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July 19, 2016

Did you gain 3 pounds today? Don't worry. That's normal.

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on October 2, 2017.

The typical person's weight fluctuates by as much as 5 pounds throughout the day as the body seeks a balance between sodium and water, Katherine Ellen Foley reports for Quartz.

Many people feel pleased when they weigh themselves in the morning—then grow alarmed when, later in the day, the scale shows they've gained a few pounds.

"Don't be disappointed," Foley writes: The idea that any of us has a single weight is a "misnomer."

The body is constantly trying to find a balance between sodium and water, which leads weight to fluctuate throughout the day. Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist with the Mayo Clinic, explains, "Your body wants to be in an equilibrium."

Striking a balance

On the one hand, the body needs sodium, which helps control blood pressure, among other roles. But on the other hand, salt is dehydrating, and the body needs adequate reserves of water.

The kidneys help to strike the needed balance. "If we … have more sodium for one reason or another, our kidneys are saying, 'Hold onto some fluid,'" Zeratsky says.

If you eat too much salt, for instance, your body may pull fluids from your lymph nodes and other areas. You may also feel thirsty, as your body tries to reset your fluid balance.

Eventually, though, you'll wind up with too much fluid, triggering a trip to the bathroom—and bringing down your weight again.

If you are worried about excess water weight, Zeratsky says the best strategy is stay hydrated throughout the day. She recommends drinking between 64 ounces and 120 ounces of water a day.

Don't worry too much about drinking too much water. "Your body is pretty smart. Your kidneys will send it to your bladder, and you'll flush it," Zeratsky says.

Ultimately, "a little water weight fluctuation day to day is normal," Foley writes, adding that weighing yourself at the same time every day can help control for the fluctuations. "Even if your weight goes up or down from there, you’ll have a general picture of how much you weigh at that time," she concludes (Foley, Quartz, 7/15).

Key insights on medical weight loss programs

 Key insights on medical weight loss programs

As obesity and its related comorbidities remain top concerns nationwide, many hospitals are considering how to enhance their services to this patient group. Understanding that weight loss demands a comprehensive approach to care, many hospitals have launched non-surgical weight loss programs to support those patients who are not candidates for surgery.

This brief profiles three non-surgical weight loss programs at community and teaching hospitals to identify the variety of services available.

Download the Brief

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