It probably comes as no surprise that “if, when, and/or how often to weigh” is one of the most common questions I get in my practice. Though I used to be a proponent of throwing out the scale (as some experts recommend), good research has actually shown that regular weighing is one of the keys to successful long-term weight loss and weight maintenance. Hence, the more popular debate: If you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, how often should you weigh yourself? Daily? Once a week? Once a month?
The fact is, your weight does change from day-to-day. This is mostly due to the amount of water in your system, which can vary by the hour. If you eat a big salad and drink a large glass of water, that will show up as a weight gain on the scale. Many women also notice changes due to their monthly cycle. However, this is water weight, NOT fat.
Watching the scale drift upward from one morning to the next, even after a day of healthy eating, can be discouraging. That is why most experts believe that a once-weekly or even monthly weigh-in is a more accurate (and wiser) reflection of weight control progress.
However if weight fluctuations don’t drive you crazy or cause you to sabotage your efforts, daily weighing is an option. Whatever frequency you choose, keep these tips in mind when stepping on the scale:
- Wake Up and Weigh. Always try to weigh yourself first thing in the morning. Your weight will rise due to your intake of food and fluids. The morning weight will be your “truest” weight.
- Mind the Watershed. Typically weight will drop more dramatically in the first week or two, which is usually due mostly to water loss. Don’t be discouraged when weight loss slows down. It is almost impossible to lose more than 2 pounds of pure body fat in one week.
- Track It. Keep a log of your weekly weight. A good goal to shoot for is to lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week. That is a loss of 4-8 pounds in one month. The slower the rate of weight loss, the more likely it will stay off. Also, the drop is more likely to be FAT loss, not water or muscle loss.
- Don’t Panic with Plateaus. It is normal to hit a plateau after a few weeks as your body adjusts to a new weight. If you do strength training, your weight may remain constant for a time even though you’re still decreasing your body fat content and getting healthier.
- Set Goals. After you reach your weight goal, monitor your weight. When your weight creeps up by 2-3 pounds, it’s like the yellow traffic signal. Stay calm! It’s just a signal to monitor your food intake and physical activity more closely.
- Success is NOT just in the scale. Most importantly, don’t become addicted to the numbers, especially at the risk of neglecting other critical factors. Are you sleeping better? Are your clothes getting looser? Do you feel healthier?Are you less winded? Make sure to track other successes and benefits you are experiencing besides what you see on the scale. These are just as, if not more important, to long-term health and quality of life.
So, should you weigh in once a day, once a week, once a month? The answer is different for everyone, and depends upon your personality. You need to think about what will keep YOU motivated. For most people, weighing in once a week is enough to see progress without becoming a slave to the scale.