Why the scales won’t budge (even when you do everything right)

Sometimes you can be doing everything right. Eating healthy, not drinking much if any alcohol, following a well-structured exercise program, but you step on the scales and they haven’t budged, no even a gram.

Undeterred, you push even harder, exercising more and be even stricter with your food.

One week later you get the scales out again. You are excited and ready to see all your hard work pay off. However you get on the scales and still nothing, you haven’t even lost half a pound, how can this be!

Two weeks and you haven’t lost a single pound! Maybe you just can’t lose weight after all and it’s time to accept it and bin those scales.

However, before you do that it might be worth nothing you probably are

losing body-fat…

You see weight-loss is actually not a perfectly linear straight line, it’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs.

In fact, it’s actually possible and quite common to lose body-fat and your weight stays the same for a while. Then whoosh, you lose 3-4lb’s in less than a week.

I’ve seen this many times in my clients. The most drastic is when one client was doing everything right, and the scales didn’t budge for almost a month. Then suddenly in one week, he lost 12lb’s!

I couldn’t believe it, 12lbs in one week. However years later and a much better understanding of endocrinology and biology I finally understand why this happens.

Let me explain. Weight loss is rarely linear and you might not see the scales move even when you are doing everything right.


Put simply it comes down to one thing, Water retention.

Our bodies are approximately 60% water, therefore a small function in how much water we retain can quickly affect our weight.

Obviously, we don’t just retain more water for no reason, there needs to be a trigger, often that is the stress hormone cortisol.

It turns out as our levels of cortisol go up so do our water levels.

High cortisol = Water retention

If you don’t know what cortisol is, it’s a hormone, released primary during periods of stress.

In general the more stress you experience and take on, the higher your cortisol levels will be.

The higher your cortisol levels the more water you will retain.

When most of us think of stress, it’s normally traffic jams, work deadlines and other such issues. Weight-loss doesn’t come into it, however to our bodies weight loss is a stress. Dieting is a reduction in food, which requires us to mobilise our own energy reserves as fuel. (1)

To our bodies that is stressful, in-fact the more extreme the diet, the more our stress hormones go up.

Often meaning if you diet harder and eat less, your stress hormones go up even higher, increasing water retention even more.

The end result is, although you might be burning body-fat, you are storing more water, masking any potential fat-loss you’ve had. (It’s also extremely hard to tell the difference between water retention and body-fat, so until that water retention subsides, you might not look any different.)

However, when those stress hormones come down, whoosh, you might suddenly lose 3 or 4lb’s overnight.

If you’ve been eating really healthy and exercising well and the scales haven’t moved in a few weeks, just remember it could be water retention.

The question you are probably asking then is, how do you get rid of this water retention.

Well, there are a few possible solutions.

  1. Be patient, sometimes water retention goes all on its own once your body adapts to the calorie deficit and new exercise regime.
  2. Improve your sleep, not only does poor sleep increase hunger, it increases stress hormones. A few nights of good sleep can drastically reduce stress levels and create that whoosh effect.
  3. Take a break. If you’ve been dieting religiously for months on end, try taking a few days or even a week off. This doesn’t mean go out and binge eat, just increase your calories a bit. This will help take bring cortisol levels down, possibly bring your energy levels up and maybe keep your on track for longer.
  4. Take it easy on the exercise, if you’ve been doing extremely intense and tough workouts, have a deload or easy week. This will help your body recover and once again reduce your overall stress levels.
  5. Practice stress reduction techniques. Although less fun than eating and sleeping more, learning to manage daily stress better can really help.
  6. Meditate. Often easy said than done, meditation is a proven strategy for reducing stress hormones, boosting the immune system and a powerful stress management tool in its own right.

I hope this helps you understand a bit more about weight-loss and helps you avoid feeling frustrated if your weight doesn’t change.

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If you are still confused about how to create a healthy diet that doesn’t leave you starving, grab a copy of my latest book on Amazon Kindle.