To Weigh Every Day or Not? My Love/Hate Relationship with the Scale

Today I am happy because today I weigh less than yesterday. Any day you catch me in a particularly good mood, it’s because I’ve dropped a kilo (more than two pounds!) overnight. If everything in my life is going really well but I’ve had a tiny gain – I feel miserable.

How long I have been obsessed with the scale

It didn’t always used to be this way. In my youth I would weigh myself very infrequently, maybe once every couple of weeks. I had only a general idea of what my weight was. It all started when I hit the age of 27. I’d gained a little bit of weight and I purchased a cheap set of scales to encourage myself to bring my weight down.

I weighed myself every day, often twice a day – and sure enough, I was able to gauge what I ate more clearly. I noticed how much the scales fluctuate; if I ate a big dinner one night it would show up as a higher number the next day. Sometimes my weight dropped big numbers overnight for seemingly no reason – sometimes there’d be an equally mysterious gain.

When I gave up my obsession

I was a yo-yo dieter and it was making me miserable. My weight always fluctuated about 10 kilos (22 pounds) and when it was at the higher end of the spectrum – I would get very depressed. I realised that I had come to a point where the scales were my enemy. If the number was low, I would eat to ‘reward’ myself. If the number was high, I would eat out of depression.

I started to read a great blog called Oh She Glows. It’s written by vegan author, photographer and blogger Angela Liddon. She spoke about her past obsessions with food and how she managed to stop obsessing over a number and started to concentrate on her health. You can read her inspiring story here.  She describes her eating disorder as, “it was like a storm cloud hovering over me for years.” Her obsession with her weight was not helping her be healthier.

I decided to do the same and I gave up weighing myself obsessively – allowing my weight to go down naturally. I also adopted a vegan diet, and I started to listen to my body. My weight stabilized and it’s now about 65 kilos (143 pounds).

When I went back to my obsession

Recently after some fighting with my partner, I had gained a small amount of weight, so I went back to weighing myself daily. In these few short days of really watching my diet, I have lost the weight I gained. I am remembering just how careful I have to be to see a result on the scale. Even a few hundred calories extra can make a difference.

Those who love the scale

Lots of people swear by regular weigh-ins. Jazmine Denise Rogers blogs about her successful weight loss, “Finally fed up with living this way, I went out, purchased a scale. I committed to weighing myself first thing every morning. This actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d ever made. Since taking on the task of weighing myself daily I’ve dropped 11 pounds. Knowing that I had to face that number no matter how high or low made me somewhat accountable to myself and helped me to make better diet and nutrition choices. The best part about it is that I’m not on diet, just fostering better lifestyle habits.”

A study of more than 4,000 women aged 40-65 published in Preventative Medicine in 2007 looked at the relationship between frequency of self-weighing and body mass index. They actually found that weighing yourself more frequently is associated with greater weight loss.

Another study, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006 and blogged about by James Beckerman, M.D., found that female freshman who were instructed to weigh themselves every morning as part of the study were able to keep from adding pounds at a time when many of their peers were gaining weight.

Those who warn against the scale

Not everyone is a fan of being a slave to the number on the needle: “My goal with recovery was to get back to that fun place with food and fitness. Instead of telling myself I have to be x weight or eat x calories, now I do things that bring me pleasure and make me feel good physically and emotionally. I don’t count calories. I don’t weigh myself. I don’t read beauty magazines. I eat food that makes me feel good.” Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows.

“Regular self-weighing has been a focus of attention recently in the obesity literature. It has received conflicting endorsement in that some researchers and practitioners recommend it as a key behavioural strategy for weight management, while others caution against its use due to its potential to cause negative psychological consequences associated with weight management failure. The evidence on frequent self-weighing, however, has not yet been synthesized.” The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management: A Systematic Literature Review.

Here is a list from Merrit Athletic of reasons why the scale can sometimes paint an improper picture of your health.

  • Scale can be inaccurate
  • You fluctuate daily
  • Muscle weighs more than fat
  • Measurements are more accurate
  • Swelling after the gym
  • Scale doesn’t indicate changes to heath, such as increased fitness

I am not a number, accepting myself no matter what I weigh

These days I do weigh myself daily and I have to admit that I still get depressed when the number is higher than I want it to be. However, I may be doing a good thing, according to The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management study: “Based on the consistency of the evidence reviewed, frequent self-weighing, at the very least, seems to be a good predictor of moderate weight loss, less weight regain, or the avoidance of initial weight gain in adults.”

Weighing every day an effective tool for weight loss? What are your thoughts?

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