Why Do I Look Fatter at Night? (6 Reasons)


woman wondering why she looks fatter at night

For those of us who spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, it’s pretty apparent that sometimes you look different at the end of day than you do in the morning. But what makes the difference?

It makes a person wonder, “Could I really be skinnier in the morning?”

And why do I look fatter at night?

You might look fatter at night for a number of reasons. It is sometimes caused by undigested food or air trapped in your digestive tract. Over-hydration, standing for long periods, or having a salty diet could also cause you to look fatter at night. Even gravity affects how you look at night vs. the morning. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at six reasons you look fatter at night and skinnier in the morning.

Why Do I Look Fatter at Night?

There are a lot of different reasons a person might look fatter at night. Below, we’ll take a closer look at reasons like leftover food and air being trapped in your digestive tract, water retention, exposure to heat, gravity, and even your diet.

Leftover Food

When you eat in the hours before bedtime, there isn’t enough time for your body to digest that food. It takes around 6 to 8 hours for food to digest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even then, it still has to be broken down further and moved through the digestive tract, a process that could take up to 36 hours.

Eating later at night also could leave you bloated if you swallow air while you’re eating. On average, people swallow about 2 quarts of air per day from eating and drinking. Air can also be created as a byproduct of bacteria as it breaks down food in your stomach.

While this air is generally harmless, it does leave you bloated by the end of the day. This is especially true for people who swallow excess air, as well as people who have trouble belching or passing gas.

Water Retention

Another reason you might look fatter at night is that you are retaining a lot of water. Your body needs water for a lot of things. It’s responsible for maintaining good blood flow and carrying blood, oxygen, and nutrients where they need to go.

When you are especially hydrated or if you are spending a lot of time on your feet, it’s possible this water seeps out from your blood vessels into tissues under your skin. This results in swelling called edema.

Edema is most common in your legs and feet, however, you might notice symptoms of swelling anywhere. While it isn’t cause for concern itself, swelling that doesn’t go away or edema accompanied by other symptoms could indicate an underlying problem or disease.

One of the things your body does while you’re sleeping is regulate electrolyte levels that affect water retention and hydration. This helps get rid of any swelling that you might have from high sodium levels or water retention, so you appear thinner when you wake up.

Heat

Being exposed to heat during the day also causes swelling. Your blood vessels expand in hot temperatures. Excess fluids are moved through the blood vessels and end up seeping out into the surrounding tissues.

For people who work out by running outdoors or who have an intense workout, their exertion in the heat might also make them look a little swollen. There’s even a condition called runner’s belly, which is caused by blood vessels swelling in the abdomen and giving it a puffy appearance.

Gravity

Gravity is a pretty important force in the world. It is constantly applying pressure that keeps our feet firmly planted in the world around us.

For people who are fatter at night than in the morning, it could be the effects of gravity at play. When you are laying in bed at night, gravity is pressing down on your entire body because you are laying horizontally.

By contrast, gravity pulls everything downward when you are standing up. There’s even research that you are shorter at night when you go to bed for this very reason. While the shape of your bones doesn’t change, the fluid-filled pockets between them do feel the effects of gravity, bringing the bones closer together and making you shorter.

Since the effects of gravity can make a difference in height, it only makes sense that gravity would affect how your soft tissues like skin and fat are distributed across your skeletal frame.

Your Diet

The foods you eat play a critical role in swelling through the body, especially because gut health plays such a big role in things like digestion, mental health, and immunity. Certain foods nourish the digestive tract, while others irritate it and cause inflammation that can spread through the body.

Foods known to cause inflammation include processed or refined sugars and grains, red meat, and foods high in fats. Eating a diet that is high in salt can also affect swelling, particularly in people with heart conditions, who are overweight, or who struggle with edema.

Finally, eating anything that your body is sensitive to or allergic to can also cause swelling and inflammation, no matter how much you love the food. Some of the most common sensitivities are dairy, eggs, and gluten. While eating these foods won’t kill you, some people find they irritate the digestive tract and cause unpleasant symptoms.

Inflammation

People experience inflammation in their bodies for a number of reasons. In addition to the dietary reasons I already talked about, there are a number of medical conditions that result in inflammation that can make you look fatter at night. This includes autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or Lupus.

People with chronic inflammation might blow it off as typical symptoms. This is especially true because it’s associated with digestive issues, joint pain and stiffness, pain in the abdomen and chest, rashes and mouth sores, and fatigue, which are sometimes brushed off instead of being seen as symptoms.

Some people also experience inflammation from being exposed to toxins or chemicals in their work environment or in the foods they eat. Our bodies are constantly at work fighting against these chemicals (known as free radicals).

With your body being focused on healing at night, it makes sense that your body would be hard at work fighting off free radicals that cause inflammation while you sleep.

Why Does My Face Look Fatter at Night?

Your face might look fatter at night for several reasons, starting with gravity. The effects of gravity take a toll on your body over the course of the day because it is constantly pulling you downward.

Age decreases the amount of collagen in your skin, which makes it lose some elasticity. With skin not being as firm as it once was, the effects of gravity might be more noticeable with age. This can be made worse by weight fluctuations, your diet, genetics, or having loose skin.

Anything that causes mild to moderate skin irritation also might cause swelling in your face. Facial washes contain mild exfoliants that could cause a little swelling, while irritation from shaving your face might make your face look fat, too.

Why Do My Legs Look Fatter at Night?

Swelling in the feet, ankles, and even legs is a pretty common condition known as edema. This type of swelling is caused by gravity pulling fluids down toward your feet.

As fluids are pulled down, vessels get over-hydrated and water seeps out into the tissues in your legs and feet. This results in the swelling that you see after you’ve been on your feet for a long time.

Edema is a pretty common pregnancy symptom. It’s also more common in people who are overweight, who take certain medications, and who eat a lot of salt.

Why Do I Look Skinnier in the Morning?

People usually look thinner in the morning because they’ve had all night to digest any leftover food in the digestive tract from the day before. Air has likely dissipated from the digestive tract too, so you won’t be as bloated as the day before.

People also look skinnier in the morning because they haven’t been eating or drinking in the hours they were asleep. In fact, your body is hard at work metabolizing calories from the day before and using them for energy to carry out the tasks that it needs to while you are sleeping.

Not only are you burning calories, but some people actually are thinner in the morning than they are at night. Since you aren’t full of food or beverages that you took in during the day, it’s most consistent to weigh yourself after you go to the bathroom in the morning.

Some of this weight loss is also caused by losing water through the night. Not only do you lose water through sweat and urination, but you also lose water when you exhale.

Final Word

If you find yourself wondering, “Why do I look fatter at night?” you aren’t alone. Most people are fatter at night and skinnier in the morning for a number of reasons.

Things like losing water through sweating and respiration, gravity, and leftover food in your digestive tract give you a slimmer appearance the next day. Being too hot, retaining water, eating a poor diet, or having inflammation could also be contributing to how fat you look before bed at night.

Hopefully, this article has successfully answered all your questions about why you look skinnier in the morning than you do before bed.

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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