Save your sanity: Use weight averaging

June 29, 2011

I’m taking a poll on Facebook to be sure, but I am assuming that most people on a diet weigh themselves daily or weekly. In fact, check out my page now and give my your two cents! Please take a moment to hit the “Like” button as well.

The problem with that, as mentioned in an earlier post, is that daily and even weekly fluctuations can really put a damper on your happiness. It’s really safer, from a mental perspective, to weigh no more than once a month.

However, if you prefer to weigh more often but do sometimes feel discouraged by what you see, here’s a possible solution: Weight averaging.

It’s pretty simple. Each time you weigh yourself, make note of the number but then average it with the previous two weigh-ins to come up with an averaged number instead.

Daily weights

For instance, let’s say your weight does this for 10 days in a row:

Day 1 206.0
Day 2 205.5
Day 3 205.7
Day 4 205.2
Day 5 203.1
Day 6 204.2
Day 7 203.7
Day 8 203.3
Day 9 205.0
Day 10 203.4

As you can see, the ending result was a loss of 2.6 pounds over 10 days, which is pretty good, but the daily ups and downs might make you feel a little seasick. On Day 9, you might have been really upset to have gained 1.7 pounds in 24 hours, even though you know it was probably just water weight or another normal fluctuation that could be attributed to many things. It can still have a negative effect on your mood that day as well as your efforts to eat right or exercise.

Daily averaging

Let’s try that again, but this time with weight averaging:

Day 1 206.0
Day 2 205.8 (average of Days 1 and 2, which were 206.0 and 205.5)
Day 3 205.7 (average of Days 1, 2, and 3)
Day 4 205.5 (average of Days 2, 3, and 4)
Day 5 204.7 (average of Days 3, 4, and 5)
Day 6 204.2 (average of Days 4, 5, and 6)
Day 7 203.7 (average of Days 5, 6, and 7)
Day 8 203.7 (average of Days 6, 7, and 8 )
Day 9 204.0 (average of Days 7, 8, and 9)
Day 10 203.9 (average of Days 8, 9, and 10)

There’s nothing magical here—in the end you will weigh what you weigh—but you don’t see the major ups and downs. In this example, the only time you see an increase is on Day 9, and it’s only .3 pounds. In the original list, you saw a 1.7-pound gain on that day, and I’m thinking .3 is a lot easier to take.

(By the way, in the second list, Day 10 is higher than Day 10 in the first list, but keep in mind this is only a partial example and if you kept going, that .5 pound difference would also be averaged out.)

Weekly weights

You could use this technique with weekly weights as well. Let’s look at an example of regular weekly weigh-ins:

Week 1 206.0
Week 2 203.9
Week 3 202.1
Week 4 200.4
Week 5 200.9
Week 6 197.8
Week 7 198.3
Week 8 196.7
Week 9 195.1
Week 10 193.0

The total over the course of 10 weeks is 17 pounds—again, pretty good. However, there were some “bad” weeks in there that could throw you off your game.

Weekly averaging

Let’s average it out:

Week 1 206.0
Week 2 205.0 (average of Weeks 1 and 2, which were 206.0 and 203.9)
Week 3 204.0 (average of Weeks 1, 2, and 3)
Week 4 202.1 (average of Weeks 2, 3, and 4)
Week 5 201.1 (average of Weeks 3, 4, and 5)
Week 6 199.7 (average of Weeks 4, 5, and 6)
Week 7 199.0 (average of Weeks 5, 6, and 7)
Week 8 197.6 (average of Weeks 6, 7, and 8 )
Week 9 196.7 (average of Weeks 7, 8, and 9)
Week 10 194.9 (average of Weeks 8, 9, and 10)

This time, there were no gains at all to drive you crazy. You don’t see big losses either, but that’s the idea of averaging, after all. If you were to graph these out, you’d see a slow but steady decline in your weight rather than a roller-coaster blueprint.

Another way to do weight averaging is to simply take your overall weight loss over the course of a month, for instance, and divide it by 4 to get your weekly average. If you do that with the example above, where your first and fourth weeks were 206.0 and 200.4, your average loss per week would have been 1.4 pounds, even though the weekly amount varied.

Whichever way you choose to do it, remember: Don’t get hung up on numbers! You don’t walk around with a 3 big digits hanging around your neck. Your health and the way you look depend more on other things than they do on the scale, even though we aren’t always as cognizant of that as we should be.

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