If you’re trying to lose weight, you might sometimes feel as though the bathroom scale is not your friend. But research suggests that the scale can be a powerful ally in your weight-loss effort.
A study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that frequent weighing in — as much as once per day — can help weight-loss efforts for overweight adults.
To weigh or not to weigh
Psychologist Leslie Heinberg, PhD, MA, says there are some benefits to checking the scale daily. The more information people receive, the more they can make progress toward their goals.
“If you’re trying to lose weight without gathering some of this information, it’s a little bit like driving your car in a new town without the GPS,” Dr. Heinberg says. “You might stumble onto your destination by accident. But when you have all the information, like you would with a roadmap, you’re going to get there much more quickly and efficiently.”
Average-weight adults can see their weight fluctuate by as much as five to six pounds per day, because of fluid retention or even the time of day they step on the scale, Dr. Heinberg says. Weighing yourself every day can help you to see this. Then if your weight goes up slightly, you’re better able to recognize it as a blip, and not give up on your goals.
Conversely, there can be a danger in weighing yourself too much, as it can make you feel as though your efforts aren’t paying off. The key is to take a long view and track your results over time. Even if there’s occasional blips, the general trend should be downward; otherwise this is a sign you might need to tweak your weight-loss strategy.
The bigger picture
Even if your weight is at the right level, make a regular habit of getting on the scale. Weighing in only a few times a year can make it easy for excess pounds to creep in.
Dr. Heinberg recommends weighing in once or twice each week, at the same time of day on the same days of the week.
She also says that sometimes the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The scale, unfortunately, is a bad barometer of behavior change,” said Dr. Heinberg. “You can do absolutely everything right and then you get on the scale and you’re up two pounds. It’s important to stay on track even if you sometimes face small setbacks.”
Dr. Heinberg also said the number on the scale is merely one piece of data. Factors such as waist measurements and how your clothes fit are just as important in creating your overall picture of health.