To Weigh or Not to Weigh

SBM: to-weigh-or-not-to-weigh

Madeline Konsor, M.S.; Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Laura Aylward, Ph.D.; Post-Doctoral Fellow at West Virginia University School of Medicine

“Individuals are better able to self-regulate behaviors when they self-monitor and evaluate current behavior compared with goals. This reinforces current behavior or allows for self-correction.” Being aware of our current behaviors helps us identify how we can make changes to meet our goals. When we monitor something, like our weight, we create opportunities for progress to be reinforced, highlighting our successes or areas for improvement.

In the world of weight management, regular self-weighing is a technique used to help individuals lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Regular self-weighing is used to detect subtle weight increases and prevent further weight gain in the long term.

The act of weighing yourself does not directly affect how much you weigh. Rather, self-weighing is a form of feedback that helps guide other weight loss behaviors. The feedback and information you receive from a weigh-in may influence other behaviors such as reducing your calorie intake, exercising more, or reducing the number of times you eat out each week.

The benefits of self-weighing have been debated, with some researchers pointing to possible negative consequences. Research studies have shown that regular self-monitoring of weight did have a negative psychosocial impact on young adults (approximately 18-27 years).

However, other studies have demonstrated that the benefits of self-weighing in adult samples outweigh the bad (pun intended). Research has shown that for those who are actively trying to lose weight, daily self-weighing was related to lower body mass indexes (BMIs), greater weight loss, and weight gain prevention long term.

The tricky piece here is that those who stopped self-weighing also stopped seeing the benefits. To fully gain the benefits of regular self-weighing, it must be a consistent habit.

Tips for Regular Self-Weighing:

  1. Keep your scale in one location. Make self-weighing easier by having your scale located in the same place. Keeping it out in the open can also help you remember to weigh yourself. Some common places for a scale include the bathroom, a hallway, or your bedroom.
  2. Maintain a record of your weigh-ins. Whether it’s using your phone or a paper and pen, keeping track of your weight can help you see trends. Does your weight increase during the winter months? Does your weight fluctuate when you’re stressed? Identifying times when weight management is more difficult can be helpful for planning in the future.  
  3. Choose a frequency for self-weighing. Jumping into daily self-weighing may not be easy or realistic. Try starting with three weigh-ins per week and work your way up to your desired frequency. Building a new habit into your routine should be gradual and not overwhelming.
  4. Pick a designated time for weigh-ins. It’s often recommended to weigh yourself in the mornings, right after waking up. Everyone’s weight fluctuates after a day of eating, so weighing yourself in the evenings might not give you an accurate reading each time.
  5. Set a reminder on your smartphone or use a reminder app. Using a reminder on your phone can help facilitate new habits. Check out the free smartphone app “Mango Health” for a great way to track self-weighing and other healthy habits!
  6. Create a support system. Weighing yourself regularly can be hard at first. Maybe you’re not satisfied with the number on the scale or maybe stepping on the scale is a negative reminder about your weight. Reach out to supportive individuals in your life and let them know you’re starting to self-monitor your weight. Having an accountability partner and/or someone to lean on can be helpful in creating long-term habits. 

Detailed self-monitoring or self-weighing can be frustrating, difficult to sustain, and can feel overwhelming at times. Deciding whether or not to add self-weighing into your regular routine requires commitment, organizational skills, and support. If you feel you could benefit from regular weigh-ins, give it a try!

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