Weighing In: Should You Monitor Your Scale?
It’s the New Year, which is the time to take stock of healthy habits. But along with continuing to eat well and exercise regularly, should you also be stepping on the scale on a regular basis? Expert opinions differ, but there is some recent research that supports the benefits of regular weigh-ins, especially for those trying to maintain a recent weight loss.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that weight maintenance skills — including regular weigh-ins — helped people regain significantly less weight. "We encouraged them to set a threshold of a three-pound weight gain as a way to let them know if they’re getting off track and need to reinitiate weight loss efforts," says Corrine L. Voils, PhD, professor of surgery, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
But not everyone agrees that the scale is always your friend. We asked several nutritionists to weigh in with their thoughts on weighing yourself.
"I think it’s important to be aware of the numbers, but not to live by them. I counsel clients to help them feel good and healthy. I want them to have high energy levels, feel good in their clothes and ward off any diseases. Usually, this means that they will be eating a healthier than normal diet with plenty of produce, lean proteins and healthy fats, all of which have been tied to weight loss. I think if someone has healthy behaviors, the numbers on the scale will reflect that." - Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
"Weighing yourself regularly nips any trending weight gain in the bud. I recommend my clients weight themselves at least once a week on Fridays. This is when they are likely to be at their lowest weight if they’ve been focused on healthy eating all week. And seeing the results on Friday also helps motivate healthier weekend choices." - Libby Mills, MS, RD, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
"I don't usually recommend that clients weigh themselves. I really try to take weight out of the equation and focus more on the internal experience of your body and health — e.g. ‘How do I feel when I eat this meal? Does my body feel good?’ I know for myself, there's often an incongruence between the number on the scale and other measures of health (my energy levels, how strong I am), and the number can really get in your head in an unhealthy way!" -Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD, owner of Nutrition Coaching Vermont
"There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to tracking weight that works for everyone. Some view weight as a simple data point that provides key information. But others become very emotionally attached to the number — and for them, weighing in can seriously backfire. If those people don’t see the number change the way they hope, it can lead to emotional eating or giving up completely." -Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of Slim Down Now
"I do recommend clients weigh in on Fridays and Monday to help keep them on track. I also suggest charting your weight on graph paper, because seeing the trend — up, down or maintaining — can be very dramatic. But it’s important to remember that the scale has no voice, no emotion. It can’t judge you, so you shouldn’t let the number it displays dictate your whole mood for the day. Your weight on the scale is only one measure of success."-Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, CDN, creator of Better Than Dieting and author of Read it Before You Eat it