I know all the health professionals say if you want to lose weight, you need the data that tells you how you are doing. I’ve read it’s ideal to weigh yourself every day or every other day. I’ve also read other experts who say you should never weigh yourself more than once a week. What’s the right answer? How often should we weigh ourselves? In this post, I’m going to talk about the mental head game of that number on the scales and how it can both inspire and derail someone. I’ll also provide some pros and cons of weighing in. Finally, we’ll explore the best weigh-in strategy for you.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor or health care professional. If you have an eating disorder of any kind, please consult with your doctor, nutritionist, or mental health care provider regarding your specific needs. Please, take care of you!
What is The Purpose Behind Checking Your Weight?
Before we can decide how often we should weigh ourselves, let’s think about the goal behind the weigh-in. Weight is a data point and only one data point. For most of my life, it was the singular data point utilized to determine if I was losing weight or not. Weight was the goal and the only way to measure it was to get on the scales. My goal was to weigh X lbs. and the scale was the way to determine if I was making progress.
I want you to think about that goal though. It’s very narrowly focused. Unless you are a wrestler, boxer, or someone else who needs to hit a particular weight class to succeed, there are so many other ways to measure overall health.
Take the time to think about your goals. Is it really about the number on the scale? I mean, if you hit the number but you look and feel like shit, is that a good number to strive for? Or if you hit the number but have flabby arms and can never feel comfortable wearing short-sleeved shirts again, is that worth it?
Being clear about your goal helps you to determine what other metrics to follow. We are so fortunate to live in a time where we can literally purchase home scales that provide all sorts of data when we weigh in. You no longer have to rely on just the number on the scales.
How the Number on the Scales Can Mess With Your Head & Derail Success
A friend of mine had been trying intermittent fasting and eating one meal a day. After two weeks of no change on the scales, she was frustrated. Yet, she could feel that her clothes were fitting better. She was weighing herself multiple times a week. Just when she was about to give up, she got on the scales and dropped 4.5 lbs in one day. We know scientifically a pound equals 3,500 calories. Did she have a calorie deficit in a 24-hour period of 15,750 calories? No. I can’t explain why it all came off in one day but I can tell you that there is nothing more frustrating!
I personally have had the same experience as my friend throughout my lifetime. There have been times I’ve worked my ass off to lose 1 pound. And what did I do? I quit because the cost wasn’t worth the benefit. That’s how the scale can f*#k with your head.
The thing is, the standard scale doesn’t tell you if you are getting stronger, losing water as opposed to fat, or if you are getting healthier, or putting your immune system at risk. It just gives you a number. And that number can cause you to do things that are detrimental to your overall health and well-being (as well as the health and well-being of everyone that has to be around you).
Examples of this can range from the following:
- Low-calorie consumption with limited nutritional impact (i.e. keeping the calories low but eating crap)
- Excessive exercising that results in injury or exhaustion
- Decreased immune system due to diet restrictions or losing weight too fast
My point is when we focus on weight loss at the expense of overall health, we can make bad decisions.
My Personal Challenge with Scales
The other challenge with scales is knowing what the feedback of the number is really telling you. One thing I know for sure is my body does not “react” at 57 as it did at 27. At 27, I could eat a burger and fries and it would show up on the scales the next day. This feedback (which I didn’t need btw – I mean I knew I had eaten a burger and fries) allowed me to course correct and see a direct correlation to what I had eaten. It worked the same way for weight loss. If I exercised a lot, I could see it reflected almost immediately on the scales.
Fast forward to age 57 and my body doesn’t work the same way. I can be in a calorie deficit for two weeks and not lose a pound. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll get on the scales one day and have lost 4 lbs. Obviously, I didn’t lose 4 lbs overnight so WTF? This can mess with my head in a couple of ways. I could do the “Well, hell, I’m not losing anything by restricting, maybe I should eat more.” Or I could go with “Whatever I did yesterday really worked so let’s do that every day.”
For the two weeks I’m weighing myself and not losing, I’m frustrated as hell. That’s the mental head game part. And it impacts me all damn day.
Let’s add to that equation that I’m also weight training and you begin to understand how my body is shifting things around (albeit slower than a slug).
I guess my point here is the number on the scale is only one data point. When we rely on that number as the only indicator of success, it can either motivate us (on the days the number changes in a positive direction) or cause us to quit entirely (after 2 weeks of working hard with no change in the number).
The Pros of Weighing In
When considering how often should we weigh ourselves, we also need to consider the pros of weighing in. When you have a healthy relationship with the scales, it provides a useful data point. If we just ignore the scales altogether, we can one day find ourselves 50 lbs overweight (believe me, I know). By periodically weighing in we can monitor progress, make sure we aren’t out of control, and keep track of our overall health.
