You’ve been trying to lose weight…you’ve been “good” on your diet…and yet you step on the scale to find that not only haven’t you lost weight—you’ve gained! Rather than feeling dismayed, recognize that it’s normal for weight to fluctuate by as much as three to five pounds from day to day. It isn’t fat that you’re gaining or losing…it’s water.

Roughly 40% to 70% of our body weight is water, and what you ate the day or two before plays a key role in what the scale shows. Example: If you eat a salty meal such as pizza or tacos, you will retain water and weigh more. If you eat low-sodium, lean meals such as grilled chicken and salad for a few days, your body will lose water and your weight will drop. 

Here are three smart weight-management strategies…

Weigh daily. Studies show that daily weigh-ins lead to better weight control. Do it on the same scale at the same time every day, while wearing minimum clothing and after urinating.  

Stay stable. If you’re over 50 and weigh 10 to 20 pounds more than you’d like, aim to stay stable rather than lose. Don’t get hung up on a specific number. Use the scale as a check-in to see if you’re staying within a desired weight range. As we age, being underweight isn’t healthy either—people at the extreme ends of the weight spectrum have shorter life spans.

Avoid weight creep. Many people gain a few pounds a year as they age and eventually end up many pounds overweight, a phenomenon known as “weight creep.” Helpful: If you notice a trend upward over several days, cut back at meals, snack on healthier foods and forgo dessert until your weight stabilizes.