It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And when you’re trying to lose weight, the toughest step of all can be the one you take onto the bathroom scale. Will those numbers in front of your toes serve as proof of your progress? What if you haven’t lost as much as you expected — or if you’ve actually gained a pound or two? It’s common for many people to avoid weighing themselves for these very reasons.
Yet if you’re trying to lose weight, it can be helpful to weigh yourself — and to do so regularly. Frequent weigh-ins not only help you keep track of your progress and feel motivated, but research shows they can also help you lose weight.1 At the same time, not doing regular weigh-ins can lead to weight gain.2 In fact, self-weighing can be so effective that many experts now recommend weighing yourself daily if you’re trying to lose weight — or to maintain the loss you’ve already achieved.
Here’s a look at the science behind daily weigh-ins, as well as tips to make the most out of your trips to the scale.
What does the research say?
Research shows weighing yourself every day can be one of the most important tools in your weight-loss journey. Based off these findings, Jenny Craig recommends daily weigh-ins on your own, in addition to weekly weigh-ins with your personal weight loss consultant. (But if you find weigh-ins causing more anxiety than motivation, do what is best for you and your journey.)
For instance, recent research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine3 analyzed the self-weighing patterns of more than 1,000 adults — and whether there were differences in weight according to these patterns. They found that people who weighed themselves six or seven times per week lost 1.7 percent of their body weight over the course of a year. People who never weighed themselves, or who did so once per week, didn’t lose any weight during the same timeframe. (The study participants were not given any weight-loss advice, incentives or other guidance; they were studied only in relation to how frequently they stepped on the scale.)
Another study of 91 overweight adults1 conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that people who weighed themselves daily achieved “clinically meaningful” weight loss when compared to those who weighed themselves six days a week or less. The participants who weighed themselves daily lost an average of more than 20 pounds over six months, while those who weighed in less than daily lost less than 7 pounds, on average, during the same time period. (Study participants were provided feedback on the frequency of their weigh-ins and corresponding weight loss, in addition to weight-loss strategies such as reducing their calorie intake and incorporating daily physical activity into their schedules.)
Keeping tabs on your progress is important to help achieve your weight loss goals,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM, chair of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board. “Weighing yourself daily can be a great barometer for whether the numbers are headed in the right direction, and if they’re not, you can have that immediate information to course correct and make positive changes to get back on track.”
Why is it helpful to weigh yourself daily?
There are several factors associated with daily weigh-ins that can help with weight loss. For instance, according to the University of Pittsburgh/UCSF researchers, self-monitoring of your body weight — such as by weighing yourself frequently — can lead to changes in your behavior, which in turn can increase your success at managing your weight.3
Additionally, research suggests that frequent self-monitoring may improve your self-awareness while also providing an early warning of subtle increases in your weight.2 What’s more, the National Institutes of Health4 (NIH) says that regular monitoring of your weight is essential for weight maintenance.
In fact, Duke/Chapel Hill researchers say that study participants who weighed themselves daily engaged more often in behaviors associated with weight loss, including the following:1
- Reducing their calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day
- Reducing the amount of fast food they ate
- Reducing the amount of sweets or junk food they ate
- Reducing late-night snacking
- Making small changes to their daily activity level
- Reducing the amount of time they watched TV
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day
Daily weigh-ins may not be for everyone
Despite the potential benefits of daily weighing, experts warn that certain people are better off not doing weigh-ins. Research indicates that the self-esteem of young adolescents may be impacted by daily weigh-ins.5 And if you’ve ever struggled with disordered eating, studies indicate frequent weigh-ins should be avoided as well.6
So be sure to check in with yourself. Does the above apply to you? Or does weighing in give you more of an emotional blow over than an emotional boost? If so, daily weigh-ins are not for you.
Tips for daily weigh-ins
You can get the most out of your weigh-ins by following these tips:
1. Weigh yourself around the same time every day. Try to get in the habit of weighing yourself around the same time daily to help get a more accurate picture of your weight loss. Many experts recommend first thing in the morning.
2. Wear the same type of clothing — if any. Jeans weigh more than leggings; a sweater is heavier than a t-shirt. Level the playing field by donning the same clothes daily — or weigh in without any clothing at all.
3. Try a graph rather than a list. Since it can help you see trends, keeping a graph of your weight may be more informative than a list, according to the NIH.4
4. Keep your cycle in mind. If you feel heavier around the time of your period, it’s not all in your head: Many women do gain weight according to their menstrual cycle. If you see a jump in the numbers on the scale, don’t panic — as long as you’re eating sensibly and exercising, they’ll come back down as your hormones normalize.7
5. Repeat after us: Muscle weighs more than fat. If you’ve been working out as part of your weight-loss plan, it may seem as if you’re losing weight more slowly than you’d like. But keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, so even if the numbers on the scale seem slow to budge, you’re actually putting on healthy amounts of metabolism-boosting muscle while losing fat.8,9 Taking your measurements (waist, hips, etc.) is another good indicator of your progress.
6. Keep it in perspective — and be patient. According to the NIH,4 one day’s exercise and diet patterns won’t have a measurable effect on your weight the next day. It’s the cumulative effects of your behaviors that make a difference.
7. The numbers aren’t everything. Are the pounds dropping more slowly than you’d like? Try to assess your progress in other ways: Is your waist getting smaller? Feeling less pressure on your knees? Is your BMI improving? Can you walk farther without getting out of breath? These are all signs of improving health.
8. If you opt to weigh in once a week, choose the same day. According to research, the most accurate day to do a weigh-in is Wednesday.10
9. Remember: Variation is normal. According to the Cleveland Clinic,11 average-weight adults can see the scale vary by up to 5 or 6 pounds per day depending on water retention and other factors. Weighing yourself daily can help you recognize fluctuating numbers as nothing more than a normal variation — so if you see your numbers jump from one day to the next, that doesn’t mean you’re actually gaining weight. And it’s certainly no reason to throw in the towel and give up on your goals.
Research continues to discover fascinating, effective ways to help you reach your weight-loss goals, and daily weigh ins are one of the simplest — yet most valuable. As you continue on your path to a healthy weight, we hope you consider adding this tool to your weight-loss journey if it’s right for you.
Would you like to learn more healthy ways to lose weight? From eating in tune with your circadian rhythm to instituting a daylight nutrition strategy, Jenny Craig considers the latest proven research for their effective weight-loss program. Schedule your free appointment and get started today.
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus.
Reviewed by: Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs. Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!).
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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