Why gaining 5 pounds isn’t the end of the world

Weight loss journey’s can be difficult at the best of times – however for a lot of us, what can make them even more difficult, is dedicating yourself to them and still seeing gains on the scales.

Personally, I weigh myself on a Monday morning and this week I saw a four pound gain despite sticking to a low calorie diet and felt a little disheartened.

After letting the little gremlin in my head have her 15 minutes of making me feel bad about myself, the rational part of my brain came to save the day. When you’ve been on a ‘diet’ as long as I have and you’ve seen losses and gains as much as I have, you learn that gains aren’t always what they seem.


The truth is, your body weight fluctuates day-to-day. Even if you weigh yourself every hour, you’d still see significant variations. For the most part, when embarking on a weight loss journey, you should mentally prepare yourself for these fluctuations, because you will see them regardless of whether you stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Even if you’ve eaten healthy all week, and had one cheat day where you’ve completely gone crazy and indulged to your hearts content, it’s impossible for your body to gain five pounds of fat overnight. However, it is possible to retain five pounds of fluid.

So, although the scales can shoot up seemingly overnight because of excess water, losing body fat, takes a lot longer. Generally, weight loss occurs at a rate of one to two pounds a week, but for some people, this can happen even slower and can take anywhere from two to 10 weeks to lose five pounds of fat.

So, it becomes important for us to ask what causes the human body to retain water, and why we see those extra five pounds on scales that appear as if, out of nowhere?


Water retention can happen if you’ve just started working out for the first time, or picked it up again after a while, or increased your workout intensity.

When we use a large number of muscle groups, we can gain weight for several days due to microscopic tears in muscle cells.

The muscles repair by natural inflammation, where fluid pools around the muscle cells which can cause puffiness.

You’re dehydrated

Usually, when you’re dehydrated you weight less because your muscles and tissue are sucked dry.

However, the lack of water in your system can cause the kidneys to go into conservation mode. Which means once you start drinking, you’ll see an increase in water weight.

After a few days of proper hydration, your kidneys will go back to normal and your body weight will even out.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance’s can cause bloating and water retention. If you notice that you feel heavy or bloated after eating certain foods, you should consult with your doctor.

This can include foods, like dairy, soy, wheat, gluten, eggs, shellfish, etc.. and even some less obvious foods like certain fruits and vegetables. I once met someone who was unable to eat certain vegetables because she had an intolerance to copper – this is another reason why keeping a food diary can help you.

Personally, I can’t eat dairy products which includes Lactose and Whey Protein. The affects for me include, bloating, water retention, stomach pain, vomiting and digestive issues. Every now and then I do accidentally consume dairy, mostly due to improperly packaged food and it can cause temporary weight gain for two to four weeks, depending on how much is consumed and how long it takes to expel from my system. Unfortunately if you have a food intolerance, they can be difficult to digest and can take up to a month to fully leave your body.

Which is why it’s so important to recognise food intolerance’s and make changes to your lifestyle, you’ll see a difference almost imminently.

It’s that time of the month

As a woman you can thank your hormones for so many things, including those pre-period pounds.

It’s normal to gain water weight five to seven days before your period and will go away by day three or four of your period.

While weight fluctuations can depend on the individual, it normally varies between two to eight pounds.

You’re a little backed up

As you eat throughout the day, your weight may increase by a few pound until you evacuate your bowels.

However, if you’re a little backed up, not only will you look and feel bloated but your body will carry more weight.

So, make sure you’re eating enough fiber, staying hydrated and keep active to help keep you regular.


Some medications can cause weight gain due to side effects that cause hormonal changes. In most causes, the hormonal changes cause increased appetite and therefore an increase in calories consumed (For example: Most oral birth control pills have this side effect).

However, some medications, like steroids can cause water retention which can appear like weight gain, when really it’s just a fluctuation in body water and usually these fluctuations will be larger than diet based water retention – this will usually go back to normal once you’re off the medication.

Eating too many carbohydrates

Eating a modest amount of carbohydrates is good for you, however, it is easy to accidentally eat too many and exceed your calorie needs, leading to increase fat storage and excess water retention.

For every gram of carbohydrate you store as glycogen, your tissue also stores three grams of water.


A salt heavy diet

When you eat to much salt, the body retains extra sodium which increases the amount of fluid in the body.

Due to the increase of fluid, the body will continue to retain sodium and water – approximately 1.5 liters of water is retained when too much salt is consumed. This continues, along as a person continues to eat a sodium rich diet.

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