Should You Weigh Yourself? 3 Signs to Step Off the Scale

Elizabeth Millard
by Elizabeth Millard
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Should You Weigh Yourself? 3 Signs to Step Off the Scale

About a decade ago, I quit smoking a pack a day and started eating a pint of ice cream every day instead. After six months of being fueled by cookie-dough varieties and whimsical Ben & Jerry’s choices, I ditched the frozen treats as well.

Although I was proud of finally giving up both cigarettes and mega calories, I had a new problem: the nearly 50 pounds I’d put on over six months since quitting the smokes. I set a realistic weight goal, changed my eating habits to healthier options and started weighing myself every few days to make sure I was staying on track.

Then it was every morning, followed soon by weighing myself multiple times a day, always with a sense of dread about being “off” from where I wanted to be. If I was down even by a few ounces, I was overjoyed. But if I was up, I felt crushed.

Daily weigh-ins can be a valuable tool in understanding where you are in terms of a goal. But for me, and for many others, it can also become a source of anxiety and frustration.

Here are three signs you might want to put the scale away for at least a little while:

1

YOUR HAPPINESS HINGES ON A NUMBER

In other words: You felt good before you stepped on the scale and terrible after. Let’s say you committed to running five days this week and avoiding sugar. You accomplished both goals and you’re feeling bulletproof because you have more energy, you’re sleeping better and your sugar cravings are subsiding. But then you step on the scale and nothing has changed — or worse, you gained a little.

“Suddenly, all your efforts have been erased in your mind and you think, why am I even trying so hard if it’s not making a difference?” says Elizabeth Kingsford, psychotherapist and author of “Brain-Powered Weight Loss.” Even though you were feeling great results from meeting your goals, the scale seems to have diminished their impact.

“When the scale has the power to change your good emotions, that’s a sign you should ditch it,” she says. When your outlook shifts from positive to negative, it can lead you to abandon healthy behaviors. If you’re feeling crusty after every scale session, Kingsford suggests focusing instead on different measures of progress — and setting goals that don’t have to do with your weight.

“The scale has no measure for your happiness, the gratitude you have in your life or how hard you might be working,” she says. “If the scale starts working against you, get rid of it.”

2

YOU REACT BY MAKING ABRUPT AND DRASTIC CHANGES

Tweaking calorie intake based on weight-goal progress is a standard part of many weight-loss programs, especially when you take activity levels into account. You won’t eat the same amount on a day you run 10 miles as you would on a day you sit at a conference for hours.

But making dramatic changes based on what the scale reads in the morning isn’t an ideal strategy, according to Candice Seti, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach, who’s known as The Weight Loss Therapist.

“Seeing an increase in weight could trigger someone to avoid eating for the day,” she says. “Alternatively, seeing a decrease could be a trigger to overeat that day, almost as if the number is giving them permission.”

That’s one of the reasons weekly weigh-ins have been the gold standard for many weight-loss programs, she adds. They are less reflective of the kind of factors that can influence daily weigh-ins, such as sodium intake, stress and hormonal changes.

3

YOU START DOING MULTIPLE DAILY WEIGH-INS

How often you weigh yourself is a matter of personal choice, usually based on what works best for you. For example, if you feel weighing yourself daily is a nice check-in that keeps you feeling accountable, great. But if you prefer to weigh yourself weekly because it’s a better indication of progress, that might be your strategy.

What doesn’t work? Multiple daily weigh-ins. As Dr. Seti notes, your weight can fluctuate quite a bit within the space of a day, sometimes between 5–7 pounds. That can be a recipe for a major freakout.

That’s why it’s important to maintain consistency if you’re doing the once-daily or one-weekly check. Dr. Seti advises using the same scale, at the same time of day, in the same location, wearing the same clothing. That way, you can assess weight changes with more accuracy.


READ MORE > 5 NON-SCALE WAYS TO TRACK WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS


THE BENEFIT OF TAKING A BREAK

After I stepped away from the scale for a while, I ended up going back with a better strategy and attitude. I chose to weigh myself weekly instead of daily, and to use that number as a guide that could help me tweak my caloric intake and activity levels — not as a set on an emotional roller coaster.

By using the scale as a tool instead of a weapon against myself, I’ve been able to include it as part of a larger range of measures that help me track my health, not just my weight. I wouldn’t say the scale is my friend. But at least it’s no longer my enemy.

About the Author

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness, as well as an ACE certified personal trainer and Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in SELF, Runner’s World, Women’s Health and CNN.

