Imagine this: You decide it’s time to make a concerted effort to lose weight. You start exercising regularly and embark on a healthy eating plan. The time comes to check in on your progress, so you step on the scale for the moment of truth.
You haven’t lost any weight.
What do you do? Continue with the exercise and healthy eating plan? Throw in the towel, and go back to what you were doing before? Start restricting your eating even more as an effort to make weight loss happen faster?
These are all completely normal and reasonable reactions to a lack of success on the scale. Weight loss, maintenance or gain can be tricky to navigate. Put more plainly: The scale can be tricky to navigate.
Weight fluctuations are common because your weight is determined by a variety of factors. These include but are not limited to how hydrated you are, what you recently ate, your bathroom habits, the climate and your exercise routine. A few pounds of weight fluctuation here or there are usually not a result of fat gain but a result of your body doing exactly what it needs to do to regulate its physiological functions. So, how often should you weigh yourself? Whether your goal is maintenance, loss or gain, let’s talk about the scale.
The very first question you need to ask yourself is: “Will weighing myself (daily, weekly, periodically, etc.) help me or harm me?” Since there’s no magic answer for how often to weigh yourself, figuring out what is helpful and motivating for you as an individual is how you decide.
Many people find weighing in daily provides a sense of accountability and is helpful for having a good idea of where they are with their progress. For many, it helps to keep progress on track. If you’re able to look at the overall trend and not stress about the fluctuations, then by all means, weigh yourself daily.
Does a 0.4-pound weight gain sour your mood? Or, are you absolutely elated to see that you’re down 1 pound? If the daily weigh-ins powerfully affect your mood and behavior, then you might want to reconsider how often you weigh yourself. The number on the scale should not have the power to dictate your mood, the events of the day or your overall quality of life — it’s just a number.
Weighing weekly can have its advantages — it allows you to track progress while still having six whole days to not focus on your weight.
For best results, pick a consistent day each week, and weigh yourself in the morning. Look for trends, but don’t get caught up in the minutiae. Recognize that it will take a few weeks to get a picture of where the trend is heading. This can be a good tool to help you feel accountable without making you ride the daily emotional roller coaster that is (or can be) the scale.
Some people opt for the occasional weight check-in. People may do this at home or rely on the scale at the gym or doctor’s office to get an idea of where they are. People who opt for the occasional weigh-in often have alternative ways of identifying weight shifts, like the way their clothes fit or how strong they feel while exercising.
There are many people out there who smash their scale and never look back. Some people find it helpful to focus on how they feel in their clothes, the balance of their meals and snacks and how they perform with their exercise rather than focusing on the number. This can be a valid way to approach health — there’s much more to health than a number on the scale!
If you are weighing yourself multiple times per day, stop! With rare exceptions, you should not weigh yourself more than once per day. Obsessing over a number on the scale can turn into a very problematic pattern that can disturb the peace and happiness in your life. If you decide to weigh yourself, the scale should be a tool that helps you, not harms you.
Overall, ask yourself about what is most helpful for you. For some, daily weigh-ins are the best route. For others, weighing less often is better for overall health. Each of us has different ways of experiencing things and inviting motivation and positivity into our lives. Find what works for you and stick to it!
Originally published January 2018
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