Weigh-In Often to Keep the Weight Off
By the wlr team
Many of us who are trying to lose weight have a love-hate relationship with the bathroom scales.
We know we need to track progress in order to make sure our chosen strategy is working, but also fear what stepping on the scales might reveal.
Then there’s the question of how often we should weigh ourselves.
Some people opt for the often recommended ‘once a week’, while others only step on the scales when they are pretty certain of a result they want to see. (Even if it is just because they’ve had a tummy bug!)
Quite a lot of WLR members choose a Friday weekly weigh-in, because that means they can recover from a little weekend excess during the rest of the week. Others step on the scales every day because they find it helps to keep them on track.
What works best for you is most important.
If an upward blip on the scales is likely to send you running to the biscuit tin for solace because you think the diet’s not working, then you’re probably best off sticking with a weekly weigh in.
However, if you can cope with daily fluctuations, some scientists say weighing yourself every day, or almost every day, could help with weight loss and weight maintenance.
Recent studies have shown a positive link between how often a person steps on the scales and how much weight they lose or, importantly, don’t gain.
A two-year Cornell University study, recently published in the Journal of Obesity1, found that an experimental group who weighed in daily, and recorded the results on a personalized web-based graph, were more successful at losing weight than a control group.
(This is known as the Caloric Titration Method (CTM) - a technique for weight control consisting of daily self-weighing and viewing an individualized graph of weight over time.)
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Another study by Butryn et al.2, looked at the effect of self weighing frequency on 3000 members of the US National Weight Control Registry who had lost 30lbs or more and kept it off for a year or more.
The researchers found that the participants who weighed themselves more frequently were more successful at keeping the weight off.
How Does Weighing Every Day Help?
It appears that there are three main reasons why weighing yourself frequently (daily, or at least 3 times per week) may help with weight control:
- Viewing your body weight graph over a period of time provides feedback enabling you to make a better connection with your own energy balance (i.e. calories consumed versus calories burned).
- The number on the scale may act as either positive or negative reinforcement. Seeing a loss at your morning weigh-in could positively reinforce healthy choices you made on the previous day. On the other hand, a gain in the morning could put a negative light on last night's fast food blowout.
- Weighing-in in the morning, and seeing a graph, may strengthen resolve in the face of social and environmental cues associated with eating.
Ultimately, daily/frequent weighing will probably help some people, but may not be a good idea for all.
In particular it’s not recommended for those who have, or have had, an eating disorder – or people who tend to be naturally restrained eaters anyway.
But for those of us who struggle with weight, perhaps stepping on the scale every day could be one of our best allies.
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When Should I Weigh Myself?
The best time of day to weigh yourself is in the morning, as soon as you get up – after you’ve been to the loo.
This is because you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for a long time, so your body weight at this point in the day tends to be at its most consistent.
That’s not to say you won’t have fluctuations, everyone does.
One of the possible advantages of weighing yourself every day could be getting to know what can affect your weight on a daily or monthly basis.
If weighing yourself in the morning isn’t convenient for you, try to make it as early in the day as possible – and at as consistent a time as possible.
The other important factor here is weighing yourself on the same set of scales each day.
Differences in scale calibration, and even the surface they are on, will mess with your results.
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- Frequent Self-Weighing and Visual Feedback for Weight Loss in Overweight Adults Carly R.Pacanowski and David A. Levitsky
- Consistent self-monitoring of weight: a key component of successful weight loss maintenance. Butryn ML, Phelan S, Hill JO, Wing RR.