Thursday, September 17, 2009

Daily weigh ins vs. weekly weigh ins

"Should I weigh in every day or just once a week?" It's a common question. And I'm going to give an answer that is very true, but one I think people don't hear enough:

Scientifically speaking, you should probably weigh yourself every day.

Now, this is a post I've been mulling over this for a while. Erin (who, by the way, has a great blog that I'd encourage you to check out) commented on a post of mine not too long back that "the almighty 'they' discourage weighing in daily." And in terms of the diet world, she's right. Weight Watchers, Spark People, and most other diet plans and diet books say you should only weigh once a week. The typical justifications are that the scale can change greatly from day to day, meaning it's not all that accurate, and that there are emotional downsides with seeing false losses and gains throughout the week. Essentially, conventional wisdom in the diet world says that weighing yourself every day can discourage you and stress you out. But conventional wisdom isn't always right.

Weighting yourself every day is actually a good idea according to science. A 2005 study showed that "Dieters who weighed themselves regularly shed more pounds over a 24-month period than people who didn't regularly weigh themselves. Those who weighed themselves daily lost the most." Another University of Minnesota study "found that those who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 12 pounds over 2 years; weekly scale watchers lost only 6. The once-a-day group also was less likely to regain weight loss." And there are more studies out there with much the same message.

So weighing daily makes you likely to lose more weight and keep it off once it's gone. But what about the emotional damage of daily weigh ins? At least one study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology says that's a myth. Here's what they found:

Several recent studies suggest that daily weighing is important for long-term weight control, but concerns have been raised about possible adverse psychological effects.
We found no evidence that increases in frequency of weighing or daily weighing per se had any adverse effects in this study population. Rather, increases in self-weighing were associated with increases in dietary restraint (p less than 0.001), decreases in disinhibition (p less than 0.003), and decreases in depressive symptoms (p less than 0.002). Moreover, those who weighed daily at 18 months were less likely to report having = 4 binge episodes per month (p = 0.03). Daily weighing appears to be an important aspect of weight loss maintenance and was not associated with adverse psychological effect.
So there's scientific evidence that weighing daily isn't emotionally damaging. It even seems to decrease depression and binging! And why are we supposed to weigh in weekly, again?

The answer to the question "should I weigh myself every day or once a week?" seems to be every day. Scientifically speaking, if you want to play the probabilities, you should step on your scale every day.

That said, just because something is likely to be right for you doesn't mean something is right for you. If you're not comfortable with daily weigh ins, then you shouldn't weigh in daily. It might be that you get extremely depressed by stepping on the scale, or that you truly can't stand seeing the fluctuations. Maybe for you this journey is more the emotional or even spiritual aspects, and that while you do want to track your weight, you don't care much about the numbers. You need to do what works for you.

My advice:

Seriously consider weighing in every day. It may not work for you, but there's some good evidence that it more likely to work than you might think. But, at the end of the day, trust yourself. If you don't want to do daily weigh ins, don't do daily weigh ins. Stick with weekly, monthly, or whatever else makes you happy. The right answer for you might not be the right answer for everyone else. And with that in mind, next time you hear someone mindlessly parrot the diet industry's standard "you shouldn't weigh yourself more than once a week," let them know that science, at least, says otherwise.

Oh, and to answer the requests from yesterday, I will review the Body Bugg once I get mine. It shipped last night, and should be arriving on the 22nd.


  1. You're preaching to the choir on this one. I weigh every day. I kind of figured those statistics about every day weighers losing more was because those who were willing to do that once a day maybe had more committment or focus or something. But who knows. I do it and I'm not gonna stop is all I know.

    And thank you for the kind comment you left on my blog!

  2. Hi Hadley :) I weigh every other day, it seems. My question is which day to count the weigh in?

  3. Hmmm, you raise some interesting points. Now I'm wondering if this is something I should try...I can see the benefits....

  4. I agree with the science. Good discussion.

    I weigh myself daily. I actually find it more encouraging. Since my weekly "weigh-in" can sometimes be on an upward fluctuation day, it's nice to have a more realistic view of the way the scale works. If I only weighed once a week I know that I personally would be more likely to throw my hands up in the air on a bad weigh-in day, feel the entire week was a loss, and get discouraged and binge.

  5. Hmm, with regard to the studies you mentioned where folks weighed in every day and lost more weight, it appears that there is a correlation but not necessarily causation. There could be lots of other reasons why people who weigh daily might also lose more weight (for example, maybe daily weighers are more detailed oriented and therefor more likely to successfully track their food, etc.). I'm not saying that people should or shouldn't weigh daily, but I'm not sure those studies make a terribly compelling case either way. :-)

  6. Loved the post. Very informative. Hated the scale this morning and suffered some mental anguish over it ;), but in the end, I remain a every morning weigher! I need to see it every day. It keeps me more accountable than my food tracking does.

