Do daily weigh-ins improve weight loss?
This is a bit of a touchy subject that depends a lot on personality. I’ve personally found that daily weigh-ins help me stay more focused and disciplined throughout the week versus weighing in weekly, but I’ve also had clients that get so anxious about daily weigh-ins that it causes them to spin out and comfort eat to manage the stress. While body weight isn’t a perfect measure of body fat percentage, it is one of the easiest ways to track your trends (whether positive or negative) over time.
Studies have shown that weighing in daily significantly improves weight loss results and it helps prevent weight regain over the long term. Tracking those results on a visual graph allows people to quickly see positive or negative trends and make corrections quickly when needed. For those lolo users that don’t know, you already have a free weight tracking graph as part of your lolo Connect account. Any weight change you record in any lolo app is automatically synced to your weight tracking graph that you can view in your lolo Connect account.
It’s a great tool to help visualize your progress, but a new study once again brings up the question of whether it’s more helpful to weigh yourself daily verses weekly. The study confirmed something I’ve seen myself in practice quite a bit. Weighing in daily did help both women and men lose weight and keep it off for 2 years, but the men were able to lose much more weight. The researchers did not really have any theories on why it worked better for men than women, but I have a theory based on the studies design and my experience training men and women over the years.
No education on water weight verses fat weight
The researchers wanted to see if the feedback from the scale alone would effect results so they did not tell people how to diet or educate them on the biology of weight loss. They left it entirely up to the individual participants to decide how they would lose the weight.
I have found over the years that most people do not understand the impact water weight has on the scale each day. As I mentioned in a previous article, don’t live and die by the scale because losing fat is a long slow process but changes to your sugar and salt intake can really effect the amount of water you retain or excrete each day. Water alone can cause your weight to shift 5 to 10 pounds in one day, and while an unexpected jump on the scale can be discouraging, I’ve found the psychological impact of that jump is lessoned significantly when my clients finally understood that they would have to eat an additional 3500 calories in one day to gain one pound of fat.
My theory on why women do not benefit from daily weigh-ins as much as men is because they tend to be more susceptible to water weight gains, and the accompanying frustration of an unexpected jump on the scale causes them to think, “screw it anyway.” They then abandon their weight loss regimen for the day and and significantly sabotage their progress. My theory is anecdotal at best, but I’ve seen it plenty of times before and my guess is that many people reading this have felt that same frustration a time or two.
Why do I still recommend daily weigh-ins?
So if this new study shows that it doesn’t work as well for women and my own experience confirms it, why do I still think it’s a great strategy for everyone? Multiple reasons:
1. Repetition lessons impact: This is just human nature. Whether it’s stepping on a scale or a fireman helping at a grisly car crash (sorry for the gross example), the more we are exposed to something, the less it will impact us emotionally. I’ve dealt with many clients that said they can’t stand weighing in daily because it makes them anxious. When I see that they’re truly ready to lose weight, I talk them into weighing daily for just a month. The first week is never a problem because of the rapid weight loss due to water weight. This is when I prepare them with the reality that they’re just shedding water right now and prepare them to not freak out when some water comes back. We typically have a few emotional days here and there with an unexpected bounce back, but rarely do any of them switch back to weekly weigh-ins once the month is up. It also takes 21 days to form a new habit, so just getting into the habit of doing daily weigh-ins removes a great deal of the emotion people assign to the scale.
2. A jump from water weight hurts more weekly: While this is basically saying point number one in reverse, it’s significant enough to explain. If you just weigh-in weekly, you may miss out on some daily rewards and affirmations when the scale drops each day. Worse yet, you may just happen to have a sudden water weight spike on weigh-in day that effectively negates all the actual progress you had during the week. I’ve had clients that were so frustrated to have lost only one pound one week and then elated to lose 6 pounds the next week. That kind of variation points to water weight, but like I said, weekly weigh-ins tend to carry a bit more emotional weight and I can see how much a low drop in weight causes people to put less effort into their diet and exercise plan compared to the boost they get throughout the week from a “good” reading on the scale. I wish we didn’t let the scale effect our actions so much but we do. If you’re the type that can be motivated or demotivated by a scale reading, people suggest moving your weigh-ins to weekly, but I’ve found that you just carry a negative impact with you for more days that way.
3. It’s harder to course correct: As I’ve mentioned before, your body does not like losing weight and will use all kinds of subconscious tricks to prevent fat loss. Subconscious snacking and subconsciously increasing your portion size to compensate for calories burned during exercise are too common problems that stifle progress. It often doesn’t take much more than simple awareness to fix these problems, but weighing in weekly spreads out the likelihood of discovering this problem.
4. It still works: Even though the study found that it worked better for men, it still helped women lose weight and keep it off over the course of two years. Your body is primed to regain weight for quite a while after you lose body fat. It’s a survival mechanism to help you restore body weight after an unexpected loss (like from an illness), so it’s important to keep an eye on your trends to make sure your hard won weight loss isn’t slowly slipping away.
Start before you start
Generally people come to me when they’re ready to start losing weight which is why I have to be more sensitive with my recommendations about daily weigh-ins, but in general, I recommend the average person to start daily weigh-ins before they actually start they’re weight loss plan. Buy a bathroom scale and step on it first thing in the morning so that you get consistent readings every day. Get an idea of how stable your weight is from day to day. Maybe you’re the type that has wild swings in water weight each day, and maybe you see the same number each day. At the very least, daily weigh-ins have also been shown as a great weigh to prevent weight gain (not just regain). Take a little time to get to know your own physiology and most importantly, give yourself time to become numb to the number on the scale.
Hi Chris, do you have a personal email I can contact you at? There is some misinformation here.
I strongly recommend the app Happy Scales which allows you to weigh daily and see your moving average weight loss. This is SO helpful when the scales show a leap up in (water) weight, because the moving average scarcely shows a blip in the downwards curve. It has modes for losing weight, steady state and gaining weight. I found it on the App Store.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like.