Should You Step on the Scale?

should you weigh yourself

Few people I know are as disciplined about their health and weight as my stepmom, Maureen. She’s maintained a slender frame for her entire adult life through daily exercise and a nutritious diet that allows some wiggle room for a sweet tooth and a taste for French wine. She also begins each day by stepping on the scale.

Maureen’s morning ritual is not part of my own practice. I have vague but mildly tortured memories of being lined up in grade school for public weigh-ins, whereby the school nurse would announce the numbers as each child got on the scale while an assistant jotted them down in a ledger. Perhaps this formative experience is why I gauge my weight mostly on how my clothes fit rather than what the scale says.

What the Research Shows

But some pretty compelling research shows that my stepmom is onto something — frequent weigh-ins may have real merit. The National Weight Control Registry, which tracks over 10,000 adults who’ve successfully maintained a weight loss, reports that 75 percent of participants weigh themselves at least once a week. And a study published this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found daily weighing to be an effective weight loss tool. Indeed, those who got on the scale every day lost significantly more weight and adhered more rigorously to weight control behaviors than those who weighed less often.

It’s Not for Everyone

Is there a downside? For some folks, probably not. For my stepmom, keeping tabs on her weight is simply a tool to make sure the pounds don’t get away from her. But others may find getting on the scale to be a real downer. Registered dietitian Danielle Omar, who works as a nutrition and weight loss coach, finds that when her clients get off track with their eating,  “The scale becomes demotivating. They get more of a ‘what’s the point’ attitude,” she says.

There are bigger concerns as well. Notably, those with a history of an eating disorder are often advised against checking their weight. And for those whose self worth is tied up in the numbers, scale watching may not be such a good idea either. Weight can fluctuate from day to day, due mostly to fluid retention, which has nothing to do with real weight. Plus, there are many other measures of good health beyond just how your BMI stacks up. Finally, as a parent with three daughters, I wonder about role modeling and what sort of message we might be sending by fixating on the numbers.

The bottom line is, it’s all very personal and to find what works for you.

So what does work for you?

Do you step on the scale or skip it entirely?

Weigh in, ladies (no pun intended).

 

should you weigh yourself

 

Comments

04.27.2015 at 4:40 AM #

Courtney B

I’m with your step mom, I weigh myself daily. For me it’s just a tool to pay attention. If I’ve been indulging a bit too often, then I skip the treats for a couple of days.

04.27.2015 at 4:40 AM #

katiemorford

Great when you find what works. And I think the key in your comment is the word “tool”…rather than a burden, as it is for some folks. Thanks for sharing.

04.27.2015 at 6:46 AM #

Renee

I’m in your camp, Katie, I never use a scale. I have one somewhere, but it got packed up during some remodeling work and I’m not sure where it is now. I use the fit of my clothes as a scale of whether I need to drop a few lbs.

04.27.2015 at 6:46 AM #

katiemorford

I guess the fit of the clothes is just another sort of measure. Perhaps less precise, but useful nevertheless. Thanks for the comment.

04.27.2015 at 6:50 AM #

yunah

Same as renee for me. I even tell the nurse @ the dr office not to tell me the #. It’s all about how the jeans fit.

04.27.2015 at 6:50 AM #

katiemorford

I’ve heard that from other people, too, Yunah. I know women who never learned their weight during an entire pregnancy because they’d had such a history of batting with the numbers.

04.27.2015 at 10:37 AM #

spring

My grandmother also weighed herself every morning. She used the results on the scale to regulate how she ate that day. She was always slender and elegant. She also believed in eating an apple every night. On the other hand, my glamorous opera-singing, yet stout great aunt was never slender but lived to be 103 and gave credit for her longevity to Oreo cookies! I on the other hand, do not own a scale, but I have kept particular pair of jeans for years for a gauge of how I’m doing.

04.27.2015 at 10:37 AM #

katiemorford

Love those stories. And a great testament to finding what works for you. Thanks Spring.

04.27.2015 at 11:42 AM #

Pam R

A few years ago when my clothes started to tell me I was gaining weight I started checking the scale. It’s a good check in for me and a motivator. I don’t worry too much about what the number is any individual day, but try to think about stability or trend (keeping or more usually reversing) if it is changing.

04.27.2015 at 11:42 AM #

katiemorford

One thing I’ve learned is that what may have worked for me at one time doesn’t always stand the test of time. I’m not a scale watcher now, but as I get older and my metabolism shifts, I do wonder if it might come in handy. Thanks for sharing.

04.27.2015 at 3:30 PM #

Lisa

I also weigh myself every morning ,just to keep tabs. The downside of this is the morning when it shows an upward # and it colors your attitude sort of gloomy. Not a good way to start the day!

04.27.2015 at 3:30 PM #

katiemorford

I wonder how it would be for you weigh yourself a little less often, say once a week? Just a thought. Thanks for sharing that.

04.27.2015 at 8:40 PM #

Kara

I used to periodically and randomly weigh myself. I was mostly out of the habit when I got pregnant with my first child. At first, the weigh-ins didn’t bother me but then I jumped 7 lbs in a month! That just freaked me out. I decided that the numbers were going to make me feel bad and frankly were not useful info for me to have. So after that I told the doc not to tell me what I weighed at each visit. I haven’t weighed myself since then. My pre-kid clothes all fit so I guess that’s my litmus. But, I also decided that as long as I feel good, strong, healthy and happy, the actual weight is just a distraction. I still stick by that rule. We don’t even own a scale and I don’t know where the one is at the gym.

04.27.2015 at 8:40 PM #

katiemorford

Sounds like you’ve got a good system that is working well for you. And good for you for noticing how the scale was making your feel. I too had bumps like that in all three of my pregnancies and it was always a bit alarming. Thanks for the comment.

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