As I mentioned earlier, we are fortunate to live in a time where we can purchase scales that provide all kinds of useful data. I personally changed my relationship with the scales by purchasing scales that provided more than just my weight. I’m sure they aren’t the highest tech (based on the price point) but they give me data that enables me to see a more clear picture of my overall progress. Here are the scales I use:
I love that these scales tell me things like my percent of body water, the number of pounds of lean muscle mass vs subcutaneous fat, and even the percent of visceral fat (which is the worst kind of fat to have). When I’ve lost (or gained) 2 lbs, I can see if it was water weight or muscle loss (not good) and that paints a very different picture than just weight loss or gain. Again, I can’t speak to the accuracy of these scales but I can tell you how much they have helped my personal relationship with scales and helped me to stay on track in my own weight loss efforts.
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Utilizing Other Health Indicators
My personal goal is overall health. I was obese when I started this journey so weight loss was a key component of my health. Because my overall health was more important than weight loss alone, it’s forced me to eat sensibly, exercise, and recognize what got me here won’t get me there. What I mean by that is I have to change my life and my relationship with food completely. A diet won’t work. A short-term “balls to the wall” approach to exercise won’t work. I’ve got to make a lifestyle change. However I change my diet or exercise routine, I have to be comfortable with being able to do it for the rest of my life. And that has changed both my approach and the way I’m measuring success.
I mention lots of products in my articles and I’ve tried to save them all in the Health & Wellness section of My Amazon Store.
Besides utilizing my awesome scales, here are a few additional ways I’m measuring success for this endeavor:
- Increased mobility (I don’t need to push myself up to get off the couch anymore. I can sit on the floor and stand up without hands)
- Increased endurance (how long can I hike or stay active)
- Strength (what can I lift that I couldn’t previously)
- Blood pressure
- Blood glucose levels (I check my own using this device)
- Increased immune system functioning (labs)
- Body Measurements
- Less jiggling in the arms
- Wearing clothes I’d like to wear
- Glowing skin
- Bright eyes
- Energy level
- Sleep quantity and quality
As you can see, weight loss is just one of the indicators of my overall health. I’m not willing to sacrifice other indicators for the sake of weight loss. For example, if I decrease my calories too much, I won’t have the energy to weight train or increase my endurance. It’s a package.
My Personal Weight-Loss Strategy
My personal strategy when considering how often we should weigh ourselves was highly correlated to my relationship with scales. I didn’t weigh in very often at the beginning of my journey. My focus was on the process of changing my eating habits and gradually increasing my workout routine. Because health is my goal, I knew I had to figure out my relationship with food while instilling good physical habits into my life. I had an unhealthy relationship with scales and knew it could easily derail me. Honestly, I was scared to death to get on those damn things.
About six months into my journey after having lost and gained the same 10-15 pounds over and over again, I was ready for a new strategy. This was when I purchased the scales that changed my life and started looking at everything as just another data point.
I’m not gonna lie. It was hard at first. Having all the extra data really helped me to stay on track.
I looked at my entire journey as a science experiment. I knew what hadn’t worked and it was time to figure out what would work. The data helped me to make different decisions and see the impact of those decisions very quickly.
And that’s when I started having success.
During the time I was trying to figure out the best formula for me, I’d weigh myself two or three times a week. The number no longer scared me. If I didn’t lose anything or even gained weight, it didn’t feel like a failure. It simply felt like a component of my experiment may need to be changed. It was simply data.
Once I got to a place where I was consistently losing, I went back to checking in once a week.
I’m not looking for a quick fix so I can wear those jeans by the time I go to a party in two weeks. I’m ready to find a permanent solution (wow, took me long enough huh?). If I lose .2 lbs in a week, I’m happy.
I also understand now that I might gain one week just to lose that amount and more the following week. It truly is NOT an exact science.
Remember, the scale is a data point.
It’s only one data point.
There are so many other indicators to focus on.
So, what’s the answer to the question How Often Should We Weight Ourselves? That depends. It depends on your goal, your personal relationship with scales, the types of scales you are using, and why you are using them.
My hope is that you won’t give up based on your frustration with a number on a scale. Look at all the data points in your life and stay focused on continual progress as opposed to quick results. I know that even though I’m overweight, I’m in better health than many people. I will not sacrifice my health for a number on a scale. That being said, I also know I’m at greater risk for all kinds of diseases if I don’t get that number down so yeah, good health today is not an adequate cop-out to keep myself at risk.
Create a strategy that is unique to you and helps you to accomplish your goal. You know your body better than anyone else. Work with it, listen to it, set challenges where you can have some quick wins to keep you motivated, and quit judging yourself based on others’ accomplishments.
There is no shortage of people in the fitness industry with large YouTube, Instagram, Tiktok, and blog followings. It’s difficult to know who to trust, so I won’t. I’m going to recommend a nutritionist I follow who is super smart, logical, and very sensitive to body dysmorphia and other triggers associated with eating and exercise.
There is also one doctor I personally hold in high esteem as he is focused on preventive health instead of treating disease. You’ll learn a lot about overall health by following him. Here’s his YouTube Channel: Dr. Peter Attia