Weekly weigh-ins are a hallmark of the Weight Watchers Plan: it works in helping the pounds fall off. “A lot of research shows individuals who weigh weekly—if not more frequently, as much as daily—tend to do better in terms of initial weight loss and in terms of keeping weight off long-term,” says Gareth Dutton, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine.
Take a study published by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine. They found that over the course of three months, young adults who weighed themselves at least multiple times a week lost more weight—and were more likely to maintain weight loss—than those who weighed themselves less frequently.
Why you should weigh yourself
You’ll notice how behaviors impact your body
“Weighing daily can be helpful for adopting healthy behaviors to lose weight because it increases awareness of how the things we eat and the exercises we do impact weight,” says Dori Steinberg, PhD, RD, assistant professor of nursing and global health at Duke University and the associate director of the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center.
If you weigh yourself every day, you might notice, for example, that three nights of eating out cause the scale to creep up. Someone who doesn't hop on as often? The person might not make that connection. And that’s the key: understanding how behaviors impact your body and self-regulating in order to make changes. Real-time feedback provides a chance to analyze diet, physical activity, and stress, tweaking where necessary.
You’ll stay accountable
It’s much easier to fall off the bandwagon when you don’t have anything to tell you that you’ve actually fallen off. The scale serves as a source of accountability, helping people stay on track, says Dutton.
Making a date with the scale part of your routine also helps you notice what’s working and when it’s working when you’re doing something right so that you can keep doing it.
Just remember, it’s best to weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before you eat and drink, with limited clothing on.
You’ll pick up on trends over time
Regular weighing provides opportunities to notice improvements and changes you’ve made that have paid off, Dutton says. That’s why tracking your data is so important. Whether you use a smart scale that connects via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to an app to record your data or the old-fashioned technique of pen and paper, keeping up with your numbers can help you notice trends.
You might spot a health issue
While some scales will show your body fat, hydration, muscle mass and BMI, in addition to weight loss. In and of itself, the scale isn’t going to give you all of the information you need about your overall health. But experts know that maintaining a healthy weight is largely tied to health and wellness. “Seeing changes up or down can be an indication of something going on not just externally but internally, too,” says Dutton. “I sort of view weight as a clinical data point.”
For example, if you have a complex chronic condition such as congestive heart failure, regular weighing can help you keep tabs on fluid fluctuations (often seen through weight gained or lost). Weight gain can also be associated with issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or depression.
You’ll ease weight loss–related anxieties
Although someone concerned with heart health might take his or her blood pressure daily and a diabetic might regularly monitor blood sugar levels, weight-loss patients tend to view the scale differently.
“There is so much weight given to the number on the scale—we give it so much value, but its value is that it’s just another tool in our tool box,” reminds Steinberg.
Making the scale a part of your daily habit helps alleviate the anxiety many people feel surrounding the process and removes the emotional, judgmental aspects of weighing that people so often fear, says Dutton. “It becomes an objective data point rather than a subjective judgment call on you as a person.”