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21 responses to “Should You Weigh Yourself? 3 Signs to Step Off the Scale”

  1. Avatar Debbie says:

    Good article! The scale used to be my enemy, but now that I’m able to view the numbers dispassionately, I can weigh myself daily. I always do it first thing in the morning. Occasionally, I also weigh myself later in the day just for the hell of it; I’m always amazed to see the scale 3-5 lbs. higher. It was gratifying to know that sometimes it can be as much as 7 lbs higher. I also measure myself now periodically. I’ve also put on quite a bit of muscle which is gratifying at my age (62), so the scale isn’t really a true reflection of body fat percentage. I’ve logged my food, water and exercise over 1,000 days in a row, which works great for me. I no longer consider food in terms of good or bad, but instead I look to ensure my macros are balanced and that I meet my micros’ daily requirements. I’m not addicted to sugar anymore, and I only have healthy foods in the house. So far, I’ve lost 105 lbs.

  2. Avatar D says:

    I feel so attackedt by this omg

  3. Avatar Elizabeth says:

    Good article, I found myself agreeing with it. When I started this weight loss journey myself I was constantly checking the scale hourly, daily, weekly. It became stressing, until I educated myself on weight loss, eating right, fitness in general. I do Weekly weigh ins. I call them Transformation Tuesdays LOL. Every Tuesday at the same time. I’m down 30 pounds since I started a few months ago. There are challenges everyone hits, but the scale no longer has to be one of them!

  4. Avatar Joyce says:

    I, too, find My Fitness Pal, is a constant companion AND reminder of what goals I have chosen for my life AND they continue to help me realize those goals. My Fitness Pal definitely works for me. Great companion, wherever you go. Kudos, to those like myself who find it and claim it, as their own personal tool.

  5. Thanks for sharing a valuable article. In this modern world everybody wants to stay fit and active but due to their hectic lifestyle most people have acquired too much pounds. To attain extra weight is not a very good thing! As you mentioned in your article that everybody should weigh themselves daily and start doing exercise and follow a healthy diet that keeps them active and fit. Avoid taking unhealthy and junk foods, that are the main cause of gaining extra pounds.

  6. Avatar Laur Tucker says:

    Great article! There is a spelling error on #3 Multiple*

  7. Avatar Frid Kun says:

    If I studied in a manner you recommend losing weight, I would never got into college.

  8. Avatar D rich says:

    Again,

    I get some people can be obsessive. But aside from weighing yourself multiple times a day, the others are no reason to not weigh every day.

    You should weigh every day, because you need to know how your body reacts to a weekend out with the friends, or having 4 straight days of lean eating, or even how your weight ebs and flows in a 3-4 week period.

    Why weigh yourself everyday? Knowledge, knowledge to know that your body weight doesn’t change, just because you ate something. Also to have realistic outlook on how long it takes to lose weight.

    • Avatar Dave S says:

      As I told a friend who was weighing everyday, you don’t measure a board an inch at a time, rather the overall length of the board. You will get better averages doing in bigger time chunks. Less depression if you don’t lose (or gain), depending on your plan.

  9. Avatar Olivia says:

    Hi!! I weigh myself every morning right when I get up. Does anyone have any advice about stop craving. I am always eating so healthy during the day but then at night I eat so much and I don’t know how to stop. Then I feel so bad after eating so much at night before bed.

    • Avatar Amarilis Bolanos says:

      Hi Olivia- I know the struggle. You can try to drink 8 oz of water before you grab your snack. This will allow you to feel fuller and think twice before grabbing the next piece of chocolate, chips, etc.. Try drinking lots of fluids, sugar free is best and think thru if you are really hungry. Also look if you had more than 3 -4 hours of fasting in between lunch and dinner. Add a healthy protein or veggies in between to avoid the cravings. Hope this helps!

    • Avatar Marissa says:

      I’ve started brushing my teeth about 30 – 45 minutes after eating dinner, just long enough for me to know that I’m not physically still hungry. Once I have the minty toothpaste flavour in my mouth I no longer want whatever it is I was craving. My night time snacking has drastically reduced since I started this strategy.

    • Avatar John Roberts says:

      Try eating less simple carbs, i.e. candies, cookies, etc. that tend to stoke the appetite rather than satisfy the appetite. I try to keep sugar to a minimum in my diet and fill up more with fat calories, higher protein calories(i.e. beef jerky and/or nuts) and complex carb (i.e. beans) calories. It works for me. I rarely get hungry anymore between meals.

