Is Stepping on a Scale Daily Really Helpful for Preventing Extra Pounds?

April 05, 2017

Weighing yourself every day may seem like a good strategy for warding off sneaky pounds. However, a daily weigh-in may sabotage your weight-loss efforts by making you obsessed with the inevitable (and normal) ups and downs.

Everyone’s weight fluctuates daily, and is impacted by things such as whether you had a bowel movement, and if you’ve eaten sodium-heavy food linked to water retention. “It’s been shown that people who weigh themselves daily have more success in keeping their weight stable in the long term, but what’s the point of stepping on the scale if you’re just going to be upset you gained two pounds?” says Anne Lewis, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in eating disorders at Indiana University Health. “If the goal of weighing yourself is to keep your weight stable every single day and you’re really restricting what you eat based on that number, you may be engaging in eating-disordered behavior.”

The key is to use a scale as an overall guide rather than as a tool for extreme dieting, she says, and to be mindful that your body needs some natural fluctuations in weight in order to do its job. Here are some other helpful tips.

Exercise for enjoyment rather than to move the scale. It’s no secret that physical activity is good for your waistline and your health. If you’re overly attached to a number on the scale, however, you may be discouraged to find that your weight could go up slightly after starting a routine because you could be gaining muscle, which weighs more than fat (but is also more compact so your pants will fit looser). “One of the things that people do to sabotage exercise is to make it only about weight management rather than an important part of healthy living,” says Dr. Lewis. So, find something you enjoy and stick with it. If you dislike lifting weights, for example, you might try playing basketball with some friends instead.

Get a handle on stress. Stress can lead to weight gain, and stressing about the scale ticking up a pound or two won’t help. “If you find yourself in a place where you’re consistently stressed, the release of cortisol may be tied to belly fat,” says Dr. Lewis. Plus, you may be more likely to reach for fatty or sugar-filled foods to soothe yourself, so be mindful about stress eating and emotional eating. The next time you feel like you’re approaching a meltdown, try replacing food with activities that naturally reduce your cortisol levels, such as taking a time-out to read with a soothing cup of black tea.

Be realistic about your life stage. Your body at age 20 will not be the same as your body at 40, and accepting that can help you make peace with the scale. “There are a lot of biological reasons why we weigh a certain way, such as women in midlife tend to gain more weight around their midsection to protect against estrogen loss,” says Dr. Lewis. “Try being gracious with yourself if the scale goes up a few pounds.” First, pinpoint if there is a reason why you might be gaining weight (such as eating dessert daily), and then either address it, or, if it’s not tied to a change in your diet and exercise habits, be gentle with yourself.

-- By Holly Corbett

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