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Is a Daily Weigh-In Helpful?

Most of us get mixed advice when it comes to answering the question, “How often should I weigh myself?” And, most of us have quite the love-hate relationship with our scales. When you are feeling good and meeting your healthy goals, the scale is your friend, but, when you fall off the wagon, stepping on can truly be a form of torture. But, having a scale, and knowing just how and when to use it, can be a great tool for keeping you healthy.

New research that was recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics studied 91 overweight adults and their habits related to weighing themselves. Researchers found that the participants who weighed themselves regularly ultimately lost more weight than their counterparts who did not regularly weigh in.

David B. Allison, Ph.D., the director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Centre at the University at Alabama at Birmingham, explains that there are certainly varying opinions regarding how often you should weigh yourself. He stated, "the benefits of daily self-weighing have long been a topic of interest among obesity and eating disorder experts."

Here are some of the advantages to hopping on the scale every day:

1. Weighing yourself daily can help you notice any red flags

If you go too long between weighing-in, you run the risk of being surprised by the results. Things can get out of hand, and you might discover that you have gained more than you thought. When you keep track every day, there will be fluctuations, but you will at least know your average range pretty well and be able to keep close tabs on it. Word of caution: not everyone will benefit from this kind of monitoring, see disadvantage #1 below.

2. Weighing yourself daily can help you stay motivated

When you keep careful track of your progress, you can quickly notice trends, and you will be able to see even small bits of progress. This can often help you build confidence and help you stay motivated to stick to your goals. When you can actually see that your hard work is paying off, you are more likely to stick to it.

3. Weighing yourself daily can remind you of your goals

Sometimes it can be hard to keep your goals in mind all the time. When you get into the habit of weighing yourself each day, you can take this time to be reminded of your goals, which can help to keep you on track. When you are making progress and you are reminded of it each day, it can help lead to making healthier food and activity choices, which can then lead to even greater success.

Here are some of the disadvantages to hopping on the scale every day:

1. Weighing yourself every day can lead to obsessive behaviour

Those who think weighing yourself every day are worried that this can lead to obsessive behaviour for people who become over-focused on what the scale says. Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the author of Smart People Don’t Diet, claims that “Focusing on the number on the scale too much can be unhealthy and lead to anxiety about our bodies and what we eat." She adds, "an obsession with the numbers can be counterproductive and stressful for people." For those who do not see immediate success each day, weighing in can end up being counterproductive and lead to frustration, which can, in turn, lead to binging or making unhealthy choices, or counting calories too closely without considering overall nutrition.

2. Weighing yourself every day can magnify normal changes and fluctuations

Your weight is going to fluctuate frequently, maybe even several times per day. Just weighing yourself at a different time of day may result in a change of 3-5 pounds, more or less. Being too focused on the numbers can detract from our weight loss goals, and can be discouraging if you see too much fluctuation.

3. Weighing yourself every day might make you over-focus on the short term results

If you follow the scale too closely, you may miss the point of the long term weight loss goals that you have set for yourself, and become overly fixated on what is happening each day. It is more important that you establish healthy long term habits, than simply keeping tabs on your weight each day.

There is not a simple answer to the question if you are wondering whether or not you should weigh yourself each day. However, it is not completely unhealthy to weigh in daily, as long as you remain focused on the long term effects you are looking for and you do not become discouraged with minor fluctuations that are natural.