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A person’s weight is something that fluctuates a lot. For people who are trying to judge their weight loss efforts based on the number on the scale each morning, it can be really frustrating when the numbers aren’t going in the direction you want them to.
With that being said, the numbers going up on the scale don’t necessarily mean that you’ve gained weight. Additionally, even when you think that you look bigger than the day before, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s really unlikely that you’d gain actual weight when sleeping.
This has many of us wondering, “Why do I look fatter some days than others?”
You might look fatter some days depending on what and when your last meal was, water retention, or medication changes. Working out or drinking alcohol the day before can make you look puffy. You also might look fatter because of the mirror you are looking at yourself in or the way you feel about your body.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at these 7 reasons you look fatter some days than others. I’ll also explain more about why most people don’t actually gain weight overnight, even when they look fatter.
Why Do Some Days I Look Fatter Than Others?
Honestly, there are a lot of reasons that you might look fatter some days than others. Let’s break them down below.
Your Last Meal
Digestion is a process that takes a while, so some of the fluctuations you’re noticing with your weight may depend on the timing of your last meal, as well as what your last meal was. According to Mayo Clinic, the early stages of digestion when your food is being broken down in your stomach can take anywhere from 6-8 hours.
And, this isn’t even the entire process. While the rate of digestion depends on the individual and factors like their digestive health, metabolism, water levels, and other conditions, it can take an average of 2-5 days from the time that you eat until the time that food actually leaves your body as waste.
This means that if you get constipated and miss a poop or if your body is digesting a little slower than usual, leftover waste can get stuck in your digestive tract. Over time, this adds up to pounds that you’ll notice because your abdomen looks full or bloated. This can happen after dietary changes too, even if they’re positive ones like adding more fiber to your diet.
In addition to whether or not foods are fully digested, you also might look fatter some days because of the foods you eat. Eating foods that are heavily processed or that your body is sensitive to can trigger inflammation, while other foods might cause bloating from gas.
Even eating too fast causes you to swallow more air that makes you look bigger than you are. If food is the cause, you might notice that you look fat from the side but not from the front.
Water retention is arguably one of the most common explanations for why you feel fatter one day than you did the day before. People can gain pounds of water weight overnight and most of the time, water weight and body waste are primarily responsible for the day-to-day differences you notice when you step on the scale.
There are a lot of things that can cause your body to retain more water than you would normally. Some people notice swelling after being on their feet all day, while others might retain more water because they are over-hydrated or because they are dehydrated and their body is trying to make up for it. Even hormone levels in your blood and your thyroid affects water retention.
The foods you ate the day before can also affect how much water your body holds onto. Sodium bonds to salt and makes your body retain it. Eating a lot of carbs has the same effect because it takes 3-4 grams of water to process 1 gram of carbohydrates. Additionally, factors like stress, not getting enough sleep, and PMS can cause water retention.
Drinking Alcohol at Night
It’s not uncommon for people to have a beer or two or a couple of glasses of wine to unwind. If you drink heavily, though, or if you are drinking especially late at night, alcohol could be responsible for making you look fatter the next day.
For starters, alcohol contains a lot of empty calories. This makes it easier to drink extra calories. On top of that, your body processes alcohol before it processes any food in your digestive tract. If you ate before drinking, that food waste might end up getting stored as fat since your body is going to burn the alcohol for energy first.
Alcohol also dehydrates you. This means that your body is going to retain the water that it has available, which can make you look puffy and bloated.
Working Out Hard the Day Before
While some people look great in their post-workout gym selfies, don’t get discouraged if you aren’t thrilled about how you look, too. It’s not uncommon to look fatter after a workout because of the inflammation caused by microtears in your muscles.
All the sweating and getting hot also cause your body to expand. This happens because when you work out, your blood vessels expand so blood and nutrients can flow more freely. The expansion of your vessels is one of the reasons that people look fatter after running, too.
In addition to looking fatter the day after a workout, it’s not uncommon to weigh more as well. Your body rushes water and nutrients to the microtears in your muscles following a workout so they can start repairing them. This means you’re retaining more water than you normally would.
Finally, keep in mind that some people look fatter after losing weight before they start to see positive results. This can happen because of loose skin, water retention, bloating, or even changes in your muscle-to-fat ratio.