  7. I weigh EVERY DAY and have for the 12 years I've been in maintenance. I do think the science behind it is valid, although I certainly understand people who would rather not.

    It's an accountability thing for me. If the scale inches up a pound or two I don't freak out, but neither do I have dessert. It's a good check and balance.

    When I was in the weight loss mode I also weighed everyday. Again, once I had lost a pound I didn't want to see it again. Weighing daily helped me stay focused.

    Just my two cents - great post as always Hadley.

  8. I weigh myself every single day. I've come to notice the patterns in my weight and figure out what causes temporary weight gain, etc.
    I find it to be a useful tracking tool. I'm sure others would argue, but it's what works for me.

  9. lol thanks hadley for the shout out. and then stomping all over my wisdom lol i've said it once, i'll say it again; we take very different approaches to weight loss, and they both work. i'm a former daily weigh-er and it wasn't so much that the number depressed me or had an emotional toll, more that i found myself becoming obsessive over it. in a not-very-good way. i started taking drastic risks with my diet and my health in order to see a number change every day. those were bad old days. i lost lots of weight, but i hated myself more than i ever have. not everyone is like this, but i was. scientifically, you're spot on. but i know how negative the experience was for me, so i stick with my once a week weigh ins. ::in a cheesy russian accent:: i merely offer my personal opeenion

  10. Excellent post, Hadley. You know from my blog that I already engage in this practice and I believe that it does indeed help me. It is all in the mindset though, I think... in my daily weigh-ins I am looking to gather information whereas I suspect some people may be hoping to see big(ish) losses all the time. I agree that in the end it is a decision that should be based on the individual.

  11. Hadley what a great post! I go from one extreme to the other and still don't know which way I prefer.

  12. Hey fellow GAGer,

    Just checking out how you're doing... and you're doing great! I jump back a forth between daily and weekly weigh-ins whenever I need to be a little stricter with myself. Just find out what works for you and adjust as you need to.

    Don't forget about our current 365-mile Challenge... please see my my current blog for official rules:

    Keep it up!

  13. I weigh in weekly. I've tried weighing in daily before, and for me it's disappointing to see next to no movement on the scale, but somehow it manages to equal a few pounds at the end of the week... weird, I know lol but I think once I start using the digital scale, I might switch to daily, since you can see the results better than you can on the needle... who knows, we'll see!

  14. Thanks for the perspective. I never really considered daily weigh ins but already read about it in your blog. Now I don't weigh daily, but 3 or 4 times a week. I remember the first two weeks I started to live healthy after the weekly morning weigh in I tend to eat more that day because the next weigh in was due 7 days later... if you know what I mean. One week is way too long, a lot can happen.

  15. Love, love, love this post! I love the research that you have here. I've been a weekly weigher, sometimes with a mid-week "peek."

    However, a comment from a cyberfriend has always made me think I should weigh daily. She said that if she has lost weight, then she WANTS to be good that day, and if she has gained weight, then she NEEDS to be good that day. Either way, it's a win-win! That comment plus your research is going to make me convert.

    The thing I have to recognize is that if I'm doing everything "healthy" and the scale moves up, that's probably water. That way I won't get discouraged. I also have to remind myself that for me it takes 2 days for something "off plan" to register on the scale. I can have cheesecake and get on the scale the next day and see a loss...but the following day will probably have the gain. I can't get that false sense of "getting away with it."

    Daily weighing, here I come!

  16. No weigh-ins for me. My clothes and the mirror tells me all I need to know. I can tell when I am taking up less space. Great post!

  17. Great post, I couldn't agree more. I've never understood the once a week logic - what if your weigh in day is an up day - wouldn't that make you more frustrated? I'm in the camp of of Teresa's commenter, either way it motivates me or is a reality slap in the face.

  18. I weigh daily. Loved how you put in all this great research information, especially how it's not emotionally damaging in the end. Good stuff.

  19. I just found your blog and I have to tell you I love you in a non-sexual way! Seriously! I also have been on a WLJ (weight loss journey) for the last 10 months. My friend is also on one and we debate this a lot. I used to be on the whole ONLY WEIGH once a week or month bandwagon. I think in some way I wanted to avoid the numbers. It was more denial. I agree with you now. Seeing that BIG HUGE number every day does motivate me!

  20. I like the daily weighing, used to do it every day. I moved to a tiny studio, no room for scale (really). Now I weigh at the gym, and though I'm there 5 days a week, that's at 3 or 4 branches of the gym, so all different scales, and it's driving me bats^$t! I'm going to pick ONE scale, and try to remember that number, though I'll weigh myself on all of them, anyway. They are all within 2 pounds, but I won't see small changes, which is disappointing, but livable.