Today I've heard from a couple of people about an article going around about "new research" saying you should weigh yourself every day to lose weight. Responses have ranged from "should I be doing this?" to "OMG WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS MAKE IT STAHP," both of which were kind of hard for me to hear over the sound of my head hitting my desk over and over.
Is this really an effective weight loss technique? Maybe. So should you do this? Probably not.
First of all, let's talk about where this comes from. To be honest I haven't seen today's article, but this is not new research. There is a thing called the National Weight Control Registry that keeps tabs on people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off (this has been going on since 1994, so if that's new you all need to rush out and buy me gifts for my recent high school graduation). One thing they track is the behaviors that many of the successful weight-losers have in common, one of which is weighing themselves on a regularly basis (at least weekly). So there is a correlation between monitoring one's own weight and successful weigh management, but as we know from statistics, correlation does not prove causation.
But even if there is not a direct causal relationship, it seems like it's worth trying, right? I'd still say probably not. Let me explain myself.
Daily weighing is a psychological technique, and it's one I don't find particularly healthy. Those who recommend it say it helps "keep you on track" by reminding you what you're trying to do each day. Maybe it does, but at what cost? I've known too many people whose entire day- whose entire self-worth- is dictated by the scale. Some people can use the scale as a tool and a daily reminder, but for some it's incredibly painful and damaging. Even if you're not on either of those extremes, it can be discouraging, distracting, and frustrating. While it may be motivating for some, it may be discouraging enough to cause others to give up. Or, more tragically, fall into dangerous and disordered eating.
And why? Because weight is not static. It changes daily, sometimes even hourly, based on a pile of physiological processes that happen throughout the day. Basically, if you weigh yourself every day you're measuring changes in water and waste. Weight can fluctuate by 2-5 pounds daily (ballpark) depending on size, physiology, activity level, and time of the month. While that sounds logical, our reactions to seeing on the scale usually aren't. Can you predict how you're going to feel if you wake up tomorrow and your weight is 2.4 pounds more than it was today? What if it's 0.7 pounds lower? Followed by 1.3 pounds up, then 1.2 pounds down, then....etcetera.
What a freaking emotional roller coaster. And it means nothing, because that's just what weight does. The only difference is that we're not usually aware of it. The overall trend is important, which can easily be monitored weekly or even monthly. It can even be measured by someone else.
There's nothing inherently wrong with weighing yourself. It's a vital sign; it's just unfortunately the one we tend to take the most personally. Some people handle that information better than others, so whether and how often you should weigh are quite personal and require some self-honesty (and maybe a frank conversation with someone like me). But like any vital sign, it's affected most by what we do, not by how closely we watch it. So instead of watching your weight, how about find some other (more meaningful) things to do with your time and attention? Watch a season of Portlandia. Or spend more time outside walking and listening to nature. Take up Zumba if you're into it. Above all, if you're concerned about your health, do things that nurture it- not things that are meant to punish you.