Weighing Yourself Can Boost (or Destroy) Your Weight Loss Efforts

man standing on a bathroom scale

This man probably thinks a bathroom scale will help him meet his weight-loss goals | iStock.com

Wouldn’t it be great if your bathroom scale offered some encouraging words before you weighed yourself? Seeing the number hasn’t budged would sting a lot less if it were preceded with, “Hey, you look great! Is that a six-pack I see emerging?” Since the process is a lot less hopeful, most people dread it. But skipping weigh-in day means you have nothing holding you accountable, whether you’re trying to lose a few pounds or maintain your current physique

Unfortunately, knowing that you need to weigh yourself isn’t the same as knowing how you should weigh yourself. Daily? Weekly? When the mood strikes you? There has to be some way to stay on track without losing your mind. Let’s take a closer look.

healthy foods and a tape measure

Healthy foods for weight loss | iStock.com

For a lot of dieters, daily weighing is the only way to go to achieve weight-loss goals, and there’s plenty of research to support the habit. One 2015 study found daily weighers lost significantly more weight over the course of six months than those who stepped on the scale less frequently. Another team of researchers decided to take a look at the effect over a longer period of time. Their work was published in the Journal of Obesity and found, while daily weighers lost a relatively small amount of weight, they were able to successfully keep it off two years later. And interestingly, men had more success than women using this method.

Daily weighing has its drawbacks as well. Life by Daily Burn explains the readings can be inaccurate if you’ve eaten a lot of salty food, because it makes your body retain water. More importantly, stepping on the scale can lead to anxiety for a lot of people. A few studies, including one from 1997, found daily weighing can lead to depression and poor body image.

Even those who support monitoring your weight every day acknowledge it can be a problem for those who exhibit unhealthy eating habits. Psychology Today briefly mentions this caveat. If you know you’re prone to taking clean eating too far, daily weighing could do more harm than good.

Woman Adjusting Weight Scale

Woman weighing herself on an adjustable scale | iStock.com

When it comes to weekly weighing, results have been relatively promising. Research published in PLOS ONE found, while daily weighing produced the best results, dieters were still able to successfully shed pounds by checking in every week. This method might be a better option for those who can’t deal with the stress of facing the scale every day.

Some people like to weigh themselves even less frequently to prevent themselves from obsessing over it too much, and there’s something to this idea. For one thing, a scale isn’t the only indication of body composition. It doesn’t take a piece of equipment to tell you your clothes are fitting better or that your muscles are appearing more toned.

And some evidence suggests we don’t even have that much control over what we weigh. The Washington Post explains our bodies are biologically designed to hold onto weight by using calories as efficiently as possible, a feature that’s only helpful if you’re starving to death. Because of this, everyone’s body has a range, called a set weight, they can sustain in the long term. According to the story, trying to drop below it is just going to backfire.

Happy woman eating green apple

Mindful eating is a better approach for some people | iStock.com

Some also think staying away from the scale can help us reconnect with healthy eating. Instead of measuring every portion and obsessing over good and bad foods, you pay attention to what your body tells you. It might sound too good to be true, but some research has shown it can work. One 2014 review found intuitive eaters have better nutrition habits, healthier lifestyles, and higher self-esteem. That being said, intuitive eating is usually difficult for people to adopt.

If you were hoping for a hard-and-fast answer, we’re sorry to say it really depends. Frequently checking in can deliver some of the best results, but it also comes with the most negatives. Take a closer look at how your anxiety level relates to what the scale says as well as your overall eating habits. Chances are, they’ll reveal which method is going to keep you at your healthiest and happiest.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec