Ask the Diet Doctor: How Frequently Should I Check My Weight?
Weighing yourself on a regular basis can help you lose more weight—without obsessing over the number
A: How often should I weigh myself?
Q: The scale is a very poor marker of short-term progress, but it is a good long-term measure of body weight change. Therefore I recommend that you weigh yourself every day.
Not too long ago, I was reading a research review of 12 studies that looked at the impact of “self weighing” on body weight and weight loss. The researchers found that people who hopped on the scale daily or at least weekly maintained up to a 6.6-pound weight-loss advantage over people who did not frequently weigh themselves.
In one study reviewed, people were asked to check their weight four times a day (a little excessive, don’t you think?); these people lost twice as much as those that never faced the scale. While four times is overkill, this review illustrates the point that monitoring your weight is good for losing weight and maintaining your ideal weight.
I stress the importance of daily weigh-ins to clients for the following reasons:
1. It is a very easy habit to master. Get up, go to the bathroom, step on the scale. Pretty simple.
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2. It keeps you aware. As the old business slogan goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Daily weight checks keep your goals and progress in the forefront of your mind.
3. It just plain works! As you see from the studies I mentioned above, frequent self-weighing leads to more pounds lost. Scientists are still unclear on the ideal frequency (Daily? Weekly? Some other magic formula?), but we do know that weekly is the minimum. I prefer daily because what happens if you are holding water on scale day? Daily gives you the most accurate long-term picture of your weight loss.
I know you hear many people say the scale doesn’t matter and that muscle weighs more than fat (to the latter point: One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat; a pound is a pound). The scale does matter because it is a very simple measurement to take and understand. But it is not perfect and doesn’t distinguish between water, fat, muscle, or brain cells gained or lost. Women can drop two jean sizes without the scale budging. This is why the scale shouldn’t be your only measure (girth measurements are also key and perfect to use in conjunction with your scale weight).
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The key to most effectively and objectively using your daily weights is to not look at one particular day’s number by itself, but to look at your weight trends over the course of two or more weeks. Day to day your weight is just too variable. I have one client whose weight can swing 10 pounds on any given day—and I can assure you that he is not gaining 10 pounds of fat and then losing it in the subsequent 24 hours.
The best way to look at your weight trends is to graph them. You can use a simple spreadsheet, an app on your phone, or a Wi-Fi scale that takes your weight, records it, and graphs it before you can even stop off the scale.
Keep weighing yourself every day, but don’t get caught up in your daily weight.