In this episode we spend some time today talking about the scale, the benefit of regular weigh-ins, the emotional impact of weighing yourself may have on your well- being, how often you should weigh yourself, and shifting the focus onto behavior change for you to keep on track with your health and fitness goals.
To weigh or not to weigh, that is the question.
Tricia Stefankiewicz, MA RD
I wanted to spend some time today talking about the scale, the benefit of regular weigh-ins, the emotional impact of weighing yourself may have on your well- being, how often you should weigh yourself, and shifting the focus onto behavior change for you to keep on track with your health and fitness goals.
For most of us, making the decision to get on the scale can result in one of two possible outcomes:
- You get on the scale and are thrilled with the number staring back at you. You have a feeling of vindication that all your hard work and daily sacrifices were worth it because the number is where you want it to be.
- You get on the scale and you are Unhappy with your weight
You may have had weight maintenance or weight gain. The number staring back at you may
scare you enough to act and get you back on track with health and fitness goals. Or it can lead you feeling disappointed and defeated that you didn’t achieve the goal you desire especially when you practiced the BEHAVIOR necessary to achieve that goal. This may cause overeating or total avoidance of the scale altogether.
Are there benefits to having a regular weigh in?
Having regular weigh ins can offer some benefits including creating awareness and allowing you to stay on track with your health and wellness goals. They can provide extra motivation to continue with health-related goals and help maintain weight after a big loss, to capture any weight gain that could be occurring.
How often do I weigh myself?
Do I weigh myself daily, weekly, monthly, or not at all? The scale is a very quick and easy way to monitor your success with behaviors if weight loss is the goal. If you are actively trying to lose weight, having some form of consistent feedback may help keep you focused on your goals at hand. For those who have already lost weight and are trying to keep it off, weekly weigh–ins will help identify any weight gain along the way. Research studies support the idea that regular weigh-ins help facilitate weight loss. The National Weight Control registry has followed the patterns of 10,000 individuals who have achieved long-term weight loss maintenance and kept it off for an average of 5.5 years. Of these participants, 75% reported weighing themselves at least one time per week.
The problem with the scale is that it can also be used as a measure of your self – worth. So much of how we feel and think about ourselves is based on our appearance, especially as we get older and weigh more than we did before our kids were born. When we are at the weight we want to be, our self-worth may be higher than when we weigh more. For some, we have this idea that life will be different when we achieve a goal weight we made up in our head. And if we don’t achieve this weight, our self-worth suffers, and we may feel less value as a woman.
Also, having the scale gauge your success in determining your health and fitness goals is not a reliable indicator of what is causing the weight loss.
You could be doing everything necessary to lose weight, but the scale may not budge due to factors that are out of your control. Day to day variables may increase the number on the scale not related to any actual weight gain. This could be due to eating a high salt meal, fluid status, dehydration, physical activity, or fluctuating hormonal levels. The scale is not able to differentiate between muscle mass, fat mass, and fluid so it is hard to know what the actual cause of the weight gain is. The scale may produce negative feelings of self-doubt, obsession, and frustration and may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as: goal sabotage, overeating, and bingeing.
The scale, however, is not the only way to determine success with weight loss.
Trying on clothes in a smaller size that you are currently wearing and measuring body circumference with a tape measure to arms, legs, and waist are is another tool than be effective.
Keeping track of your daily successes is another way to keep yourself accountable to your goals. The scale can be used as a tool that, when used with other tools, can help keep you accountable to your desired goal. If you are practicing healthy behaviors every day to lose weight or achieve a desired health goal, then the number on the scale will not be able to measure your progress.
What’s the sweet spot?
- If you are trying to lose weight, weighing yourself weekly is enough to keep you on track with your goals and capture any weight gain
- If you are trying to lose weight, and the scale sabotages you, is a trigger for you, or causes you to obsess – then DON’T weigh yourself. Try other ways to measure progress as mentioned above.
The takeaway here: Redirect your focus
Instead of the scale, focus on the BEHAVIORS that you practice instead. Focus on consistency and behaviors rather than the scale. This behavior can be something like:
- Make a weekly plan, identify any barriers that may come up along the way
- Weekly meal preparation
- Write down the foods you eat daily and how much water you consume
- Note how much you exercise weekly and how close it is to the 150 min per week goal
- Look at your weight loss in terms of how much you lost in a one month increment rather than weekly
You are not your weight. Regular healthy behaviors help improve your health and self-worth.
However often you choose to weigh yourself, or not weigh yourself, is the right decision for you,
Identifying this will allow you to stay consistent and motivated in this difficult journey.
Making a commitment to yourself every single day to work on the behavior changes needed to lose weight will eventually get the scale going in the right direction, however often you choose to do it. Focus on the behavior and not the scale. If you are consistently practicing the behavior, it will eventually show up on the scale. Making constant small changes will lead you to your eventual goal into improved whole health. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being 1% better each day.