    • Avatar Maureen says:

      Olivia, I think most of us go through a version of your pain. It’s easy to avoid thinking about food during the day while you’re busy. But after dinner is done, the dishes are cleared, and you’re relaxing, your brain goes to that place where you put together tomorrow’s agenda … and for me, it starts with “what am I eating for breakfast?” So while you’re thinking about food, it’s easy to let yourself wander over to the fridge and start grazing.

      Here are some things that I am doing to combat the problem. During a recent session with a dietician, she went over how carbs play a role in our life, how we break them down and why they’re important to our diet and to well-being. The one thing that, in all my years of dieting (successful and otherwise) that I had not learned was that I needed to spread my carbs equally over the dáy. Now I’m consuming at least 100 carbs a day; about 30 per meal with some more available for snacks. Having my blood sugar remain on an even keel has helped immensely to avoid cravings.

      I am also keeping watermelon on hand for cravings. It’s not the lowest glycemic index food, but a cup of cubed watermelon satisfies a craving in a way that is much healthier than what I used to do. Bonus – it’s not carrots or celery!

      I use fitness pal to track my daily carbs and don’t sweat the rest, other than the caloric limit I’ve set. I keep an eye on the other things of course … a high salt day will tell on the scale tomorrow .. but I’m feeling very healthy and the weight is coming off.

      Doing something physical is also an antidote for me. Five pushups (crunches, whatever) for every tv commercial keeps me away from the fridge during tv breaks and lets me tone up.

      I am also using a mantra that helps … I have it glued to my fridge “Today, I am winning.” It reminds me that I am, indeed, a winner and has often turned me away to deal with cravings in a more constructive manner.

  10. Avatar NicHole Greatwife Ruffin says:

    I am an emotional eater and if I dd not like what the scale said I eat. I have better strength and wisdom and will power now, but I still only weigh myself monthly 😉

    • Avatar Blackwasser says:

      NIght is a tough time if you are not pre-occupied with a strategy to fight the cravings. TV, guests, etc, get me where I want to just consume anything; typically not of the healthy variety. Focusing on the mental aspect of the craving (which it definitely is for me), is key. Have a game plan for when that urge surfaces. For me, I now win the tug-of-war (which still continues even after a long period of dealing with my cravings) by directing my thoughts immediately to the “I feel so bad after eating so much..” result. You also should have a goal that you know will be negatively impacted if you give in. Additionally, don’t neglect your cravings completely to the point you feel your punishing yourself. Have healthy go-to’s that you can consume minimally, which provide some level of contentment.

  11. Avatar Carol Ann says:

    I believe weighing once a week or twice a month is a healthy way for me to see my progress while not overemphasizing the day to day fluctuations. Because of extenuating circumstances I had not been able to weigh myself or stay in my healthy routine of eating and exercising for several months. When I did get on the scale I hadn’t gained any weight. I was relieved that making the best choices I could during that period really was working for me. Thanks for the article and sound advice.

  12. Avatar Eve says:

    I do best with multiple daily weigh ins actually. Yes, my weight fluctuates over the course of a day, and tothat precisely WHY I like them. They give me a range to be comfortable with, a maximum and a minimum to expect. And tracking my weight every day keeps me from flipping you when my weight goes up according to a recognized cycle. If I weigh only once a week, I may hit the one day that week my weight is up, or I may hit an unusual low which sets me up for disappointment the next week. In general if I’m avoiding the scale it’s because I’m in denial about my diet and exercise. The scale won’t lie to me. It won’t tell me the whole truth, but it keeps me honest to myself.

  13. Avatar Sue says:

    I weigh myself almost every morning, stripped and after urinating. The weight is unbelievably steady with rare exceptions. This helps me to be sure that I am not slowly gaining. If I see a change of a pound or two, I watch what I eat for a day or two, to get back to base weight. Weights at MD visits are all over the place, what with variations of shoes, clothing, meals eaten, etc. so i have to monitor changes myself. I just don’t overreact.

  14. Avatar Lance Kaz says:

    Do what works for you. For me, weighing every morning and tracking it keeps me honest. I weigh every day, but look at long-term trends. By daily weighing, I know that my weight can vary up to four pounds in only two days, so I don’t panic when it happens. But if I see my weight creeping up week-to-week then I know I have to make a change.

  15. Avatar Abbey Cameron says:

    Love this message! At one time my weight on the scale suggested obesity (according to BMI), but actually I was leaner than I had ever been, I was just increasing my muscle mass – which was my goal!

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