Health Check: should you weigh yourself regularly?

June 25, 2018 by Clare Collins, Rebecca Williams, The Conversation
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

For some, jumping on the scales is a daily or weekly ritual; while others haven't seen a set of scales for years. Some may still be scarred by memories of being weighed in public with results broadcast to all.

So, is it helpful to weigh yourself? And if so, how often should you do it?

For adults carrying excess and who are trying to manage their weight, the answer is yes: weighing yourself regularly can help you lose more weight initially, and keep it off.

But for adolescents or those who have experienced disordered eating, it's best to keep the scales out of sight.

What does the research say?

Most studies have investigated the impact of self-weighing along with other strategies such as a low-kilojoule diet.

These studies show self-weighing is an inexpensive technique that may help with weight loss and maintenance, particularly for men, who often respond well to structured "weigh-ins".

Only one study has investigated the use of self-weighing as the sole weight-loss strategy. This US research study invited 162 adults who were wanting to lose weight to a single educational weight-loss seminar.

Half of the people were instructed to weigh themselves daily and got visual feedback on their weight change over two years. The other half were not asked to weigh themselves daily, until the second year.

During year one, men in the daily self-weighing group lost more weight than the control group, but women did not. The average number of times people weighed themselves a week was four.

In the second year, men in the daily self-weighing group maintained their weight loss. Those in the , who had now started daily weighing, lost weight, while the women stayed the same.

Having regular weigh-ins with a health professional can also help. A review of more than 11,000 overweight people attending a weight management program in GP clinics in Israel found those who had regular weigh-ins with the nurse or dietitian were more likely to lose more than 5% of their body weight. This amount of weight loss is associated with a major reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

How often should you weigh yourself?

A review of 24 randomised controlled trials found there was no difference in weight loss between those who weighed themselves daily versus weekly.

No matter what other features the weight-loss program includes, the key to better results appears to be regular self-weighing, which means at least weekly.

Making yourself "accountable" for weigh-ins either by having a set day to weigh-in or joining a can help you lose more weight.

Another important point is that not weighing yourself regularly when you are on a weight-loss diet is a risk factor for weight gain.

When is self-weighing harmful?

Regular weighing is not recommended for adolescents. Research suggests it doesn't help with weight management and can negatively impact on young people's mental health, especially for girls.

A ten-year study of the relationship between self-weighing, weight status and psychological outcomes of almost 2,000 teens in the US found that self-weighing had no helpful impact on weight or BMI.

However, it was associated with weight concerns, poor self-esteem and trying to lose weight though unhealthy methods such as excessive fasting.

Over the ten years, more frequent weighing was associated with a decrease in body satisfaction and self-esteem, and an increase in weight concerns and depression in the young women.

For young men, with the exception of weight concerns, there were no significant relationships between self-weighing and other variables.

An increased frequency of self-weighing throughout the high school years may flag the need to investigate an adolescent's overall well-being and psychological health.

Self-weighing can also affect the self-esteem and psychological well-being of adults, especially women. This is of particular concern for those with eating disorders, as weighing frequency can be associated with greater severity of eating disorders.

For some people, self-weighing could be the key to losing or keeping weight off, while for others, it may do harm. Consider your life stage, pre-existing health conditions and your mental well-being when deciding whether regular weighing is worth it for you.

Explore further: Regular weigh-ins may help prevent college weight gain

Related Stories

Regular weigh-ins may help prevent college weight gain

September 11, 2017
(HealthDay)—No one likes looking at their weight on a scale every day, but that may be just the trick that college students need to ward off the dreaded "Freshman 15," a new study suggests.

Weigh-in once a week or you'll gain weight

December 17, 2014
Stepping on the scale is common among dieters but how does the frequency of weigh-ins impact weight? A new study in PLOS ONE showed that the more frequently dieters weighed themselves the more weight they lost, and if participants ...

College freshmen who weighed themselves daily lost body fat

August 17, 2017
Want to ward off the dreaded "Freshman 15?" Try putting a scale in your dorm room.

Self-weighing may be a hazardous behavior among young women

November 9, 2015
Self-weighing can be a useful tool to help adults control their weight, but for adolescents and young adults this behavior may have negative psychological outcomes. Researchers from the University of Minnesota tracked the ...

How to maintain that weight loss

February 20, 2018
(HealthDay)—If you've been on a diet more than once, you know that it can be harder to maintain weight than to lose weight in the first place.

Yo-yo dieting doesn't necessarily make you heavier in the long run

March 1, 2018
Many of us have lost weight to feel better about our bodies before donning a bathing suit for a beach holiday, or getting into that just-too-tight outfit for a special occasion.

Recommended for you

Rising European life expectancy undermined by obesity: WHO

September 12, 2018
Life expectancy in Europe continues to increase but obesity and the growing proportion of people who are overweight risks reversing this trend, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday.

Rethinking an inflammatory receptor's obesity connection

September 12, 2018
Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a protein that plays a vital role in the body's immune response by sensing the presence of infection. It has long been thought to also sense particular types of fats, which suggested a mechanism ...

Brief sleep intervention works long-term to prevent child obesity

September 6, 2018
When it comes to obesity prevention, sleep is not usually something that springs to mind, but a University of Otago research team has found we should not underestimate its importance.

Researchers develop more accurate measure of body fat

August 27, 2018
Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a simpler and more accurate method of estimating body fat than the widely used body mass index, or BMI, with the goal of better understanding obesity.

Study suggests need to include overweight subjects in metabolic research

August 23, 2018
Children's Hospital Los Angeles investigators have demonstrated the need to include a growing constituency of obese and overweight children and adults in clinical research, with their study of a key marker for metabolism ...

Rethinking the health and weight debate

August 22, 2018
Swinburne researchers are part of a new wave of health professionals challenging our perception of weight and health. While it's long been thought that fatness is unhealthy, and skinniness is healthy, research shows this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.