At any given moment, an estimated 24% of men and 38% of women in the US are trying to lose weight ().
Meanwhile, obesity has skyrocketed and working-age adults are gaining about 2.2 pounds (1 kg) annually, on average (, ).
Recent studies have shown that daily self-weighing may be a powerful tool for both losing and maintaining weight.
However, many people believe that weighing yourself daily contributes to bad mental health and disordered eating habits.
So what should you believe? This article sets the record straight on whether you should start weighing yourself daily.
The simple act of self-weighing has received lots of attention and stirred up controversy for years.
Some people have even thrown away their scale, claiming that it's a highly misleading weight loss tool that results in bad self-esteem and disordered eating habits (, ).
However, recent studies generally agree that daily weighing is associated with greater weight loss and less weight regain than less-frequent self-weighing (, , , ).
One study showed that participants who weighed themselves daily for six months lost 13 more pounds (6 kg), on average, than those who weighed themselves less frequently ().
What's more, those who weigh themselves daily tend to adopt more favorable weight control behaviors, exercise better restraint toward food and eat impulsively less often (, ).
Interestingly, adopting healthy weight-related behaviors has been shown to be especially important when people emerge from adolescence into adulthood ().
One study in participants aged 18–25 showed that daily self-weighing resulted in better weight loss than less-frequent weighing ().
The researchers concluded that daily self-weighing is a particularly valuable self-regulation tool for this age group.
Furthermore, another study showed that people who weighed themselves every day ate 347 fewer calories per day than those who did not.
After six months, the group that weighed themselves daily ended up losing a whopping 10 times more weight than the control group ().
Bottom Line: Daily self-weighing may cause people to lose more weight and gain less of it back, compared to less-frequent weighing.
Being aware of your weight is a key factor in successful weight loss.
Awareness of your weight trend — that is, whether your weight is going up or down — is also important.
In fact, weighing yourself more often is linked to weight control, while weighing yourself less often has been associated with weight gain.
One study found that participants who weighed themselves less often were more likely to report increased calorie intake and decreased restraint toward food ().
Self-weighing promotes self-regulation and awareness of your weight trend and weight-related behaviors. That's why it generally results in greater weight loss ().
Although the exact number on the scale may be unimportant, monitoring weight loss progress motivates you to keep going and generally improves weight-related behavior and self-control.
Also, by being more aware of your weight, you can quickly react to lapses in your progress and make necessary adjustments to maintain your goal.
Since most people are able to sustain a habit of daily self-weighing, the adherence and acceptability of it is generally quite high (, , , , ).
It's a minor addition to your daily routine that may help you reap major benefits for your weight.
Bottom Line: Daily self-weighing helps you maintain awareness of your weight. Monitoring weight loss progress further motivates you to keep going and improves your self-control.
Frequent self-weighing has been shown to be a great way to prevent weight gain in the long-term (, , , ).
One study investigated how much self-weighing frequency predicted weight change over two years in working adults ().
It found that there was a significant link between self-weighing frequency and weight change. In normal-weight individuals, daily weighing resulted in a slight weight loss, while those who weighed themselves monthly gained 4.4 pounds (2 kg), on average.
However, the largest difference was in overweight individuals.
Those who weighed themselves daily lost 10 pounds (4.4 kg), while those who weighed themselves monthly gained 2.2 pounds (1 kg), on average ().
Another study came to a similar conclusion, showing that self-weighing was a significant predictor of body weight over time. Participants lost an extra pound (0.45 kg) of body weight for every 11 days they self-weighed ().
The main reason why this is so effective is that consistent self-weighing allows you to catch weight gain before it escalates and make the necessary changes to prevent more weight gain ().
Bottom Line: Daily weighing may help prevent long-term weight gain, especially in overweight people.
Not so long ago, frequent self-weighing was thought to be damaging to your mental health. This notion still exists today.
Self-weighing is claimed to have negative effects on your mood by continuously reinforcing that your body size is not ideal or appropriate, resulting in an increased risk of developing an eating disorder (, ).
Although this may be true in a small group of people, most studies have repeatedly come to a different conclusion (, , ).
The available research suggests there is very little evidence that frequent self-weighing is a cause of negative mood or body dissatisfaction, especially as part of a weight loss program (, , , , , ).
In fact, studies indicate that frequent self-weighing may increase body satisfaction, rather than decrease it ().
That said, there is a group of people who may develop a negative body image, low self-esteem or undesirable eating behaviors as a result of daily self-weighing ().
If you find that daily self-weighing causes you to have bad feelings about yourself or your eating behaviors, you should find other methods to measure your progress.
Bottom Line: Most studies do not link frequent self-weighing to negative mood or body dissatisfaction. Some even associate them with higher body satisfaction.
The best time to weigh yourself is right after you wake up, after going to the bathroom and before you eat or drink.
Your weight tends to fluctuate less in the morning than later in the day when you've had plenty to eat and drink. That is also why people weigh the least in the morning.
Also, it is best if you always weigh yourself in similar clothing each day.
However, you need to keep in mind that your weight may fluctuate from day to day and can be affected by many factors, including:
- What you ate or drank the previous day
- Bloating or water retention
- Menstrual cycle
- Whether you've had bowel movements recently
Therefore, it is important to assess the trend of your weight over a longer period of time, instead of drawing conclusions from each and every weighing.
A basic scale will do just fine. However, many scales also have the ability to measure your body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and muscle mass, which may help you get a better picture of your progress.
There are also several apps available for your phone or computer that allow you to easily enter your daily weight and see the trend of your weight change. Happy Scale for iPhone and Libra for Android are two such apps.
Bottom Line: It is best to weigh yourself right after you wake up, after going to the bathroom and before you eat or drink anything.
Although self-weighing may be a valuable tool, it has some limitations.
If you're exercising and gaining muscle, the scale may not show your progress and instead simply show that you have gained weight.
While losing weight can indicate progress, a scale does not differentiate between healthy weight (muscle) and unhealthy weight (fat).
Therefore, it may be good to add other ways of tracking your progress to your regimen. Here are some examples:
- Measure circumference: Muscle has much less volume than fat, so your circumference may be decreasing even if your weight stays the same or goes up.
- Measure body fat percentage: By measuring your body fat percentage, you can observe changes in fat mass, regardless of your weight.
- Take pictures of yourself regularly: You can observe any changes in your physique by comparing photos of yourself in similar clothing.
- Note how your clothes feel: Any changes in your weight will probably affect how your clothes fit. Feeling them become looser or tighter is one of the best indicators of changes in your body.
Bottom Line: Other ways to track your progress include measuring your circumference, measuring your body fat percentage and taking pictures of yourself.
Weighing yourself every day can help increase your awareness of your weight and weight-related behaviors.
It may help you lose more weight and prevent you from gaining that weight back in the long-term.
Daily self-weighing may just be that extra motivation you need to achieve your weight goals.