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Ask the RCW Dietitian: Weighing Frequency

How often should I be weighing myself? Some people tell me to weigh myself daily, and others say I shouldn’t weigh myself at all.

When I was a kid, I assumed that for every question someone had there was an answer. Just one answer. I liked to read encyclopedias (I was a weird kid) and I thought that any question I had would probably be in a book somewhere, and all the books that answered that question would all answer it the same way.

Obviously, this isn’t how things work. There can be many answers to the same question, and what’s right for one person often isn’t right for the next.

This is one of those types of questions. Here are some things to consider:

Consistent weighing is connected to successful, sustained weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry is an ongoing study that monitors individuals who have successfully lost weight (at least 30 pounds) and maintained that loss over time (at least a year). There were many differences in how the participants lost weight, but a few commonalities as well – one of which is consistent self-weighing. Most varied in frequency somewhere between daily and weekly.

Weighing yourself more than once a day is silly. If some is good, more is better, right? So goes the American philosophy towards most things. But weighing yourself more than once a day not only will increase your stress levels about your weight, it just gives you inaccurate information. Due to food intake, fluid changes, and bowel movements, your weight can change 3-4 pounds throughout the day. The change can look even more pronounced weighing yourself with versus without clothes. You didn’t gain weight, you just put on pants! Find a consistent time, scale, and attire to weigh yourself. Optimal is in the morning, after you go to the bathroom but before you eat or drink anything, with no clothes on. This is as close to your “true weight” as you will get.

If weighing yourself causes undue anxiety and feelings of guilt or shame, then you should probably measure your success in other ways. Weight is not a complete measure of health (far from it), nor should it represent our level of self-worth in any way. Unfortunately, we as a society have assigned a great deal of undue importance on our weight number, to the point that seeing the number can induce intense feelings of guilt, shame, and even panic in many. If you fall into this category, or if you have a history of an eating disorder, then you should probably avoid frequent self-weighing. Use process-oriented thinking to better measure your successes. At the same time, if may be worth seeking out professional support to assess your relationship with food and weight.

Healthy people who generally maintain their body weight may not need to weigh themselves at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Weight fluctuates, even if there’s a consistent trend. Even for those who are successful with weight loss, it’s not a straight path from Point A to Point B. Losing 1-2 pounds per week may be an appropriate goal, but it’s also an average. Initially weight loss may occur more quickly, but it’s likely to slow over time and a plateau may even be a temporary reality at various points. You can make adjustments, but if you have a good plan you shouldn’t scrap it just because you didn’t lose – or maybe even gained some – weight in a particular week.

There are ways other than your weight number to measure changes in your body. I often point out that the whole purpose of weight loss is to change body composition, not just to change the number on the scale. The number on the scale represents water, bone, muscle, fat tissue, and more. Body fat is not the only variable that changes when your weight changes. And sometimes, if it doesn’t change, it may be because you’ve also added muscle. Before you embark on weight-loss goals, try to get a baseline waist circumference. This is a measurement that’s more indicative of abdominal fat than BMI alone. Changes in waist circumference may better indicate changes in body composition than BMI and weight. Also pay attention to any changes in how your clothes fit over time.

Please consider all of these variables before you decide how often to weigh yourself. And again, remember that your weight is only one data point in the overall picture of your health.

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