I see a lot of posts by ladies that are very disheartened by their weight loss. They eat well and train for a couple of weeks, yet their weight remains unchanged, or its goes up by 1-2 kg and you see them get discouraged and well-meaning advice like you’re gaining muscle or similar. This is not entirely accurate, as a healthy male doing everything right and eating a ton of food, gaining 5kg of muscle in a year would be regarded as an exceptional year. As a female eating in a caloric deficit trying to lose weight, you can imagine this is not the case.

Now this is aimed largely at women with a normal 28-day menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle has 2 separate phases, with each phase lasting 14 days. There is the first week of the Follicular phase. We then enter the second week of the Follicular phase, we see a sharp rise in oestrogen before we see a massive drop in oestrogen. Into the first week of the Luteal phase (this is ovulation), after which we see a smooth rise in oestrogen but also a rise in progesterone and testosterone, as we lead into the final week of the Luteal phase.

These fluctuations in hormones result in weight gain and weight loss via water retention. We know that oestrogen retains sodium so when it is at its highest, we have water retention. When is it at its highest? Weeks 2 and 4 is when you will retain the most water, and weeks 1 and 3 will be lower water retention as you will see in my example below.

Each of these phases has a distinct effect on your body, as I am sure you are aware. The early stages of the menstrual cycle, you are more insulin sensitive and your body favours carbs as a fuel source at rest. The second half of the menstrual cycle you are less insulin resistant and your body favours, and burns more fats as fuel during exercise than it did during the Follicular phase. Both your metabolism and body temperature increase during the last two weeks (the luteal phase) by as much as a couple hundred calories. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, this is also when the cravings hit. If you are clever about it, you could safely introduce some dark chocolate to assist in warding off a full-blown binge and will have little effect on your results.

Onto tracking weight. As a female, you cannot track weight weekly, you can only track weight every 5 weeks accurately, and here is why. I like to work on weekly averages so you weigh daily and divide by 7 to give a weekly average. This is far more accurate than picking one random day, like a Monday.

Here is a hypothetical example of your average female.

Week 1 Follicular phase

  • Month 1 75kg
  • Month 2 74kg
  • Month 3 73kg

Week 2 Follicular phase

  • Month1 76kg
  • Month 2 75kg
  • Month 3 74kg

Week 3 Luteal phase

  • Month 1 74kg
  • Month 2 73kg
  • Month 3 72 Kg

Week 4 Luteal phase

  • Month 1 78kg
  • Month 2 77kg
  • Month 3 75KG

Can you see how you need to compare week for week, and not consecutive weeks? This is aimed at ladies who have proper nutrition, and aiming for a 1kg loss per week. So, by that you are eating below maintenance calories to encourage fat loss only. If you are on some extreme fad diet and losing muscle, water, and drastic amounts of weight, you will override the water fluctuations that happen. So, this is aimed at those taking nutrition seriously and working on their weight in a progressive and systematic way.

You will still obsess about your weight but hopefully this has provided some insight, so that you can view your weight objectively, instead of letting it rule your motivation and emotional state.

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