How often do you step on the scale? According to a database called the National Weight Control Registry, 75% of successful “losers” weigh themselves at least once a week. The database, run by researchers from Brown Medical School and the University of Colorado, has tracked over 5,000 people who have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for five and a half years (without gastric bypass surgery). Weighing in on a regular basis is one of the strategies common in people who’ve prevented rebound weight gain.
When I was in college, we generally recommended checking your weight once a week. That’s because it’s normal for your body weight to fluctuate from day to day or hour to hour. For example, if you have a meal that’s saltier than usual, you’ll retain more water, which can cause your weight to creep up on the scale until your body can flush out the excess sodium and fluid. That means even if you haven’t gained an ounce of fat, your weight has technically increased, at least temporarily.
Getting caught up in those ups and downs is why some of my clients have thrown out their scale altogether. If you easily become weight obsessed, to the point where your mood or activities depend on the number you see, I highly recommend banishing your bathroom scale. Losing weight and keeping it off should feel empowering and self-nurturing, not self-defeating or punishing.
But if you’re able to limit check-ins to once a day (preferably first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom, without clothes), and you can put the slight ebbs and flows in perspective, you’ll soon get a sense of your body’s usual pattern. That’s key because if you start to see a change from what’s typical, you can make the connection about why that’s happening and address it right away.
For example, many women experience PMS-related weight gain every month (5 pounds isn’t uncommon) but lose it the following week. If that’s your usual pattern but one month you gain 7 instead of 5, or you gain 5 but don’t bounce back down to your usual weight, it can be a hint that something else is off. You may realize you’re eating out more often or not paying as much attention to portion sizes. It’s kind of like an “early detection system” and based on the research, it may be one of the most important tips for keeping the weight off.
What’s your history with recording your weight? Does tracking your digits drive you batty or do you find it helpful for maintaining awareness about your habits? Please share!