When you've committed to losing weight (or keeping off pounds you've previously lost), weighing yourself may be a part of the process. It can help you keep track, after all. But how often should you weigh yourself to ensure you're headed in the right direction — every day? Once a week?
The answer may not be cut and dry. Read on to learn how regularly you should step on the scale.
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How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?
Whether your goal is weight loss or maintenance, there's no one-size-fits-all rule about how often you should do weigh-ins. It all depends on what works for you.
As a general guideline, "I tend to suggest that my patients weigh themselves [without clothing] one to two times per week," says Reshmi Srinath, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Weight and Metabolism Management Program. Aim to do it before you've eaten breakfast or sipped your morning cup of joe. (Weight can fluctuate from morning to night, so you'll want to do it at the same time every day for consistency's sake.)
Still, some people prefer to weigh themselves every day. "Daily weight monitoring is OK for certain patients who are motivated, feel comfortable and are aware of natural fluctuations in body weight," Dr. Srinath says. But for others, it can be more harmful than helpful (more on this later).
Pros of Weighing Yourself Every Day
Here are a few of the pluses to daily weight checks:
1. It Can Be Motivating
If your goal is to lose weight, it can be encouraging to see the pounds drop. And weighing yourself daily can validate that what you're doing is working, says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and professor at Columbia University.
For some people, regular weight monitoring can also provide motivation or reinforcement if you fall off track, Dr. Srinath says. In other words, the number on the scale serves as inspiration to make choices that serve your weight-loss goals.
2. It Can Keep You Accountable
Weighing yourself regularly helps with accountability, especially when you're following a weight-loss program, Dr. Srinath says.
Hafeez agrees that, for some people, daily weight monitoring can help you stay the course. The number on the scale not only creates awareness around the effects of your eating habits, but it also helps you recognize when you've hit a plateau and need to switch up your strategy, she says.
Cons of Weighing Yourself Every Day
On the flip side, here are the pitfalls of regular weigh-ins:
1. It Can Be Misleading
Perhaps you've encountered this scenario: In the morning, the scale says one number, but a few hours later it displays another. So what gives?
Weight can naturally fluctuate by a few pounds depending on factors like fluid intake, salt intake and your period, Dr. Srinath says.
Yep, your day-to-day weight can change drastically (varying up to 5 pounds per day), which is why stepping on the scale daily is not the most reliable method for monitoring your goals, Hafeez says.
What's more, "the number on the scale isn't always indicative of your body composition and, therefore, can't dictate your progress accurately," Hafeez says. For example, the scale can't distinguish between whether you gained a pound of muscle or fat.
2. It Could Be Discouraging
"Weighing daily can be helpful for certain patients, but I've seen that it can be stressful and frustrating for others," Dr. Srinath says.
Regularly monitoring the number on the scale may also make you lose sight of other markers of health, like your mental wellbeing or energy levels. "If you let yourself focus on the number on the scale, you may lose sight of the physical progress you've made," Hafeez says.
3. It Could Contribute to Unhealthy Behaviors
"By not seeing progress through numbers, your mental health could potentially be at stake as you could begin to obsess over it," Hafeez says. This can be especially harmful for people with a history of eating disorders.
"If you weigh yourself every morning and are unhappy with the results, it could ruin your mood for the day or trigger unhealthy habits such as skipping meals or disordered eating," she says.
Mental health should also be a priority when it comes to your wellbeing, so if stepping on the scale frequently or chasing a goal weight causes distress, don't do it.
Find a Weighing Schedule That’s Right for You
When it comes to the frequency of your weight check-ins, no schedule is superior. Consistency — not frequency — is the main key to success, Dr. Srinath says. That means daily monitoring doesn't necessarily give you an edge on weight loss: You can be just as successful reaching your goals by weighing yourself weekly or even less.
The best weighing schedule is the one that makes you feel motivated, energized and excited about your weight-loss journey. If weighing yourself every day encourages you, then by all means, keep doing it. But if you find yourself down in the dumps after daily weigh-ins, it might be time to reassess — perhaps weekly or biweekly scale sessions are better for you.
Whichever you choose, what's most important is focusing on your overall progress rather than the number on the scale, Dr. Srinath says.
Hafeez agrees you should measure your success in terms of your health as a whole. The number on the scale is only one part of a much larger picture. The way you feel physically and mentally is just as significant, she says. Do you have more energy? Can you lift heavier weights? Is your mood improving? These are all indicators that you're making progress.