There seems to be some confusion around what weight loss and weight gain really are. We recently went out for vegetable sushi and I gained 3 pounds(!) according to the scale. Worse, it took me three days to lose it!

Someone posted recently that they fasted for 22 hours and lost four pounds (they were so excited). Often when people are trying to lose weight they will be stuck for a few weeks and then all of the sudden, whoosh they lose 2-3 pounds almost overnight.

But the human body doesn’t gain or lose body fat that quickly. So, what is going on?

In my case the extra 3 pounds was water retention caused by the sodium in the soy sauce I enjoyed with my veggie sushi.

Too much sodium in the body can be dangerous so the human body offsets the risk by holding onto water.

This water weight is stored in your tissue until your body can rid itself of the excess sodium and believes the threat is passed. I was surprised that it took three days but for me it did.

What about losing four pounds in 24 hours? There are a couple of things at play when fasting, particularly for someone whose body has not adjusted to fasting.

One – people often allow themselves to get dehydrated when they fast. Too little water will cause weight loss just like too much causes weight gain.

Two – when fasting, your body is going to burn the glycogen that is stored in your muscles. That can be up to 2 pounds just in glycogen.

Your body will burn fat when fasting. BUT you won’t notice that at the scale the same day (see why below).

Three – your body uses the break it gets from processing food during fasting to do some housekeeping, reducing inflammation and sending broken and dead cells out with the trash (I read recently that the human body replaces 50,000 cells a second – this wasn’t a peer reviewed scientific source and I don’t know how they measure such things. But I thought it was interesting).

Between dehydration, glycogen burn and inflammation reduction, losing 4 pounds while fasting isn’t shocking. But don’t be surprised when most of it comes back in a day or two. (Note: Russ and I are usually down 2ish pounds on fasting days. Most likely glycogen that is replaced the next day when we eat.)

The whoosh effect.

Yep, that is a real term. Russ and I both experienced it during our weight loss journey. We thought we had plateaued because our weight wasn’t changing and then, whoosh 2-3 pounds almost overnight.

It happens because as your body burns fat out of a fat cell it replaces it with water as a holding spot for fat later. When the cell becomes 100% water and your body realizes, “oh I don’t need this cell for fat” it pulls all the water out and the cell goes flat.

The sudden drop in weight is your body emptying fat cells of that water. If your weight plateaus and then you suddenly lose a couple of pounds, it’s fat weight you likely burned a week or more ago. Your body is just catching up.

Don’t worry about it or try to change it. It’s normal and healthy.

Losing or gaining weight isn’t about the number on the scale today compared to the number yesterday or tomorrow. It’s about the trend over a week or a month.

If you’re geeky like me you can create an excel graph with a trend line.

Feed your cells nutritious, fiber rich, whole plant foods and your body will find and maintain its ideal body weight, no thought required.

Here's What to Do Next...

Option 1 - If you are a member, join the conversation with your thoughts or comments on the community page. We would love to hear your stories or experiences. Do you feel like your body does the whoosh thing with weight?

Option 2 - If you're not a member yet, join us now to get support from Dr. Robyn, Russ and other members who are also on their journey to better health. All journeys are better when you have someone to share it with.

If you are ready to address how your food choices are negatively affecting your health, let’s set up a free get-to-know-you chat. Send me an email and let’s get you on track to taking control of your stress eating.

Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at