Although not the be-all and end-all, weight is still one of the truest guides to show if you are, well, losing weight. But should you weigh every day? In some cases, like those already at target weight but looking to get super-lean abs, weight becomes less relevant. For these people weighing often can actually encourage unwanted weight loss in the form of lean muscle mass. For them a fat percentage is more useful. Or a simple weekly selfie.
But for most of us looking to shed a few pounds the scales are still a good guide to show if the strategy is working or if adaptations to food and exercise need to be made.
Should you weigh every day?
1 – While healthy sustained fat loss is a slow process (remember the 2lb a week rule) daily data can be helpful to see where you might be going wrong. Daily weighing can also educate us as to the natural fluctuations in weight – in the short term – and what causes them. A late night meal or a menstrual cycle, for example.
2 – Some studies show that daily weighing can lead to greater overall weight loss and also better weight maintenance after the initial loss. A trial by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the US showed that daily weigh-ins helped subjects stick to better eating patterns – suggesting that with a less frequent weigh people tend to get a false sense of security or underestimate the damage an occasional lapse can do.
3 – Another study by The Obesity Society in the US showed that those who weighed themselves every day ate on average 347 fewer calories than their counterparts who weighed less often. After six months, the group that weighed themselves daily ended up losing a whopping 10 times more weight than the control group.
4 – Daily weighing may also help to prevent long-term weight gain, particularly in overweight people. It can prevent an “out of sight out of mind” approach to eating, where you feel less accountable as your weigh in is many days away.
Reasons not to weigh every day
Over 14 years in the fitness industry has shown us that although there can be benefits to a daily weigh in, there are also reasons to weigh less frequently.
1 – Weight loss can easily be confused with fat loss. When people say they want to lose weight, what they actually mean is that they want to lose fat. Muscles are heavy, as are bones. But losing them is very unhealthy. A crash diet like lighter life will usually see fast weight loss. But because it’s unhealthy weight loss, the scales also reflect loss of lean muscle mass and bone density. Weighing daily can give a false sense of success and lead to unhealthy and hard to sustain weight loss.
2 – It can be demoralising. Weight fluctuates naturally over the course of a day. Or a week. Regardless of calorific intake. Particularly for women – a menstrual cycle can cause weight gain that is not reflective of an overall weight loss trend. If we were machines then a good low calorie day would reflect at once on the scales. But we’re not. Hormones, individual genetics, timing of meals and their content can all cause short term fluctuations. So a healthy day’s eating can be sabotaged by a poor daily weigh in the next day; frustration can lead to a binge.
3 – Weight loss takes time. Our Neanderthal inheritance means that losing weight takes time. Healthy weight loss should be no more than 2lb a week. In this context daily weighing can seem really slow and tedious, with lack of short term success leading to loss of motivation and long term failure.
4 – Weight is not fitness. Training the correct way means strength training as well and cardio vascular work. There will be some gain in muscle mass which can make the scales seem to come down a bit more slowly. But more importantly a single daily focus on weight can be to the detriment of health and fitness. It might lead you to omit healthy foods or skip meals. It can be better to just focus on being healthy, strong and fit for 6 days and then only deal with weight on the 7th.
5 – Encourages eating disorders. Most of us can take a poor weigh in in our stride. However for those on the cusp of eating problems, or that may have suffered from an eating disorder in the past, daily weighing can encourage disorders. It can also be depressing and stressful for the less philosophical.
So which is better?
The answer, as with many fitness questions, is whichever one works best for you. If you like to use technology and stay on top of things then a smart scale connected to a smart watch might be excellent to keep you losing weight. If you are more likely to be demoralised by apparent slow progress – or even the odd blip – then weekly weighing might be a better choice. We usually recommend the latter (a weekly weigh) to clients, but have some clients who thrive on daily assessments.