Women in our society often have a confusing relationship with body weight.
On one hand, weight can tell us important things about health. On the other, being too concerned with an ideal weight can take a toll on mental health—and can deplete your body of nutrients over time.
So we’ve put together a guide to normal body weight fluctuation as well as things you might want to be concerned about. Hopefully, this gives you a better look into what the number on the scale could mean.
Many of these insights will relate to people in general, whether or not you’re a woman. But some, like the information about menstruation and pregnancy, will be more specific. Trans men and nonbinary people might relate to these tips as well!
Normal Body Weight Fluctuation
If you notice changes in your weight, you might wonder whether this is normal or something to be concerned about. To know the difference, you might want to consider your daily body weight fluctuation and monthly cycle, as well as recent changes in your activity.
1. Menstruation Cycle
The menstruation cycle is a month-long process of all different stages, not just your period. But some people find that they gain the most weight leading up to and during their period.
This could be because of water retention around this time. It could also be due to different eating habits. If you’re worried about weight gain for any reason, take note of when it happens.
You might find that you tend to gain weight around your period, then lose the weight after. This is an instance of normal fluctuation.
2. Building Muscle
If you just started working out or increased the pace of your exercise routine, you may be wondering why you’ve gained rather than lost weight.
The answer here could be that you’re gaining muscle. It could also mean that your body is retaining more water to recover from a tough workout.
And if you’re comparing yourself to others or to previous times you’ve started a workout regimen, you might not be accounting for differences in water intake. Lots of times, some of the initial weight you lose from a sweaty workout is just water. If you’re hydrating well and making up for that loss of water weight, you might not lose as much as you expected to—but keep going, and keep drinking water too!
3. Different Times of Day
Normal body weight fluctuation can happen at different parts of the day. For example, right after you eat or drink a lot of water, you’ll probably gain a bit of weight.
And the number on the scale could be different in the morning than at night. Even the most accurate scales could give you unexpected readings if you’re not noticing the daily patterns of your weight fluctuation.
It could also be due to your clothing. If there are certain times of day when you’re wearing more or less than other moments, that could also make a difference in the weight you measure.
Weight Loss Concerns
There are some situations where weight loss goes beyond normal fluctuations. It could be a sign of a health condition or something you’re taking for treatment. In these cases, weight might not be the foremost thing on your mind.
Still, it could be an important indicator of your health. So it’s good to keep track.
1. Mental or Physical Illness
If you’ve lost weight all of a sudden and can’t understand why it might be something other than a case of normal weight fluctuation. Likewise, your friends might notice that you’ve gotten thinner in a short amount of time.
One thing you might want to ask yourself is whether you’ve gone through anything stressful lately. You can also think about whether you’ve experienced any other changes, like differences in your sleep schedule or mood. Weight loss can sometimes be a symptom of mental illness.
Another thing to consider is physical illness. Some people lose weight when they come down with a bacterial or viral infection, partly because of the loss of appetite that can accompany it.
Or it could even be something more serious, like a thyroid problem. If you’re concerned about sudden weight loss, you might want to talk to your doctor and run some diagnostic tests.
Another thing that can cause weight loss is medication. You might think this is just something you have to deal with, but it might be worth talking to your doctor about.
For one thing, knowing and recording the effects of your medication is good for the future. And if your medication is causing body changes that get in the way of your life, you could even ask if there’s an alternative treatment you can try.
3. Losing Weight While Pregnant
While pregnancy is often a time for people to gain weight, some people actually lose weight while pregnant. This could be due to different eating patterns or the morning sickness that many pregnant people deal with.
If this is happening in your life, you should know that you aren’t alone. But it might be good to get a medical opinion to make sure everything’s still on the right track. And one thing you shouldn’t do is try to lose weight while pregnant.
Weight Gain Concerns
Weight gain can also happen for some of the same broad reasons weight loss happens. The specifics will likely differ, though. For example, certain gastrointestinal illnesses cause weight loss, while conditions like Cushing’s syndrome can cause weight gain.
1. Mental or Physical Illness (Again)
Some people associate mental illnesses like depression and anxiety with skinniness, but weight gain can also be a sign of mental illness. Everyone reacts to these things in different ways, so the main thing you should keep an eye out for is a change, whichever direction that might go.
And some physical conditions also result in weight gain. Just as in cases of weight loss, your best bet for a clear answer is to talk to a medical professional.
2. Medication (Yep, Again)
While some medications can cause you to lose weight, others will result in weight gain. If this is the case for you, you might be able to find an alternative that works better for you. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of your weight changes vs. the effectiveness of the medication.
While weight gain is often not a big deal compared to the illness you’re being treated for, it can sometimes get in the way of your life. Explore your options and see what’s right for you.
Tune Into Your Body
Whether your weight fluctuations are normal or not, learning more about your body’s natural rhythms will help you understand your health better. An unexpected number on the scale could be part of a natural cycle. The number could swing closer to normal in the following hours or days.
When body weight fluctuation comes with other symptoms, though, it could be a sign of a health condition. Note what’s going on so you can talk to a doctor about it now or in the future.
And for more information about the amazing human body, check out the rest of our site!