You’re on a mission to lose weight, and you want to see results. The natural instinct most people have is to weigh themselves every day. After all, if you’re making progress every day, you want to see it. Watching the number on the scale drop slowly is what makes it all worth it.
Unfortunately, the number on the scale doesn’t always go the way we think it will. You can spend a whole week eating clean, working out, and feeling good only to find that you’ve weighed in at one pound more than what you weighed last week.
Nothing feels worse than seeing your weight go up when you’re doing everything right. It stops many people from continuing to try to lose weight at all.
Although the number on the scale seems like the best way to identify success when losing weight, figuring out what that number means is much harder.
That’s why the advice you’ll get from dieticians and weight loss programs is so conflicting. Some say you should weigh yourself every day while others suggest once a week or once a month will do. Some even suggest doing away with the scale altogether and measuring success by how you feel.
As it turns out, there’s some good science being done on this subject, so you may be able to finally find your answer.
Start Here - How Does the Scale Affect You?
Before diving into the various factors impacting that all-important number, the first thing that you need to know about weighing yourself is how it affects you.
Any decision on how often to weigh yourself should be made based on whether regular weigh-ins will help or harm you.
If seeing the numbers on the scale tick upward sends you spiraling, then you’ll want to avoid weighing yourself to frequently because the natural fluctuations in your weigh might drive you crazy.
On the other hand, if you’re able to see the scale stay the same or move either way without feeling a significant impact, then you might be fine to weigh yourself on a more regular basis (every few days or once a week).
The trick to weighing yourself is to find a healthy way to relate your body to the number that shows up on the scale, and that takes years, even decades, of practice.
When to Weigh Yourself - According to Science
There is a lot of confusion regarding how often to weigh yourself if you want to see a positive impact on your body. In fact, you’ve probably heard three different answers to the question yourself.
Fortunately, scientists are on the case to find an empirical solution to weigh-in day.
In one journal article, researchers studied 314 successful dieters to see how often they weighed themselves. The researchers found that those who hopped on a scale on a daily basis were less likely to gain 5 pounds over the 18 months after ending their diet.
What is more, the researchers involved in this study didn’t find much evidence suggesting that the scale impacted self-esteem to create negative effects.
Another study published in Obesity on daily weigh-ins took data from 3,0003 people listed on a national weight control registry. They found that the people who weighed themselves daily were less likely to eat more fat in their diets than people on the registry who calculated their weight irregularly (less than once per week).
The researchers believe their results indicate that “consistent self-weighing may help individuals maintain their successful weight loss by allowing them to catch weight gains before they escalate and make behavior changes to prevent additional weight gain.”
In other words, if you have a bad week and eat pizza for dinner every evening, you’re more likely to see the effects in real time when you weigh yourself daily. As a result, you’ll be less likely to write it off as ‘just a bad week’ or do it again in the future because you’ll be completely aware of what impact it has on your weight.
Essentially, you won’t wait until you’ve gained 20 pounds to fix bad habits.
So, there are good reasons to watch your weight daily, as long as you can emotionally handle the ups-and-downs of weight loss and weight maintenance.
However, there is an issue that many individuals and diet companies cite when they tell you to weigh yourself once a week or once every fortnight: weight fluctuations.
Why Does Your Weight Fluctuate?
If you’ve already tried weighing yourself daily, then you know first-hand that your weight fluctuates throughout the week. Sometimes, you’ll be able to pinpoint the cause of it but sometimes, you’ll go through the same routine for days and all of a sudden gain two pounds inexplicably.
Often, it’s those seemingly inexplicable changes that drive most of us to insanity and cause us to give up on our weight loss goals.
However, it’s important to understand what’s behind those fluctuations and what they mean for your overall goals.
Again, it’s possible to look towards science.
An older study on the subject (from 1963) found that day-to-day fluctuations in body weight can be as great as 0.8 kg in young women. They followed these changes in a group of young women across 80 days and found that weight gain had more to do with water retention than eating too many calories and gaining fat.
It’s also possible to see those changes because of when you weigh yourself. If you’re one of those people who weighs themselves Monday in preparation for a new week of dieting, then you’re weighing yourself after a weekend where, if you’re like most of us, you move less and eat slightly more.
Either way, your overnight weight gain is both common and easy to explain and it’s not an indicator that you’re failing at your diet.
Weigh Yourself Every Day (or At Least More Than Once Per Month)
As it turns out, weighing yourself every day is not only a perfectly acceptable thing to do but many people can attribute their weight loss success to it. Of course, if you’re not comfortable weighing yourself that often, then you shouldn’t because it’s important that the scale doesn’t derail your efforts.
Whatever you decide, be sure to weigh yourself on a regular basis (more than once a month) because failing to catch bad habits is what leads to gaining back the pounds you worked hard to lose.
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.