How often should you weigh yourself?

May 16, 2011

How often to weigh yourself, like so many topics under the umbrella of “how to lose weight,” is not something with a set answer that works for everyone. But here are my two cents on the issue.

Don’t do it too often. What’s too often? Well, for me, at least in the past, anything more than once a month is too often. For others, maybe no more than once a week. Some prefer to barely use the scale at all, and that works too.

Some people use the scale regularly in order to see if what they’re doing is working, so they can cut back a few more calories, exercise a few more minutes, or maybe if they can even afford to have a little treat. And if they can do that without getting discouraged when the number isn’t what they expected, fine.

But I say, if you feel better, it’s working. If your clothes are slowly getting looser, it’s working. Even if you don’t think it’s working, it’s working.

In 1992, I lost 26 pounds without looking at the scale for almost 6 months. (Imagine that: losing weight without the use of a scale!) I weighed in at the beginning so I had a record of my starting point, and then I told myself I wasn’t going to look at it again until I was the size I wanted to be. After all, it’s my girth that I’m concerned about, not my weight.

So I watched what I ate, exercised, and watched my jeans get baggier and baggier without setting foot on the dreaded scale. It was liberating, I tell you! When I finally felt that I had reached my goal size-wise, I pulled out my old enemy and hopped on. I saw a number I hadn’t seen in seven or eight years. Oh, happy day!

I don’t think I would have been as successful if I had been checking my weight throughout the process. I would have focused too much on the numbers and less on how I felt. And I didn’t even notice the plateaus.

In my experience, plateaus (from the Latin, plat, “you will always be” and eau, “fat”) are what always did me in. (You mean, after all that jogging and depriving myself, I’ve gained a quarter of a pound?!?! How preposterous! I quit!) Even if I was making good progress overall, I’d give up. Now, that was preposterous.

My problem was I didn’t recognize my overall progress because I was focusing on those numbers above my pudgy little toes. Boycotting the scale (and the tape measure, for that matter) frees you to look at your body from a different perspective. If you’re stuck at a certain weight for two, three, four weeks—YOU’LL NEVER KNOW! Isn’t that great?

Obviously, I gained all the weight back plus more. I attribute that, in part, to the fact that I was so enamored of the new number I was hopping on the scale every day. When it climbed a little, I panicked. When my cutbacks didn’t have immediate results, I panicked a little more. I kept panicking all the way up to my previous weight. And the process has been repeated in several variations in the years since.

So I need to establish a compromise with that little flat electronic bane of my existence. I prefer to weigh in only on the first day of every month. But for the sake of this blog, I’m going to weigh in weekly so it’s not so long between progress reports. But I will not let the numbers dictate how I feel about what I’m doing for myself.

I will keep in mind that daily fluctuations can negatively impact even a weekly weigh-in. Did you know your weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds in 24 hours? That is why daily weigh-ins are generally not a good idea. And let’s say you lose 2 pounds in a week’s time, which is pretty good. What if your weight happens to temporarily be up 4 pounds on your weigh day due to water retention or other factors? You’ll think you gained 2 pounds! In reality, if the scale had shown the true picture, you would have seen that 2-pound loss.

You’ll have to figure out what’s right for you. Me? I’m going to flirt with the scale, but we’re not dating.

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