Some of us may have a conflicted relationship with the bathroom scale, but this device might actually be more friend than foe when it comes to weight loss.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, stepping on the scale every day may help you to lose weight simply because it's a way to keep yourself accountable on a daily basis and to keep track of progress.
"Regularly weighing yourself can motivate you to engage in healthy eating and exercise behaviors because it provides you with evidence that these behaviors are effective in helping you lose weight or prevent weight gain," explains lead author Diane Rosenbaum, Ph.D. "Similarly, if you see weight gain on the scale, that information can motivate you to make a change."
Researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University tracked 294 first-year college women, recording their body fat percentage and BMI at the beginning of the study, at six months and at two years. The women were pointedly not told to lose weight and were also asked to complete surveys about their weighing habits.
According to the findings, women who had a daily relationship with their scales not only avoided weight gain, but also saw an overall drop in their body mass index. Those who refrained from daily weigh-ins did not.
"The losses in BMI and body fat percentage were modest, but still significant, especially keeping in mind that these women were not part of a weight-loss program," Rosenbaum continues. "We did not expect that, in the absence of a weight-loss intervention, folks would be losing weight."
Another interesting fact is that the women who weighed themselves daily had higher BMIs as well as percentage of body fat in the beginning of the study, which contradicts previous research that people with lower BMIs weigh themselves more often.
Before you start obsessively hopping on the scale, be aware that researchers can't say for sure if there is a direct relationship between daily weighing and weight loss. It's possible that some people avoid the scale when they know they have gained weight, Rosenbaum points out.
A 2015 Duke University study of overweight and obese individuals reported similar findings: Those who weighed themselves daily lost more weight than those who weighed themselves less often. Researchers believed this could be because they made better food and exercise choices. "It might be that daily weighing triggers an understanding of what people were eating and how it was affecting their weight," lead author Dori Steinberg, explained. "So they're more likely to reduce portions, eat enough vegetables or use a pedometer."
Remember that a scale is just one part of being fit and healthy — some people choose not to use them at all, and that's fine.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you own a bathroom scale? How often do you weigh yourself? Have you noticed a relationship between weight loss and how often you weigh yourself?