Daily Weigh Ins: Yes or No?
Should you weigh yourself daily? or even weekly, for that matter?
The short answer: Only you can decide.
The long answer: The truth is that there is a far more useful question to ask to find out what’s right for you.
Read on, and all will be revealed.
Last year I surveyed 100 people about their experience with weight loss. I talked to both successful ‘permalosers’ and yo yo dieters. I was trying to find out if there were any hidden keys to long term fat loss that people were unaware of. (There were indeed, and you can see the results in my book Permanent Weight Loss:The 1% Difference.)
One of the interviewees told me that one of the keys to his permanent weight loss (over 4 stone, or 56lb) was his daily weigh ins. I have met others for whom this practice does absolutely nothing, and I suspect backfires.
But trying to find some definitive, Holy Grail answer to the question are regular weigh ins helpful? based on other people’s experiences is a waste of energy. And a big fat one at that.
A far more enlightening and empowering use of that energy is to ask yourself: do daily/weekly weigh ins actually work for me?
I would bet money on the fact that you use regular weigh ins for two purposes:
1. To measure your progress
2. To keep an eye on yourself, and encourage yourself to stay on the straight and narrow
The problem with these seemingly straightforward motivators is that they are about as straightforward as a crazy golf course.
Let’s look at both of these assumptions in turn.
Assumption #1: Regular weigh ins help me measure my progress
Do you know what substance in the body burns over 95% of all calories you consume? Muscle.
It makes sense that if you want to become a better calorie burning machine, you should start building muscle.
So you do this. You find hopefully a form of exercise you enjoy, and start building the muscle for it. You read that protein is the basic building block of muscle, so you increase your consumption of protein.
Which weighs more, but takes up less room – fat or muscle?
So it makes sense that if you want to burn calories faster and reduce your shape (as well as become more toned), increasing protein consumption and building muscle mass is a powerful way to achieve this.
And here is where your reliance on the scales as a measure of progress parts company with logic. Because increasing protein and muscle will make your size reduce, but make the numbers on your scale go up.
Let me repeat: muscle weighs more than fat, but takes up less room – on your tummy, thighs, bottom and everywhere else you squeeze with disdain every time you look in the mirror.
My weight still fluctuates, but I can’t even remember the last time I weighed myself. What do I use instead of scales? First of all a sense of my own body, and then my clothes. Because most people are incredibly disconnected from their own body (its taken me a while – I work daily on this incredibly liberating skill), it’s likely you are too. But your clothes can’t lie. They don’t give a toss how many calories you ate yesterday. And they are the greatest immediately available measure of shape shifting you have. And isn’t that what you really want – to shapeshift? Pounds lost means nothing on its own. Dropping a dress size or being able to wear shorts on the beach – permanently – now that’s what you actually crave.
Assumption #2: Regular weigh ins help me keep an eye on myself, and stay on the straight and narrow
I believe that many people use regular weigh ins to cope with the immovable mental mountain called weight loss takes time to show up. Doing a u-turn in your eating and movement habits is not something you can do casually. It takes effort. What is hard is knowing that there is no immediate result for your efforts. You have to keep plugging away at whatever you are doing for weeks before you see any difference. It’s often months before anyone else notices.
At the time when you need positive reinforcement the most (ie the start), you have little to show for your efforts.
Enter your bathroom scales to the rescue.
At last! you cry with relief. A cast-iron, copper bottomed and utterly foolproof way to give me that positive measure of progress I am so desperately craving. No matter how hard the going gets, those little numbers will give me hope when my kitchen cupboards offer none, and a vital kick up the backside when I’ve been bad.
The problem with this ‘vital kick up the backside’ is that it assumes that such rudimentary behavioural tactics will work on you. Are you like one of Pavlov’s dogs, able to transform your behaviour with such a simple external trigger? Or is weight loss for you actually a much more complex issue that gets to the heart of your life?And I mean Life with a capital L. Really living. Becoming the person you are meant to be. Enjoying your time, unfettered by the endless unmerry-go-round of yo yo dieting and self loathing that your tummy/thighs/weight-related health problems trigger.
To come back to the original question of how often should you weigh yourself, you need to ask yourself if it actually works for you. It really did for the man I interviewed who lost the four stone. Interestingly, he said he became quite cool and scientific about it – if he’d been to the pub, he said he’d gain 3lb immediately. He was able to take that result without falling off a psychological mini cliff.
To me, that attitude of cool and scientific is absolutely key. 99% of people have far too much of their self esteem riding on those daily weigh ins for them to be cool and scientific about the results.
What about you?
If regular weigh ins create a firestorm of guilt and make you throw the towel in via the nearest deli counter; if they lower your motivation, then what’s the point?
Seriously. Remember the statistics: 99% of all people who lose weight intentionally cannot maintain it for a year. I’ll bet most of them have a chronic overreliance on their bathroom scales.
Coincidence? I think not.
Harriet Morris is an eating psychology coach. To find out more about how coaching can help you not just lose weight permanently, but enjoy your life more, contact her here