If you’re dieting to lose a few pounds, stepping on the scale might be a helpful tool to keep you motivated. Though it’s possible to diet scale-free, there are many benefits — and only a few downsides — to weighing yourself every day. Here are the pros and cons of daily weighing, and how to deal when results just aren’t happening fast enough.
Pro: You learn to hold yourself accountable
Losing weight is hard. It’s much harder when you don’t have consistent motivation to hit a weight-loss target. Many diet programs offer online support and in-person group accountability to help participants succeed. But when you’re on your own, making weigh-ins a daily habit might be just what you need to keep your motivation alive.
Tracking your progress over the long-term can also help you stick to your goals and avoid major setbacks. SFGate suggests keeping a record of your weight-loss progress, such as a journal, to hold yourself accountable from day to day. This allows you to look back on your small achievements over previous weeks, which could motivate you to continue pursuing new goals.
Pro: You become more aware of your body
It’s common to eat three meals a day, plus snacks, and never take the time to think about how your body is reacting to that fuel. Weighing yourself daily is one way to become more aware of how what you eat affects you physically. You might start to notice that eating less salt and added sugar makes a huge difference — both in terms of weight and how you feel about yourself.
According to SELF, there are a lot of things that can make your weight go up or down unexpectedly. Eating high-sodium foods, causes your body to retain water. Constipation, carb-loading, and menstruation can make you gain weight, too — and fast. And the reason experts tell you to not weigh yourself after a workout? You’ll weigh less on the scale, though it’s easy to gain water weight quickly.
Con: You could become obsessed
Daily weigh-ins have plenty of upsides. But there’s a potentially dangerous downside — becoming obsessed with the number on the scale. Weighing yourself every day could spiral into obsession, disordered eating, or even a clinical eating disorder. If, in an effort to influence your weight, your behavior becomes harmful, the consequences could be severe.
One of the telltale signs of obsession, says Health.com, is weighing yourself more than once per day. Other warning signs include counting calories, creating a forbidden foods list, and “body checking.” If you find yourself constantly worrying about your weight, you might need to step off the scale for awhile — no matter how effective weighing yourself might be.
Pro: You set short-term weight loss goals
As beneficial as long-term goals can be, breaking up large goals into smaller pieces can make all the difference. According to Mayo Clinic, giving your goals a “time stamp” can help you stay on track, especially when your junk food cravings seem irresistible. You don’t have to aim too far in advance, though. In fact, the sooner you set your first weight-loss milestone, the better.
To achieve long-term weight loss, Daily Burn suggests making short-term goals a priority. Losing weight seems much more overwhelming when you realize you have 20 pounds to lose by December. However, knowing you want to lose five pounds this month — just a pound a week — can make reaching that goal much less challenging.
Pro: You might eat less junk food
When junk food cravings catch you by surprise, you have two options — give in to temptation, or resist. Trying to lose weight makes limiting your indulgences necessary, yet challenging. You might find it easier to stick to your diet, however, if you have something to hold you accountable — such as a scale.
When you aren’t keeping track of how much you weigh, eating an entire bag of Doritos doesn’t seem to have too many short-term consequences. However, your scale doesn’t let you get away with much. When you step on tomorrow morning, it’s very easy to connect your weight gain with that Doritos binge. Tomorrow, you might think twice about repeating the bad habit, knowing the immediate fallout.
Pro: You’ll probably lose weight
For many people, numbers do the trick. The International Journal of Obesity conducted a study suggesting people who weigh themselves every day are more likely to lose weight and adopt positive eating and fitness behaviors. Other small studies have shown frequent self-weighing could also help you maintain your weight if you’re at a healthy weight or have already reached your target weight.
So daily weighing could work after all. However, Shape recommends you follow certain weigh-in strategies to make sure your numbers are accurate. Weigh yourself around the same time every day — preferably first thing in the morning. Also, use the same scale to track your weight, whether you’re weighing daily, weekly, or less frequently. Never weigh yourself after working out — water weight can add and drop pounds quickly.
Con: You might feel discouraged — at first
Short-term goals are extremely beneficial when it comes to weight loss. However, if you’re not a very patient person, working toward even a weekly goal can feel like torture. It’s especially difficult when you feel like you’re doing everything right, yet you still gain weight. Though weight fluctuates daily, it’s also important to remember that weighing yourself can tell you a lot about what you’re doing right and wrong — even when you don’t want to hear it.
If you’re feeling disappointed in your weight loss results, HealthyWay suggests paying attention to not only what you’re eating, but why. If the scale isn’t telling you what you want it to, often the obvious issue is that you’re eating too much. But emotional eating makes it hard to control impulses when you’re sad, mad, or stressed. Get your feelings under control, and your disappointment won’t feel so deep.