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How often should you weigh yourself?

Posted Mar 02 2010 12:00am
Be honest: Did you wake up this morning, use the bathroom, remove any clothing, and hop on the scale so you could weigh yourself at your lightest moment of the day?

Did the scale give you a favorable report? If so, you probably went about your day with a subtle sense of accomplishment.

Not such good news? Rats! On some level, consciously or not, I bet you walked around for the rest of the day feeling dissatisfied with yourself.

Some people weigh themselves every day, believing it helps keep them on track. Others hop on the scale once per week. