If I told you that I lost 7 pounds in nine days you might be intrigued. If I said that my weight varied by 7 pound in nine days then that is just a statistic.
That is what I call weight variability. So if you appear to have lost 2½ pounds on day 2 of your new diet, you haven’t. That’s what happened to me when I began the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet. It is clear that our weight can vary from day to day by a surpisingly high percentage.
How I lost 7 pounds in 9 days
The story behind “losing” 7 pounds in nine days is this. My normal weight was in the region of 12 stone 2 pounds but we went away for a few days for a break. That involved staying in a B&B where the option of a full fried breakfast was an indulgence not to be passed on. Naturally we had to dine out in the evening too.
On returning from the break I was 12:5 and that was when weighing at the same time of day as usual, without clothes. This was nine days before my diabetes clinic and I imagined being told “Tut, tut, tut Mr Jones. You have become a lard bucket”.
Getting back to normal eating meant I lost a few pound without trying but by coincidence I happened to stumble on the Trust Me I’m a Doctor programme on BBC iPlayer which was about Dr Michael Mosley investigating fasting as a way of improving health.
I decided to have a low carb day to see what it was like. That was the day before my diabetes appointment. I was told “You’ve lost some weight, which is good”. I didn’t want to argue that it was simply weight variability. Well why would I?
Why does weight vary so much from day to day?
- Food and water is stored within you and that can vary by more than you think. Your stomach and the rest of your alimentary tract can hold quite a lot. If you go to the loo not everything comes out because some food take a long time to digest. So if you go from a few days of indulgence to a few days of comparable abstinence the food within you reduces and you weigh less.
- It is easy to drink a pint of water and that weighs about 2 pounds so you can see that 2 pounds is nothing in the scheme of things.
When to weigh yourself
I weigh myself after getting out of bed and going to the loo since that is the most consistent moment from one day to the next. It is also when I am at my lightest so although things look unrealistically good I can take that into account consistently.
I am at my lightest first thing in the morning partly because I have just spent several hours exhaling water vapour during my sleep.
If I drink more wine that a good person should I am likely to urinate more than usual as my body gets rid of the debris from my body. By morning I am liely to be dehydrated and feeling a bit rough.
Occasionally, if I have eaten far more than I had taken insulin for then I might have had a high blood sugar level which caused excessive peeing and that could also dehydrate me.
When dehydrated I will weigh less than normal.
Dieting and putting it back on again
Beginning the 5:2 fasting diet, after the first two consecutive days of fasting I “lost” 3¾ pounds. Since at the beginning of the third day my stomach was virtually empty most of that was weight variation. I would need a few days of normal eating to see if I had truely lost weight.
Weight variation is what most people regards as part of their success in the various other diets available. First of all they are impressed with their ability to loose weight but part of the reason it goes back on after finishing the diet is that they become less empty.
For most people a temporary diet has a temporary effect and that is why my dietician referred to them as fad diets. Only a permanent change in eating habit will have a lasting effect.
Actually I did tell the diabetes doctor that I weighed less largely because of weight variation because I had a go at fasting. He advised against me doing the 5:2 fasting diet but diabetes nurse and the dietician didn’t seem too worried so I went ahead anyway. Take a look at my 5:2 diet progress log for more details.