Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day While Losing Weight? (Science and My Experience)
Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?
Let's face it: We all have a love-hate (tipping more toward hate) relationship with our scale. On a good day, the scale is the best friend who cheers you on. On a bad day, the scale is the sworn frenemy who we secretly side-eye. Hot and cold relationship aside, that scale might be one of the most crucial tools you have for weight loss.
A recent study of 91 overweight adults in theJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticseven found that those who weighed themselves daily lost more weight compared to those who did it weekly, or not at all. But there are actually opposing opinions on the best weigh-in frequency. In fact, "the benefits of daily self-weighing have long been a topic of interest among obesity and eating disorder experts," says David B. Allison, PhD, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
So…if even the experts can't agree, how often should you subject yourself to the scale? Let's find out—here, we break down the pros and cons of weighing yourself each day.
Daily weigh-ins can serve as a red flag for your system.
With weight loss, ignorance is not bliss. A daily weight check-in can prevent unpleasant surprises—you'll notice any increases immediately (as opposed to weeks or months later when things may have gotten out of hand), and you'll make sure not to gain too much. However, a Cornell study published late last year noted that this tactic may only be a useful strategy for "certain adults." Who, exactly, are these certain adults? (Our guess: Those who don't relate to Con #1, below.) But for now, the study's authors are not sure about all the factors at play it will take more research to pinpoint those who will benefit from frequent weigh-ins.
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Daily weigh-ins will motivate you by monitoring progress.
Tracking your weight-loss journey and keeping an eye on trends can boost your confidence. Even if you're just noticing tiny incremental changes, seeing that your efforts are paying off can help you stick to the plan when your resolve is wavering. One of the ways that the CDC suggests losing weight is to continually check in with yourself to see how you're improving. What's more, research by the National Weight Control Registry, an organization that tracks people who have successfully lost and kept off weight, also tied that success to daily weigh-ins. (Check out , our new DVD that lets you work out at home—and get serious results in only 10 minutes a day!)
Daily weigh-ins are a constant reminder of your goal.
Your weigh-in can be a reset button—the act of stepping onto the scale every day serves as a course correction. The authors of theNutrition and Dieteticsstudy cited previous research that self-monitoring spurs people to attain their goals, and experts know that subtle goal reminders influence your eating habits, which keeps bad behavior in check. Other research in the same study note that daily weigh-ins can even lead to better food and exercise choices. Meaning, you'll think twice about having ice cream or deep-dish pizza for dinner (or skipping a workout) if you know there's a date with the scale the next morning.
Daily weigh-ins can spiral you toward obsessive behavior.
Some experts have long been leery of too much time on the scale, partly because of issues surrounding eating disorders. "Focusing on the number on the scale too much can be unhealthy and lead to anxiety about our bodies and what we eat," warns Charlotte N. Markey, PhD, professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey and author ofSmart People Don't Diet. If you're keeping a better track of numbers than your accountant, you might be going overboard. After all, "an obsession with the numbers can be counterproductive and stressful for people," Markey adds. In other words, a bad moment at the scale can turn into binging on unlimited cinnamon rolls and potato chips. Or the other extreme altogether: working out or counting calories too much.
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Daily weigh-ins may magnify normal (and minor) fluctuations.
It's normal for your weight to change throughout the day, and it's affected by many factors: the time of day, what you're wearing (which can add 3 to 5 pounds), how much sodium you've consumed, and whether you've gone to the bathroom (a lighter gut works wonders). Instead of focusing on the vacillating numbers, "we want people to focus on how they feel by asking themselves, 'Am I hungry? Am I full? Do my pants feel too tight?' " Markey says. And it's important to keep perspective: If you've switched to snacking on fruit and nuts sometimes instead of old pals Ben and Jerry, you've successfully made a behavior change, and it's those kinds of lasting changes that will help reshape your body.
Daily weigh-ins focus on short-term results.
Keeping an eagle eye on the scale can give the wrong impression of what's happening overall to your weight-loss journey. In fact, your weight usually goes up over the weekend, as you're likely to relax eating rules (hello, brownie!), according to a recent study of 80 people published inObesity Facts. But those who ate what they wanted on weekends and then consistently compensated with healthier eating on weekdays actually lost weight. As a result, researchers found that "long-term habits may make more of a difference than short-term splurges." So making room for a cheat day might actually help with weight loss for one reason: you won't feel so deprived (and likely to binge!).
What's the bottom line after comparing the pros and cons? There's no cookie-cutter answer. A big piece of that puzzle is your personality and what motivates YOU. Ultimately, research results still vary—some reveal that daily weigh-ins are beneficial while others reveal there are no effects—but they seem to agree that it's not detrimental to a person's mental or physical health, unless that person has disordered eating behaviors to begin with. "I think that the data is more positive than anything else and suggests that daily self-weighing is a safe, inexpensive, and perhaps modestly helpful technique," Allison says. So as long as you're coming at it from a healthy place, daily weigh-ins may very well be worth a try.
Video: Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?
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