Why Your Weight Fluctuates

By Jen Comas

The last two years of my life have been a wild ride, packed full of changes, both awesome and chaotic.

Two biggies started it all: the amicable end of my marriage and a cross-country move. These two changes led me to leave a company that I worked for, partly owned, and loved. I then threw myself into my coaching business full time. Over the course of that first year, I moved several times, staying at various AirBnB locations, until I finally settled into a space of my own, that I loved.

jen-sitting-in-car-sunshine-299x375Interspersed throughout all of that were some exciting things, too! I traveled a ton, welcomed several sold-out Strongest You Coaching groups, became an aunt, and worked to completely revamp my website.

Throughout all of this, I was also living my regular life. By that, I mean I was spending time with friends and family, riding dirt bikes, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, and taking care of the daily rigmarole, such as laundry, the occasional hair-wash, and other adulty tasks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glorify being busy; I’m simply making the point that, ready or not, life happens. As I’m sure you are well aware, more often than not, life has its own agenda, making your plans seem more like a suggestion than a sure thing sometimes.

With the fluctuations of life and your routine, come the inevitable changes to your sleep, stress levels, nutrition, ability to get to the gym regularly, and so much more. It’s often likely that you’ll see some weight fluctuations as a result of the current chapter of your life.

The Ebb and Flow

My physique has changed over the last two years. Not for better or for worse, mind you—it’s simply looked different at different times. My body fat and muscle mass have ebbed and flowed. You know, how bodies tend to do.

Let me give you a few examples:

jen-sitting-on-hill-350x349When I got divorced, I initially lost a bit of weight. Even though our separation was friendly, it still came with unique challenges and stress, which affected my appetite. It also affected my sleep. I found myself too tired to strength train, and frankly, I didn't really care about working out at the time. I took daily walks, and chose to let that be good enough.

When I started to focus my energy into my online business, my weight shifted upward again. Sitting in front of the computer for hours on end, staying up late in front of the screen, and grinding on a start-up biz can be unforgiving on the body.

Once I found a bit of my groove with my business and started sleeping better, I started training again. I was feeling happier in life, eating well, and sleeping well. As a result, I started to regain my strength.

However, a few months later, I found myself struggling with some personal challenges. Once again, my sleep was suffering, my stress levels were higher, and my body softened up a bit.

JenOverheadPress-350x380But then, fast-forward another couple of months, and I had found a place to live that I loved, and I was able to improve my sleep and reduce my stress. I was spending a ton of time with people I cared about, and I found myself the leanest and most muscular I had been in a long time.

I want to be clear—this wasn’t about my being “on” or “off” of the proverbial wagon. That wagon doesn’t exist. The gentle weight oscillations that we experience are often nothing more than a part of life. My weight tends to float up and down within the same eight to ten pounds throughout the course of the year, based on my schedule, sleep, and stress levels.

Weight Fluctuations Are Normal

Weight fluctuations can be frustrating for some people, but I assure you that they are absolutely a normal part of life. The experiences that I shared are not unique. When my clients are going through phases of life that leave them short on sleep and high on stress, their weight tends to increase a bit. Other things such as travel, busy periods at work, teething babies, back-to-school season, moving, and big family events all have the potential to do the same thing. They throw you out of your routine, and you may inhabit a slightly softer body for a few days, weeks, or even a couple of months.

Here is the thing: weight fluctuations are normal, it's okay, and it’s often temporary.

Somehow, many people have gotten the impression that their weight is supposed to be the same all year round, every day of every week. It’s not that it necessarily shouldn’t be the same, but some fluctuations are common, and normal, depending on what you have going on.

When we learn to zoom out a bit, it’s usually very easy to see that we feel a bit softer due to life’s plans. We can find peace in knowing that it’s temporary and there’s no reason to panic.

With all of that being said, I’m not encouraging you to toss aside all of your healthy efforts and wait for the “perfect time” to adopt them once more, because we all know that no such perfect time exists. Life is constantly happening.

Instead, I’d like to see you give yourself some grace during the rough patches! Here are a few tips that will help.

Build A Buffer

If you know that you are going into a season of life that will be busier than usual, and are concerned that your healthy habits will be compromised, take a few weeks to build yourself a buffer. This means going to bed even earlier, focusing on nutritious foods, keeping alcohol to a minimum, and stress as low as possible. Automate your routine as much as you can so that everything feels effortless. If you go into your busy season in a “health surplus,” you are going to fare much better than if you head into it behind the eight ball, so to speak.

bigrocks-littlerocks-450x269Big Rocks > Small Rocks

Life can throw us curveballs, requiring an unexpected change of plans, and we won't have a chance to build that buffer. When things like this happen, it’s important to focus on the Big Rocks instead of the Small Rocks. The Big Rocks are the things that have the biggest impact. The Small Rocks are the little details that don't really make a huge difference if the Big Rocks are in place.

Examples of the Big Rocks are things like ensuring that you get protein and vegetables at every meal, move your body in some way every day, and get plenty of sleep. When your schedule gets stressful, do your best to focus on the Big Rocks, and don’t worry about the details.

Sleep Comes Before Training

One of the biggest mistakes that I see many women make is that they sacrifice precious sleep during hectic times in order to fit in time to exercise. While I commend these women for wanting to be consistent and get their training in, the fact is that sometimes there are things that are far more important—sleep is a big one.

Getting adequate, restful sleep is vital and affects so many other health factors, including our “hunger” hormones (which can affect our ability to make better choices), cognitive function, willpower, and cortisol release.

It’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. Getting an extra 90 minutes of sleep could potentially make or break your day when it comes to your food choices, your mood, and your energy levels. Trade the workout for the extra sleep, and take a long walk instead.

Let “Good Enough” Be GREAT

When life gets in the way, it’s important to give yourself some grace. Understand that you can’t be “on” all of the time. Not every day, week, or even month is going to be the appropriate time to try to lose body fat or gain strength. We simply have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

By focusing on the Big Rocks, prioritizing sleep, and learning that it’s perfectly okay for your body to ebb and flow a bit, you can learn to let “good enough” be great—there is so much freedom in that!

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About the author:  Jen Comas

Jen Comas is a Girls Gone Strong co-founder and GGS Coaching Head Coach, as well as a NASM Personal Trainer and USAW Level One Weightlifting coach. She has competed in figure and trained as a powerlifter, teaches and practices yoga, and is obsessed with motorcycles, dirt biking, and downhill mountain biking. Learn about Jen on her website and follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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