Busted: Losing Weight Is A Linear Process

Losing weight is something everyone has tried at some point in their lives.

Everyone wants to become thin and get rid of that extra fat.

When people go on a weight loss spree, they tend to check their weight every day to see what progress they have been making.

And they observe that on some days their weight has decreased, but on other days it is more than the previous day despite exercising on a regular basis.

Why does Weight Loss Rate Fluctuate?

It is believed that weight decreases or increases in a linear manner.

This means that weight either increases continuously or keeps on decreasing.

But this does not happen. This is because a change in weight of the body depends on many factors.

How is energy balance related to weight loss?

Energy balance is one of the most important factors in determining the variation in weight over a short-term.

It basically is the difference between the calories consumed and the calories burned to release energy for daily needs. Calories are consumed in the form of the food we eat.

When the amount of calories burnt is more than the amount consumed, it leads to a decrease in body weight.

This is called a negative energy balance.

Even though these small variations in weight determine the increase or decrease in weight over a long period of time, the graph of the change in weight is fluctuating.

What is Weight Loss Plateau?

Weight loss may sometimes stop or the weight may remain constant for a short period of time. This is called a Plateau.

This happens because as the body weight decreases, the energy required to perform the daily physical activities also decreases.

This causes lesser calories to burn which leads to a halt in the decrease of weight.

Weight loss plateau can be discontinued by increasing physical activity and decreasing the calorie intake.

Losing Weight Is A Linear Process

Is Weight Loss A Linear Process? What Science Says

People need to eat every day so that the calories they consume in the form of food can be burned to release energy. This energy allows people to do different kinds of activities.

Studies show that weight is seen to be stable over long periods of time. But when observed on a regular basis, it widely varies.

This may be due to environmental factors.

Mathematical models of energy balance in humans show that due to large continuous changes in the number of calories consumed every day, the body weight fluctuates on a daily basis.

Increased negative energy balance leads to a decrease in body weight, while positive energy balance causes weight gain.

The energy balance changes every day according to the energy intake and expenditure.

This is why the weight keeps on changing.

It has been studied that reducing the number of calories being consumed along with increasing physical activity daily can help in losing weight.

The amount of work done determines the number of calories lost.

When on a particular day, the physical activity done is much more than on the regular days, it is found that the weight on that day decreases by a small amount.

However, this may again increase the next day as the movement done on that day maybe less.

What are the factors responsible for non-linear weight loss?

There are many factors which decide the variations in body weight as discussed before. Some of them are –

1. Body water retention affects weight loss

Around 60% of the human body is made up of water. This water is very important for survival.

The amount of water in the body changes every day according to the environmental condition.

During summers, the amount of water retained by the body may be more due to increased intake of water and other liquids.

However, the body may be dehydrated during winters due to less consumption of liquids.

Water may also be retained inside the body due to an intake of excessive sodium. Sodium regulates water to all the cells of the body and helps in storing it.

2. Fluctuations in muscle mass affect weight loss

The muscle in the body is made up of proteins. These muscle tissues are constantly being broken down and new tissues are synthesized.

This may also account for a change in the body weight at a particular time.

3. Changes in body clock influence weight loss pattern

Due to the changing sleep patterns, the weight of a person may vary.

Studies have shown that people who get less amount of sleep show changes in the number of hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin, which regulate or control their appetite.

Also, the metabolism gets disrupted when the internal clock or the sleeping pattern of the body changes.

Also, when people stay up till late at night, they tend to eat more which leads to an increase in weight.

Loss of sleep may also contribute to several other health problems.

4. Calories intake varies every day and in turn, affects body weight

This affects the weight loss graph as a person may be consuming more or less food in his body at a particular time.

A study revealed that weight loss is slowed down due to the changing lifestyle during weekdays and weekends.

The body weight may be altered because on weekends, the calorie consumption is higher and the physical activity is lower as compared to the weekdays.

5. Menstrual cycle-related changes may affect weight loss rates by women

In women, the monthly menstrual cycle may also cause a change in body weight.

During the pre-ovulatory phase, a notable change in the body weight takes place, as found by a study.

Also, the same study showed that the amount of calorie intake increases during the luteal phase of the cycle.

However, another study proved that the fluctuations that occur in the weight during the menstrual cycle among women are mainly due to emotional eating.

But it is true that the menstrual cycle affects body weight in some way or the other.

It has also been proved by studies that the rate of weight loss also depends on the initial weight of a person.

Higher the initial weight more will be the rate of decrease in weight.

Similar to weight loss, weight gain is also not a linear process. Rather, weight increases exponentially, as confirmed by some studies.


All the studies and points mentioned above suggest that weight loss is not linear. It fluctuates continuously.

This change depends on a number of factors.

On certain days, the body retains more water and may show an increase in weight.

There may be an increase in the body muscle or the food stored in the alimentary canal may be more than the previous day.

Every time people check their weight, it should be checked at the same time because it may vary at different times during the day.

For example, it may be more at night just after dinner and it may be less in the morning before breakfast.

Since people eat different kinds of food every day, calorie intake cannot be the same.

Other factors that influence the oscillating weight on a short-term may be stress, medical conditions like Thyroid, discontinuation of smoking, taking medicines like antidepressants, menopause, etc.

The metabolism of the body along with the hormonal changes also contributes to the non-linear change in weight loss.

We should accept the fact that losing weight takes a long period of time. It is a bit difficult, but not impossible.

We should not get disheartened by this non-linear graph because as long as it is going in the downward direction, weight loss is guaranteed over the long-term.


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