Frustrated with Weight Gain as Menstruation Approaches

By October 12, 2012

I have been dieting for over a month. One week the scales will say I have gained a pound or two and the next week I will be at the previous weight. Here is an example: Four days after my period started I was 110. Five days later I was down to 109. I waited one week and the next Friday I was up to 110.5 without changing my eating habits or anything. My question is that I have heard some women say they start retaining water weight up to fourteen days before they start their period. Is this true? I am eleven days out. Now that I am almost 29, I know that my breasts are sore from ovulation on – this is also a sign of premenstrual syndrome. I am on the pill. If this is true, then does it make a woman’s real weight only seen possible ten days after their period? Thank you for your attention to this matter. Does change in altitude affect weight also? Dieting and extremely frustrated. – C.

Dear C.,

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of checking weight too frequently and worrying about minute changes. You are expressing some common concerns.

The scale definitely gives us an incomplete snapshot of what’s happening with our bodies. Since our bodies are comprised of 55% to 75% water, weight can fluctuate on a daily or even hourly basis due to fluid changes. Atmospheric pressure, humidity, salt intake and certain medications all contribute to water retention and therefore a shift in weight. In addition, we lose and gain water weight in response to sweating followed by drinking after exercise. As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon to gain 2-3 pounds from morning to evening, because we retain fluid as the day progresses—perfectly normal. Your experience with weight gain as menstruation approaches is also part of a healthy bodily cycle. Water is retained as estrogen levels drop and progesterone rises.

You should also be aware that muscle is denser than fat, and therefore weighs more. A person can be working out and becoming leaner, yet experience an increase in body weight. Read the article “Heaviness and Weight Gain – Explained…” for more information.

The bottom line is that weighing yourself frequently is futile, because you aren’t getting a true measure of body fat or your health status. From your letter, I gather that small changes of 1-2 pounds are causing you frustration and worry. I’m concerned that you are becoming too weight-focused. I don’t know your height, but your weight is on the lower side, yet you talk about dieting. If you are not already there, you may soon find yourself trapped in the so-called “Thin Cage,” which compromises your physical, emotional and spiritual well being. I strongly recommend that you read Constance Rhode’s book; I suspect that you will relate to her journey.

I’m glad that you wrote in. This could be an important turning point for you. It is my hope that you will shift your focus from frequent weigh-ins to being healthy, strong and energetic—body, mind and spirit.

With concern,