Why Do I Look Fat One Day And Skinny The Next?


Have you ever wondered why some days you look and feel fat and other days you look and feel skinny?

This happens to me all the time and it’s extremely common amongst almost all of us. I’ve always wondered why this happens, so I decided to research it, and here’s what I learned:

Why Do I Look Fat One Day And Skinny The Next?

Days that you look fatter can usually be attributed to water retention, the size of your last meal, how long ago you ate your last meal or a combination of these. Conversely, the days you feel skinny you probably aren’t retaining any water, you likely haven’t exceeded your body’s caloric requirements and your hormones are well-balanced.

As you can see, the reason you might look fat one day and skinny the next can be because of a lot of things. Usually however, it’s not because you suddenly added a lot of body fat to your frame.

No, what’s more likely is that you’re retaining water and fluids or have a lot of food still in your system that causes bloating. So, let’s look closer at these scenarios and also how we can make sure we’re looking lean each and every day.

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Scenario 1 – Water Retention

Water retention occurs when excess water build up inside your body, which is also known as fluid retention or edema.

Why Do You Get Water Retention?

There are several reasons why water retention happens, many of which are not serious. Most commonly water retention happens because of:

  • stress
  • inactivity
  • hormonal changes
  • too much salt

Some women experience water retention during pregnancy or before their monthly period as well.

Another thing that can cause water retention are different mediactions, such as:

  • chemotherapy treatments
  • blood pressure medications
  • over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
  • antidepressants

Water retention can also be a symptom of a severe medical condition like heart failure or kidney disease. If you’re experiencing sudden or severe water retention, seek medical attention immediately.

Is Water Retention Unhealthy?

If you’re experiencing just a little short-term water retention then it’s not dangerous. However, if you’re retaining water and fluid often it might become unhealthy in the long-term.

You shouldn’t consistently retain and lose a lot of fluids, as doing so is usually a sign that something isn’t right. Perhaps you’re stressed often or eat an unhealthy diet.

How To Avoid Water Retention

What follows are a list of things you can do to reduce water retention.

1. Eat a diet low in salt

Try to limit your intake of salt (sodium) to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. This is done by simply not eating processed, packaged foods as tehse are typically salted very heavily to add taste. A good thing is to try is adding spices instead of salt to flavor vegetables and lean proteins.

2. Eat foods rich in potassium and magnesium

Potassium and magnesium will help balance out your sodium levels. Foods that include lots of these minerals are:

  • avocados
  • bananas
  • sweet potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and ruccola

3. Supplement with vitamin B-6

According to this study published in the Journal of Caring Science, vitamin B-6 significantly helps reduce water retention.

4. Stress less

Stress leads to hormonal imbalances (high levels of cortisol), which then leads to water retention. Stress can come from a lot of places and is accumulative, meaning it piles on no matter where it originates from. You can become stressed from having a lot to do at work, working out to much, dieting to hard on low calories, not feeling well mentally or emotionally and so on.

No matter where the stress comes from, too much of it usually leads to fluid retention. For this reason it’s important that you listen to your body and try your best to reduce stress as much as possible.

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5. Drink more water

Drinking water has been shown to help flush your retained water out. The Institute of Medicine recommends that we get about a gallon of water per day.

Personally I drink about 1 to 1.5 gallons (3-4 liters) per day (higher end during summer) because I lose a fair amount of water through my daily exercise.

Scenario 2 – Food In Your System

If you ate a big dinner the night before you might feel and look a bit fater the next morning and day.

If you spent the holidays indulging you could even have that fat feeling sticking around for several days before feeling regular again, even though you didn’t necessarily gain that much (or any) weight.

My Thoughts

Looking fat one day and skinny the next is rather normal. I’m always getting a bit bloated the day after eating at a restaurant or eating some junk food at home, simply because I ate a lot of calories including tons of salt. But this always goes back down within a day or two, so there’s no need to worry.

Stressing yourself up over water retention will likely lead to more water retention caused by stress and anxiety.

Related Questions

Why do I look skinny in the morning and fat at night? When you wake up in the morning you often appear leaner than at any other time during the day. This happens because you’re coming off of a multi-hour fast, which means that most of your food has been digested, so it can’t cause any bloat.

You’ve also lost water weight overnight, which contributes to a skinnier appearance and a lower weight. This is the reason why I recommend that you weigh yourself in the morning because this is your “slimmest” time of day.

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas Lampi and I work as a fitness writer, nutritional consultant and personal trainer. My favourite exercise is the bench press and my favourite food is pizza!

5 thoughts on “Why Do I Look Fat One Day And Skinny The Next?

  1. Thanks for this good information!
    I changed my diet, and began exercising last year and was able to shed 16 lbs in a short time, then I plateaued! But some days I look as heavy as I did before losing the weight. I do have a lot of stress going on.

    1. No problem, glad you liked it 🙂
      Well done losing 16 lbs! Stress is very likely to lead to water retention and also feelings of insecurity which might lead to you believing you look worse than you truly do. Acknowledge that it’s your stress talking and not you can help a lot 🙂

  2. So, I’m a regular dude, I work 13 hours at a fairly strenuous job (FedEx) but on my days off it’s like by about noon I don’t look lean and healthy. I’m just a chunky dad. But all I really eat is 1 huge meal a day, typically fast food, and almost always a giant burger. All those calories and proteins normally balance out with work but when you basically go through 30 hours of inactivity and eat salt heavy food and stress out about where the GOD DAMN DIAPERS ARE!, water retention seems basically inevitable. I was genuinely worried I was dying.

  3. Im glad you included the photos because I experience a similarly dramatic change in appearance day to day. Now I know I’m not crazy. I think in my case it may be dehydration – I’m going to try and drink much more water over the next couple weeks to see if it reduces the fat-looking days.

  4. Thank you for the article. Last year I shred 20lbs + from 179 give or take 155. Started exercising 6 days a week for 10 months and toned up. The following year until about 3 weeks ago my schedule shifted, and it changed my routine and my mind space changed. I wasn’t pushing myself to go to the gym anymore. Now I’m back to where I was and I’m totally bummed. That was hard work and I’m at square one! I do look skinny one day and like chubby looking the next (like right now – hence my reading this article). Its good to know. Combination of eating ‘darn good’ and consistent exercise is the key to fat loss and good health. The eating part is the most difficult for me. Given a choice between hot good tasting food (regardless of how it was made) VS some greens… It’s very hard to choose that latter and usual fail willingly where I take the punishment of feeling guilty afterward. In any case, to anyone reading this, keep pushing through. I am. You are most definitely not alone.

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