You’ve been committed to living healthier. You’re eating more vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and exercising more days than not.
You feel better, but you want some cold, hard proof that what you’re doing is having an impact, so you step onto the scale. The number that flashes on the display confirms that you’ve been working hard, and you keep going.
The next day you consider stepping onto the scale again, but pause: Is that really the most effective plan?
How often should you weigh yourself? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Never?
According to experts, a number of factors can influence your relationship with the scale. Here are some things to consider.
Should I Weigh Myself Every Day?
The pros of weighing yourself daily
If weighing yourself doesn’t give you angst (more on that later), you might consider stepping on the scale daily for consistency, says Charlie Seltzer, MD, DABOM, CEP. The idea is, as with any habit, weighing yourself daily can keep you focused on your goal, and research supports this:
- A 12-month study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2016 found that adults who weighed themselves every day (while eating a reduced-calorie diet and setting daily step goals) were successful in losing weight.
- Another six-month study, published in 2015 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, yielded similar findings.
But as you step onto the scale, keep in mind that the number you see can change daily.
“The numbers will naturally go both up and down depending on factors like how much salt you had the day before, when you ate your last meal, and things like that,” adds Seltzer, who is board-certified in obesity medicine and a certified clinical exercise physiologist.
Take note of those daily weigh-ins, but focus on the bigger picture.
“Ideally, track your weight over the course of weeks to months, then look at the trend,” he says. “Fat loss is a slow process. It is impossible to gain or lose a significant amount of weight overnight.”
The cons of weighing yourself daily
Daily weigh-ins may not be ideal for everyone. A 2015 literature review published in Current Obesity Reports found the potential for adverse psychological effects (e.g., lower self esteem and negative body evaluation) of self-weighing in some individuals, especially women and young adults.
“Day-to-day changes don’t reflect any actual trend of weight gain or loss, but the numbers can still get stuck in — and mess with — your mind,” says Annie Giupponi, LMSW, a Michigan-based counselor who works with women on issues such as body image and eating disorders.
In such cases, how often should you weigh yourself? It could be weekly, monthly, or any schedule that works with your goals.
“If you want to see your weight, pick a day and time, and don’t vary from the schedule,” she advises.
And instead of tracking weight, Giupponi often asks her clients to consider these non-scale milestones:
- Can you move with ease, chase after your kids, and climb up the stairs without getting out of breath?
- Do your clothes fit you comfortably?
- Do you have energy to engage in what feels meaningful to you?
“A number on a scale can’t tell you any of these things,” she adds.
When Should You Weigh Yourself To Get Your “True” Weight?
Have you ever weighed yourself and been surprised that the number seems to have gone up or down drastically overnight? You’re not alone — and that’s totally normal.
A reminder: Your weight can fluctuate by a few pounds during the course of a day due to things like water weight, salt intake, and PMS. And if your workout program includes strength training, you might not see your weight budge despite losing inches from your waist, as muscle weighs more than fat by volume.
To more accurately track the ups and downs, Seltzer suggests weighing in first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom — while wearing as little as possible.
“You want to take the most stripped-down measurement you can, without any unnecessary ounces weighing you down,” he says. “That way, you’re getting the most accurate reads possible. Think about it: If you were wearing a heavy dress and shoes on the scale one evening then weighed yourself sans clothes the next morning, you’d see different numbers, right?”
Of course, if you’re weighing yourself in a semi-public space, like your gym or a doctor’s office, you don’t need to bare your birthday suit! Just slip off your shoes, take off any extra layers, and try to wear the same type of clothing each time.