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How often should I weigh myself?

I’m a Registered Dietitian, and I get this question often from people who would like to lose weight – which is such a fair goal in this weight and food-focused world.

 

Before answering the question, I’d encourage you to reflect on how using the scale might affect you. Ask yourself the following questions:


1.        When the number goes down, do you feel happy or accomplished?

2.        When the number goes down, do you feel better about yourself as a person?

3.        When the number goes up, do you feel upset, disappointed, angry, or confused? When the number goes down, do you feel worse about yourself as a person?

4.        Does the number impact how you will eat or exercise that day?

5.        Do you think about your weight often throughout the day?

 

If the answer is “no” to all of these questions, there’s no real limit to how often you should weigh yourself since it likely doesn’t have a significant impact on you. Do make sure you’re weighing yourself in the morning on an empty stomach, since that’ll be closer to your real weight than anything afterwards.

 

If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions, the scale does hold power over you, and my advice would be to weigh yourself as infrequently as possible. If you’re weighing yourself multiple times a day, try for one a day. If you’re weighing yourself once every few days, try for once a week. Although this might sound unusual coming from a dietitian, there are several reasons for this advice:

 

1.        Weight doesn’t determine health.

 

We've been taught that being outside the “normal” BMI range equates to being unhealthy. Weight gain is often portrayed negatively, and those who are not thin are frequently advised to lose weight through diet or exercise. Chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are often linked to weight as well. However, recent research shows that healthy habits—such as eating fruits and vegetables, engaging in physical activity, being a non-smoker and reducing alcohol intake—are more significant indicators of health than weight alone. Changing your habits can reduce your risk of chronic conditions, regardless of weight loss. You can learn more about that and the studies supporting it from this blog post.

 

2.        Focusing on well-being instead of weight will make a longer-lasting change.

 

Consider this scenario: You've made numerous positive changes to your habits—increasing fibre, incorporating varied proteins in every meal, eating more meals at home, and reducing stress around food… but the scale doesn’t go down. If weight is your main focus, you might give up on your habits completely. Although there may be significant enhancements in your physical and mental health, the number on the scale can certainly take away from this.

 

Conversely, imagine a period where you struggled with healthy habits—perhaps due to illness or stress, resulting in reduced appetite. If you weighed yourself daily and noticed a decrease in weight, you might have viewed this as a successful eating pattern to achieve your desired body. Eventually though, if you continued to eat in this way, you’d likely start to feel sluggish and start thinking about food pretty often – making your diet not so sustainable or healthy to continue.

 

In addition to that, it’s harder to make changes in general when the focus is on weight. For instance, if you tend to overeat after dinner and see a higher number on the scale the next morning, you might interpret it as a sign to restrict your food intake throughout the day. This restriction could exacerbate nighttime overeating though – when you’re very hungry before a meal, it’s much harder to eat slowly and mindfully - leading to eating large amounts. Without weighing yourself, you might have eaten a balanced amount at breakfast and dinner, reducing the urge to overeat later in the day.

 

3.        Weighing yourself frequently can stress you out.

 

Stress negatively affects health, and can impact your weight as well (even if the number on the scale is what’s causing your stress). During stressful periods, your body tends to retain more calories and reduce energy expenditure to preserve energy for potential future demand - a survival mechanism from times of starvation and hunting. Although these conditions are rare today, our bodies still respond in the same way. Chronic stress can increase cortisol levels as well, which can increase your appetite (1) and cravings, and thus undermine weight management efforts too (2).

 

If you feel like not weighing yourself at all or waiting too long in between weigh-ins is difficult for you and increases your stress, then by all means, don’t get rid of your scale. It makes a lot of sense for you to feel like you need it if you have been using it for a long time – however, I’d encourage you to add other ways to track your progress in addition to using the scale.

 

4.        There are so many progress indicators other than the number on the scale.

 

Here’s a short list:

·      More energy

·      Better sleep

·      Less stress about food

·      More mindfulness around food

·      Better appreciation of food

·      Better trust in your body’s hunger and fullness cues

·      Less overeating and discomfort around eating

·      Feeling more in control around food

·      Better self-esteem and body image

 

5.        The scale doesn’t determine your worth.

 

This is a big one, but weighing yourself frequently could contribute to how you feel about yourself. It can undermine your confidence and obscure the many other valuable aspects of who you are. Your worth is not tied to a number – and you are so much more than just your body! Your qualities, abilities, relationships, and contributions to the world are what truly define you – and although it’s so hard, it’s crucial to remember that.


Concluding thoughts


I hope that sharing this perspective has provided you with valuable insight and has helped to diminish the overwhelming influence that the scale can have over your well-being. If you find yourself struggling with your focus on the scale, seeking guidance from a Registered Dietitian can be immensely helpful. We possess the expertise and personalized support necessary to guide you towards a healthier relationship with food and your body, focusing on mental and physical health rather than just the number on a scale. If you reside in Quebec and are interested in exploring this further, please feel free to schedule a discovery call with me here or reach out via email – I’d love to help support you.


Weighing yourself

Works cited

1.        Dallman, M. F., Pecoraro, N. C., & la Fleur, S. E. (2004). Chronic stress and comfort foods: self-medication and abdominal obesity. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 18(4), 275-280.

2.        Müller, M. J., Bosy-Westphal, A., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2010). Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight?. F1000 medicine reports, 2, 59.

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