How You Feel About Your Body
Many of us have had those days where we feel less than confident about the way that we look in the mirror. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy for our brains to trick us into thinking our appearance reflects the way we feel about ourselves, too.
In rare cases, people experience body dysmorphia. This means that no matter how thin (or fat) you get, you never see those changes in your body. People with body dysmorphia are at high risk of eating disorders.
Even for people who don’t have body dysmorphia, though, it’s possible to see yourself as bigger or smaller than you are. In most cases, the way we see ourselves comes down to past experiences and our attitudes toward our own bodies.
The Mirror You Are Looking in
Sometimes, you might not look fat at all- it could come down to the mirror that you’re looking at yourself in. People look different in different mirrors for a lot of reasons. Factors like the quality of the mirror, the material it’s made from, the lighting in the room, the angle, and even the age of the mirror play a role in that picture that you see of yourself in the mirror.
It’s also worth noting if you think you’re fatter after looking at yourself in a photo or video, the camera really can add ten pounds. Cameras capture images in the 3D world and then compress them to fit a 2-dimensional picture. Plus, there are factors like lens distortion, lighting, the clothes you are wearing, and your distance from the camera to consider.
Bottom line? You shouldn’t really rely on how you look in the mirror or camera to give you clues about how big you look. It’s not really an accurate representation unless you’re using the same mirror every time.
New or Increased Medication Doses
Weight gain is a pretty common side effect of certain medications. There are also medications that make a person lose weight. Sometimes this happens because of a medication’s effect on your metabolism, and other times it might happen because it makes you retain more water or changes the balance of hormones in your body.
While all medications are different in their specific side effects and how they work on the body, there are some medications that are more likely to cause weight gain than others. This includes corticosteroids, antihistamines, insulin and other diabetes medication, tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs, beta-blockers, MAOI inhibitors, antipsychotics, and epilepsy medication.
Even if you start gaining weight, you should never reduce or stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor. Many of these medications are used to treat potentially dangerous conditions and there can be withdrawal symptoms from suddenly stopping medication use, too.
Is It Possible to Gain Weight Overnight?
If you go by the numbers on the scale, then yes, it absolutely is possible to gain weight overnight. That being said, you probably didn’t actually gain weight overnight.
You see, your metabolism is constantly working regardless of whether you are awake, asleep, relaxing, or active. It adjusts constantly based on factors like how much food you’ve eaten, your physical activity, muscle mass, body fat, age, and hormone levels.
It’s also worth noting that because your metabolism is constantly working, it’s unlikely that you’d actually gain weight even after consuming more calories than your body needs. You’d have to consume 3,500 more calories than your body needs to accumulate a pound of fat. Plus, since your metabolism adjusts based on your food intake and activity levels, you’d have to continually eat this much food every day to actually gain weight.
Is How I Look an Accurate Measurement of Weight?
No, as a general rule, the way that you look doesn’t really reflect your weight. People who have a higher BMI are more likely to be plus-size, curvy, or full-figured, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your body is going to look a certain way just because you hit a certain number on the scale.
Plus, in addition to considering all those things I mentioned above and the way that they affect your weight, everyone’s body shape and composition are different. Things like the actual size of your skeletal frame including how tall you are and if you’re big-boned play a role, as does the fat-to-muscle ratio of your body.
How Should I Track My Weight and Size?
In my opinion, one of the best ways to track your size/weight if you are trying to make a change is by using a tape measure on areas like your thighs, hips, waist, bust, arms, and any areas you want to measure. This is actual change and it’s something you’ll feel in the way your clothes fit and how much more energy you have.
Weighing yourself is also an option, however, don’t worry about the number on the scale too much. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things that make your weight fluctuate from day to day. Weighing yourself weekly or even monthly might be a better option to see progress without getting discouraged or distracted by those daily fluctuations.
There are a lot of answers to the question, “Why do some days I look fatter than others?” Things like your last meal and the type of food you ate, water retention, drinking alcohol, medication side effects, and if you’ve been working out all affect how fat you look from day to day.
Additionally, you can also look fatter because of the way you see yourself. This includes the mirror you are looking at yourself in and the way you feel about your body.
All that aside, even gaining five pounds of weight overnight isn’t really a cause for concern. Odds are, that’s caused by one of the things mentioned above and it’s not really a reason to call it quits or get discouraged with your diet and exercise routine.