Many of us have a tricky relationship with the scale. But if you want to use a scale during a weight loss or overall health journey, just how often should you weigh yourself?
We’ve put a few facts together so that your time spent on the scale is worth it.
Weighing yourself often has several advantages compared to stepping on the scale during your yearly checkup.
The benefits of weighing yourself regularly can include:
- being aware of your weight because it is one indication of your overall health (but not the only indication!)
- recognizing natural fluctuations in your weight
- aiding in weight loss progress
- being able to spot weight fluctuations that could signal a serious health issue
But even though there are perks to stepping on the scale, it’s possible to have an unhealthy relationship with the scale. Becoming obsessive about your weight can have negative effects on your mental health and self-esteem.
Bottom line: You don’t have to weigh yourself to be healthy
It’s just a number on a scale that fluctuates throughout the day. If you don’t like weighing yourself because of how it makes you feel, you don’t have to do it. There are plenty of ways to gauge your health beyond a few digits.
If you’re eating healthier and exercising as part of a weight loss plan, paying attention to your weight can help you determine if you’re meeting your goals.
Stepping on the scale regularly can help you know if you are losing weight, but how often is best? Here’s what to expect.
Note: Healthy weight loss takes time!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, losing about 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered safe. Losing weight too quickly can be harmful to your health, and hard to maintain.
If you want to lose weight, some research suggests that weighing yourself daily may be helpful.
A year-long study found that adults who weighed in each day lost weight (they also used other tactics such as daily step goals and reduced-calorie diets).
Similarly, a 6-month study discovered the same, as those researchers found that daily weigh-ins change long-term behaviors that lead to weight loss.
Hopping on the scale every week is an effective tactic to stay aware of your weight, especially if you’re at your desired weight and hoping to maintain it. Research has found that this might be especially true if you’ve recently hit a goal weight. Stick to the same time each weigh-in for the most accuracy.
Getting on the scale once a month isn’t really useful if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s better than nothing, though. It may provide a loose level of awareness, especially if you rely on other factors to gauge your health.
Don’t want to step on the scale at all? That’s fine too. The number on the scale can be deceiving since muscle mass can weigh more than body fat, which can make you think you’re not progressing.
In that case, you may have more success looking at other factors instead of constantly checking in on the scale, including:
- taking body tape measurements
- calculating your body fat percentage
- considering your height and bone structure
- gauging how clothing feels and your energy levels
Regular trips to the scale aren’t right for everyone. For some, weighing too often can impact their mental health, worsen a preexisting mental health condition, or trigger or exacerbate disordered eating.
Talk with your doc before weighing yourself if you have a history of:
- binge eating disorder
Or, if you just notice yourself being consumed by the number on the scale, talk to your doctor about how often to weigh-in. You may also want to consult a nutritionist or therapist.
Everything from how much you drink, to what you eat — and of course, your hormones — can affect how your weight fluctuates.
That’s why it’s recommended to stick to a certain time of day to weigh yourself.
Experts say that the morning is the best time. This is when your weight is least likely to be affected by food and exercise, which makes you weigh more and less, respectively. (PSA: Make sure you pee first and do it before eating anything, too.)
Factors that cause weight fluctuations
It’s completely normal (yet still annoying AF) for your weight to bob up and down. Different factors that can cause your weight to go up or down include:
- alcohol consumption
- water weight gain
- eating high salt foods
- caffeine consumption
- what you ate the day before
- a high carb diet
- weekend binge eating
- other underlying health conditions
Again, weighing yourself too often may not be best for everyone — especially if you visit the scale more than once a day.
Some of the biggest risks that can come with weighing yourself often include:
- fasting to try to lose weight quickly
- fad dieting
- “cheating” in your food journal
- binge eating
- psychological distress
When it comes to weight loss, you have to burn off about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of body fat. It takes time to do that, and trying to speed up the process by eating too little or following a fad diet can mess with your metabolism and derail your goals.
The number on the scale is just that…a number. One that you can change with healthy weight loss if you want, but it still doesn’t rank your worth as a human being in 👏 any 👏way 👏.
Keeping tabs on that number can be helpful in tracking your weight loss goals, but stepping on the scale too regularly isn’t good for any of us.
Ultimately, you can use it as a tool for tracking your overall health, but talk with your doc about your health goals and needs before you step on the scale. Living a healthy life involves a sustainable process that doesn’t derail your happiness.