When you’re on a diet, how many times a day do you weigh yourself? And when things aren’t going well with your weight loss efforts, do you actively avoid stepping on your scale? While scales do measure the gravitational pull of the earth at a given moment in time, unfortunately they are somehow also thought to tell us how we’re doing, whether we’re healthy, and how hard we’re trying. So is there a right answer to how often you should weigh yourself? Should you weight yourself daily? Or is weighing yourself frequently a risky endeavour? As with most things, the answer is that it depends.
It’s difficult to say when our obsessions with scales and weight began, but no doubt the last century at least has seen us caring a great deal about their measurements. Where perhaps once scales were only found in our doctors’ offices or coin operated scales outside supermarkets (yes, they really had those), today scales are extremely inexpensive and have evolved to communicate directly with our smartphones and to also measure, albeit without great accuracy, our body fat percentages.
While there are definitely studies suggesting weighing yourself daily is useful for weight loss, the studies looking at same aren’t as clear cut as the world wants you to believe and are almost entirely observational (rather than randomized).
A randomized controlled study that managed to isolate daily weighing as an intervention that looked at 183 adults who were all given ineffective dietary advice (meaning if they lost weight it would be attributable to their daily scale use as they weren’t given good weight loss advice) found that weighing daily had no impact on weight loss.
And those studies that do note greater losses from those who weight themselves daily? Perhaps they’re simply discovering that those who are more successfully losing weight are more likely to want to see that reinforced by greater scale use and where people who know things aren’t going so well, avoid the scale for fear of reinforcing their disappointment and frustration.