Working out is hard enough, without the emotions that go with stepping on the scale — and finding out the numbers are going in the opposite direction. We’ve all been there (sadly): weeks and weeks of clean eating and diligent exercise, only to see that you’re gaining weight instead of losing it. It’s soul crushing, to say the least.
While you may feel discouraged, rest assured it isn’t cause for panic. That change in the scale doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong, nor does it mean you’re going in the wrong direction. There can be some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons you’re gaining weight. Here, four things you need to know if you’re gaining weight while working out and eating healthy.
You’re gaining muscle.
The most obvious answer is also quite motivating: muscle weighs more than fat — or so the myth says. So while building muscle may increase your body weight, you’re probably still losing inches off your waist or thighs which overall will make you look and feel better. So if the scale isn’t budging or starts to creep up, remember just give it some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither does your “perfect” body. According to Gerard “Coach G” Burley, owner of SWEAT DC in Washington, DC, “Living healthy is about body composition not just weight. Sometimes you are gaining muscle while losing fat making your body look and feel better.” Worry less about the scale and more about performance, or if you’re in to measuring then focus on body measurements and body fat percentage.
You’re not giving your body time to respond.
Just because you start exercising doesn’t always mean your body will respond to that immediately. Exercise — like everything — puts stress on our body, and it can put your body into shock, which ultimately can lead to weight gain. Sometimes, the body just needs time to adjust. “Don’t pay attention to the scale,” Lauren Buckner, owner of Body by Buckner in Washington, DC tells ESSENCE. “Pay attention to how you feel and focus on your increased power, energy and strength. As we workout we are building more muscle and changing the structure of our bodies. We don’t always know how that will play out on the scale, but what we do know is how we feel.”
Another unassuming culprit is water retention. (Just when you thought water was good for you, it turns against you) “Water makes up approximately 65 to 90 percent of a person’s weight, and variation in water content of the human body can move the scale by ten pounds or more from day to day,” says Jeffrey A. Dolgan, a clinical exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, Florida. There’s a theory that the body will actually retain water when you exercise, not only as part of the healing process but also as a method of getting glycogen to the body in a more efficient way. That more efficient fuel system means you may carry around a few extra pounds of water.
You have an underlying medical condition.
In very rare cases, there may be something seriously wrong. So if you’re doing all the right things — eating a calorie deficit diet and exercising more — and nothing is still working, it may be time to talk to your doctor. For example, women with thyroid issues can cause weight gain and weight loss to be more challenging.
The main thing to remember: keep going! You’ll be better off today than you were 90 days ago. And 90 days from now, you’ll be even better than that. And then again after that! Slow progress leads to big wins.