is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 420
Plan: Atkins
Stats: 148/108/108 Female 5'3"
Progress: 100%

Be patient..thats what I tell other people on low carb diets. I put away the scale. The only time I knew something was happening was my clothes were starting to fall off of me. I tightened by belt and walked around looking like an orphan. It was nearly 6 months when I looked at the scale again. I went from 148lbs to 109lbs. I went from a 12 to a 0. That was over 7 years ago. Currently I weigh myself about once a month.
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  #5   ^
Old Fri, Mar-21-08, 18:37
cricket56's Avatar
cricket56 cricket56 is offline
Registered Member
Posts: 6,654
Plan: my own low carb
Stats: 100/100/100 Male 50.0 inches
Progress: 100%

When I originally posted this, it was in one moved to another. This is the only one I ever see it on any more.
I am having the stalls and scale mambo so often I could be on "so you think you can dance"!
I don't obsess at the number ( but lets face it, it helps) and go by the clothes as well. BUT when the numbers just sit there or go up I have to sit and remember this article. This is a way of life, but it would be nice for it to be a way of life at my goal weight! This is 4 1/2 months now and 30 pounds... maybe 1-2 more maybe 1-2 less..depends on the day and scale!
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  #6   ^
Old Wed, Apr-30-08, 09:21
DarkFairy's Avatar
DarkFairy DarkFairy is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 259
Plan: Atkins - Kinda
Stats: 255/255/155 Female 5 feet 6 inches
BF:Well yeah duh!!
Progress: 0%
Location: Texas

You are a God sent for posting this and them telling me about it. I just love you to bits. thank you I will no longer look at my scale and scream!
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  #7   ^
Old Wed, Apr-30-08, 09:42
pamlynn's Avatar
pamlynn pamlynn is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 639
Plan: LC
Stats: 248.4/245.4/170 Female 5' 6 "
Progress: 4%
Location: Michigan

So glad to actually see this information with my own eyes. This is pretty much the way I feel about my scale weight. I KNOW I'm losing fat by the way my clothes fit, by how people are noticing the fat loss and by looking in my mirror. If I know I'm on point with my WOE, but get on the scale (once a week) and it has me up a pound or two, I just don't sweat it because all these other things are going on and that's my REAL proof, not the scale. Thanks so much for the validation!!
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  #8   ^
Old Thu, May-01-08, 07:50
cricket56's Avatar
cricket56 cricket56 is offline
Registered Member
Posts: 6,654
Plan: my own low carb
Stats: 100/100/100 Male 50.0 inches
Progress: 100%

Thanks to everyone for all your constant support! I know that this article helped me so very much. Although like so many others here, I couldn't understand why the scale just did horrid things when I was being so careful! This made it so clear to see it in print. Now I still wake up, take a deep breath and step up most every morning but the big difference is that I also say to myself before I do that is ' ok.let's see if the loss SHOWS here or am I retaining water..'
I know I am losing weight but understand that the scale is just an indicator as are my clothes and how I feel..all indicators and in the long run, they all are pieces to my puzzle.
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  #9   ^
Old Thu, May-01-08, 14:59
NoWhammies's Avatar
NoWhammies NoWhammies is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 5,936
Plan: keto ancestral/IF
Stats: 330/189/140 Female 5'4"
Progress: 74%
Location: Southwestern Washington

Hoping this is the case as I move into the eighth week of stall with no weight loss, no inch loss in spite of clean eating....
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  #10   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 10:55
sargondizz's Avatar
sargondizz sargondizz is offline
New Member
Posts: 9
Plan: Induction until goal
Stats: 327/317/199 Female 65 inches
Progress: 8%
Location: NYC
Default Thank god for this post!

I have been on induction for 3 weeks now and lost 15.5lbs the first 2 weeks only. My weight lose just stopped on week 3. I was very depressed this weekend and now I feel much better.

Thank you for taking the time to post this. It really makes a difference in my life
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  #11   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 14:30
ruthla ruthla is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 2,011
Plan: Protein Power
Stats: 190/169/140 Female 62 inches
Progress: 42%
Location: New York

Thank you so much for this article!

I've been on LC for over a year and only lost about 20 lbs. The first 15 came off in just a couple of months, the next 5 were VERY slow going. The new skirt I bought in May is still a bit snug on me, as are my new bras (I generally buy stuff just slightly too small for inspiration, and so I don't feel yucky in my too-big clothes when I do lose inches.)
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  #12   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 14:50
lstephen50's Avatar
lstephen50 lstephen50 is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 258
Plan: Atkins/Cad/Keto
Stats: 394.6/339.2/300 Female 5'5"
Progress: 59%
Location: Florida
Default How encouraging!

Thanks so much for the info - makes a lot of sense - I too am addicted to the scale and just had a gain with no cheating and remaining in high ketosis - figure it's my body readjusting - still hope to see a woosh soon. I do feel looser clothes so I know I'm losing something!!
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  #13   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 15:12
Lightbird Lightbird is offline
Registered Member
Posts: 41
Plan: whatever works
Stats: 145/131/130 Female 5' 4"
BF:< than yesterday
Progress: 93%

Wow, thanks for posting that. Terrifically helpful!

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
~Bill Cosby (1937 - )

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  #14   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 17:07
MyJourney's Avatar
MyJourney MyJourney is offline
Butter Tastes Better
Posts: 5,201
Plan: Atkins OWL / IF-23/1 /BFL
Stats: 100/100/100 Female 5'6"
Progress: 34%
Location: SF Bay Area

Originally Posted by cricket56
Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you're just sitting around. That's one reason why a fit, active person is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue.

I think its a great article. I would point out that fat is also a metabolically active tissue and I believe burns only slightly less than muscle (I think its something like 2.5 calories per pound). Of course thats not necessarily a good thing since there are all sorts of nasty hormone issues that come with it.
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  #15   ^
Old Mon, Jul-14-08, 22:37
Ragman's Avatar
Ragman Ragman is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 190
Plan: Atkins
Stats: 287/276/190 Male 5ft 11in
Progress: 11%
Location: PT, WA

After many years of scale watching, I now don't bother leaping on daily - I get far more impressed with the Saturday morning surprise of large weight loss.. Much better, in my opinion, than leaping onto the scale and being disappointed.
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