To weigh, or not to weigh, that is the question. Dorky introduction, but really…that’s what this article is all about. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me “how frequently should I weigh myself?”. I’ve always given the textbook answer of “find what works for you” or “everybody is different, so it depends”. Frustrating to hear, I’m sure. BUT…after reading some really interesting research articles, it seems my semi-vague answer is actually right (whoo hoo!). Based on the most recent literature, it appears that the effects (physical and psychological) of weighing oneself frequently is dependent on multiple factors.
So, where do you fit in? Below I’ve listed some of the underlying themes that came out of this research. Please take them for what they are: the best information we can provide you at this time. Our field is constantly changing and our ultimate goal it to continue to provide you with the latest, greatest, and MOST importantly, research supported health and wellness information. Enjoy. 🙂
Effects of weighing frequency in Adults:
1. Multiple studies have shown that more frequent self-weighing is associated with more successful weight loss and weight maintenance in adult men and women, with weekly weighing being the most successful frequency reported. For example, one study showed that 36% of successful weight loss participants reported weighing themselves at least once a day, while 79% weighed themselves at least weekly.
2. The psychological effects of weighing frequency in adults is less clear. Although a few studies have demonstrated no psychological effects of frequent weighing, more recent literature, with better experimental designs (i.e. greater sample sizes), showed that adult women who reported more frequent self-weighing were more likely to report binge-eating and lower self-esteem and adult men reported lower body satisfaction. In a recent study, only ~12% of women in the “rarely” category of self-weighing frequency reported binge eating, whereas nearly 20% of women in the “often” category reported binge eating (rarely = <1 time per month and often = a few times per week or more). That’s a HUGE jump and definitely something health professionals need to consider!
Effects of weight frequency in Adolescents (~13-17 years of age):
- Unlike their adult counterparts, adolescents do not demonstrate lower BMIs or more successful weight loss with greater weighing frequency.
- In adolescent females, greater weighing frequency is associated with higher rates of unhealthy weight control behaviors, low body satisfaction, and a greater likelihood they’ll engage in binge eating.
“89.6% of girls who weighed themselves at least daily used unhealthy weight control behaviors as compared to 64% of those who never weighed themselves.” Friend et al., 2012
- In adolescent males, there is no correlation between weighing frequency and binge eating or unhealthy weight control behaviors.
What’s the take home message here? For adults who are trying to lose weight, frequent self weighing may be a good initial tool to help them in their weight loss journey, but continued frequent self weighing MAY cause depressive symptoms and lower body satisfaction (more research is needed to confirm this). For adolescents, frequent self weighing is NOT recommended. It is important to note that the association between frequent self weighing and body dissatisfaction may be a co-occurrence and causality (frequent self weighing will cause poor body satisfaction) has NOT been shown.
So, if you are still reading (I’m wordy, I know :)), I want to let you all in on a little something personal to me. I, Kellie Walters, made a little promise to myself about a month ago. I will NOT weigh myself for an entire year (yes…a year!). I was at a place where every time I stepped on a scale, it would affect my mood, my confidence, and my self-esteem. The constant self doubt was getting a little ridiculous. I am a strong, beautiful woman, and the number on the scale is just that, a number! So….on Tuesday July 9th, I weighed myself for the last time (for a year at least). I plan on spending the rest of the year focusing on how my body feels and being mindful of what creates my happiness. Like I mentioned earlier, everybody is different, and what works for me, won’t necessarily work for you. BUT….I’d love to hear your story. What’s your relationship with the scale?