Graphs and charts are visually appealing to me. The linear nature of charts and graphs makes sense, and it is oddly reassuring to look at a chart of stock prices or company earnings and be able to see instantly whether the company is doing well.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for weight loss. Instead of a nice, neat chart that shows a clear line downward as you lose weight, you might have a chart that goes down a bit, stays the same for a while, and even heads back up as you gain weight. Although the nonlinear nature of weight loss is frustrating, it’s not a reason to quit.
Why Is Weight Loss Nonlinear?
Weight loss is nonlinear because you are not a robot. Your body weight naturally changes slightly from day to day even if you eat the same thing. It changes because of hormonal fluctuations, digestive issues such as being constipated or having an intestinal illness, exercise, sickness, and hydration levels. And—because you are not a robot—the foods you eat likely vary greatly even if you are trying to lose weight.
The combination of these factors makes your weight shift up and down, which can drive you completely crazy if you are trying to drop pounds. I had a client once who was a bit obsessive with tracking her food.
I mean, she even tracked gum.
Even though she was ultra careful with her food, her weight loss was not linear. Her weight loss graph looked like a spiky roller coaster. I constantly reassured her that she was doing great, and she was. Eventually she lost about 30 pounds and had kept it off last time I talked with her.
Weight Loss Is About Long-Term Changes
It’s tempting to quit when your weight loss graph takes a jog upward or stays in a horizontal holding pattern for a time, but giving up is the wrong thing to do.
You must have the mindset that weight loss isn’t about small shifts in a graph but instead about long-term changes. Who cares if you hit a weight loss plateau five times while losing 50 pounds? At the end of the day, your weight loss is about making long-term changes that stick, not seeing the scale go down in a perfect line.
Strategies to Avoid Frustration
It’s all well and good to tell you to not worry about the spiky shifts in your weight loss graph, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t give you some practical strategies to make that recommendation a reality.
Here are three strategies you can use to stay focused on the long goal and ignore the short-term fluctuations of a nonlinear weight loss effort.
1. Stop tracking so frequently.
Instead of graphing your weight loss daily, graph it on a weekly basis. The fluctuations will even out and not seem so extreme.
2. Trust yourself.
Your body is like an intricately made machine. If you do the right things needed to lose weight, eventually the weight will come off because your body knows what to do. Don’t rely solely on a graph to tell you if you are on the right track.
3. Be honest with yourself.
If your graph is consistently going up instead of slowly working its way down, you might need to have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Consistent weight gain isn’t a sign that your diet is going well, but instead a sign of problems. Be honest with yourself and admit if you’ve been overeating.