The Scale: Friend or Foe?

Katie Delaney, RD, CSOWM

Many people look at the bathroom scale as a villain. And for some, it the number on the scale becomes an obsession rather than a healthcare tool; but the scale does not have to be the enemy. There are many ways - other than the scale - to measure success when improving your health, like improved energy, better sleep, an improved relationship with food, and how you feel overall. However, if you are wanting to see changes in weight, weigh-ins are a part of the process, and will become a tool in establishing long-term behavior change.

Research suggests that weighing in daily, or at least weekly reinforces the goal of sticking to long-term weight change. For example, if you eat more in the short-term, typically there wouldn’t be any adverse consequences on the scale. But if the pattern of eating more continues without any type of check-in, significant changes on and off the scale can happen.

How often you weigh yourself is really up to you. Consider what you find helpful for making changes to your health and what feels supportive and reinforcing. If you choose to weigh daily, keep in mind there are daily fluctuations in weight based on hydration, hormonal shifts (i.e., monthly cycles), water retention/bloating, frequency of bowel movements, and your diet the day before.  A benefit of weighing daily is that you may pick up weight fluctuations sooner and can adjust the process to support ongoing changes. This frequency may also ignite the fire for ongoing changes.  

When looking for a weight change, focus on the week-to-week changes, remembering that weight will shift daily is not indicative of a true gain or loss. Also keep in mind that weight loss is a process and a loss of up to 2lbs is healthy and on track. Make sure to weigh in the same way (with same weight of clothing or no clothing) each day or week. An easy option is to weigh in the morning after using the rest room. Some research suggests Wednesdays are the best day to weigh in if you weigh weekly. Keep in mind, it is normal to plateau during a weight loss journey. If your weight does not change after three weeks, it is time to look at the bigger picture and connect with your health coach.

If you struggle with body image, or if weighing leads to negative feelings about yourself or affects eating behaviors in an adverse way, shift away from the scale. ONLY focus on non-scale changes. Creating changes for a healthier you are so much more than a number on the scale. Remind yourself of this! The scale only provides data as guidance for next steps.  Even as a dietitian, I struggle with stepping on the scale, so I get it! It took me years to get to a place of acceptance and comfort to stand on a scale routinely. Giving yourself time and grace along the way is what you need to remind yourself of and the scale is there as a guide.

Remember, weighing in is part of the process. It does NOT define you or your journey. Celebrate every step along the way. The scale provides next steps to the plan when things are not moving in the direction you’d like. Again, if this is the case then it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture…. What has or hasn’t changed along the way in regards to your diet, movement, stress, sleep, hydration. Finally, reach out to your coach if you feel stuck. We are here to dig deeper and problem solve with you!