14 Ways Your Scale May Be Lying to You

I’m sure you’ve had times when you thought your scale had gone crazy. Some days, for absolutely no reason, your scale number will bounce around like a ping-pong ball. Or your weight will suddenly drop several pounds when you haven’t changed anything in your routine.

Other times, the scale will act stuck or arbitrarily show a higher weight than the day before. Occasionally, in spite of your best efforts, the scale will just do whatever it wants.

When your scale gives you a strange readout, be patient and wait it out. Within a few days or perhaps a week, your body will settle down and you’ll see a more accurate measurement of your weight.

Here are 14 factors that can affect what your scale says.


1. Time of day

You’ll always get the most accurate and consistent scale readings with an early morning weigh-in, before eating or drinking anything. Weighing late in the day can show numbers 2-4 pounds higher.


2. Water intake

Drinking lots of water increases your body’s efficiency and helps remove the byproducts of fat metabolism. Because water intake affects your body’s fluid levels, it may help the scale move more consistently. When you don’t drink enough water, dehydration forces your body to retain fluids as a way of protecting itself. Surprisingly, this can show up on the scale as an increase in your weight!


3. Routine exercise

During the initial recovery phase after an exercise session, your muscles pull in water to help them recover. Sometimes this spills over into the next day or two. You may notice a higher reading on the scale the day after you’ve done a vigorous walk, bike ride, or exercise class.


4. Extra-hard exercise

Killer levels of exercise don’t always result in a drop on the scale. When you push yourself extremely hard and simultaneously cut calories drastically, your body protects itself by conserving resources, including fat stores. Decreasing your exercise intensity for a week or two can help budge the reading on the scale.


5. Stress

High levels of stress keep your body on alert in case it needs to suddenly jump into battle. To stay prepared, it protects itself by holding onto every last resource it can find. This translates into fluid retention and unwillingness to release fat stores.


6. Travel

Most people retain fluids after any type of travel, including bus or train as well as airline trips. Changes in atmospheric pressure, extended sitting, or even local weather conditions can affect scale readings by several pounds in a day.


7. Hormone changes

PMS, menopause, and other hormone fluctuations can cause fluid retention lasting 7- 10 days. Some women continue to retain fluid the first few days of their periods, keeping the scale reading artificially high.


8. Changes in muscle mass

Over time, building more muscle and improving strength does affect body weight. But it takes several months of consistent exercise before you’ll see weight changes caused by an increase in muscle mass. When you challenge your muscles with strength training, your body pulls extra water into the cells. Initially, this can show scale changes that are unrelated to your fat stores.


9. Extreme temperatures

In hot, humid weather, your body tends to puff up and hold extra fluids. To check this out, turn your rings on a hot, muggy afternoon and notice how puffy your fingers have become.


10. Barometric pressure

When the barometric pressure drops, such as when a storm is approaching, your body may retain fluids more than usual. If you live near the ocean, you may notice a similar effect during times when the tides are high or fluctuating a lot.


11. Illness

When your body is fighting an illness, it protects itself by conserving resources until you feel better. If you have the stomach flu or other conditions that causes vomiting or diarrhea, you may think you’ve lost weight, but your body will typically pull in extra fluids  afterwards to get back in balance.


12. Medications

Many types of medications affect how your  body metabolizes fat stores. Some of the worst are blood pressure or diabetes medications, steroids, antibiotics, cancer and heart medications, and asthma treatments. When your body decides that it’s safe to release extra weight again, your progress will improve.


13. Chronic physical conditions

Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and lung problems can cause a range of frustrating side effects. With many of these health issues, it’s common to experience weight gain or the inability to lose weight in spite of being faithful to following your diet.


14. Surgery or physical trauma

When your body perceives that something traumatic has happened, it will grab onto every resource it can find to help it heal and recover from the assault. Unless there’s a medical reason such as being on diuretics, it’s never wise to weigh yourself right after a major surgery.


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Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

Atmospheric pressure causes changes too.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Jessica K.
Jessica K.2 years ago

There's another similar article about this issue about making peace with the scale. Knowing how these factors affect weight is one way to make that peace. Thanks.

Val M.
Val M.2 years ago


Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 years ago


Carole H.
Carole H.2 years ago

interesting thank you - of course my scales are consummate liars lol

Jane R.
Jane R.2 years ago

Never weigh yourself more than once every two weeks. Weighing more often doesn't show your real weight as it fluctuates daily. Always weigh yourself in the morning without clothes on. If you weigh in the evening you aren't getting a real body weight, you're weighing everything you ate or drank during the day.

Karen G.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Kathleen R.
Kathleen R.2 years ago

interesting article

Rose Roma
Rose R.2 years ago

Scale weighing can work for or against you, your state of mind, your health. If causing anxiety or dominating yr thoughts, skip it or attend free, confidential Overeaters Anonymous to get a handle on the device. Mirrors are the same way. Skip if they cause negativity, or do place by door entrance to look at just to check yourself coming and going. Also, mirrors are great for feng shui & bouncing around qi & energy. I would guess scales are magnetic & create a dead zone space.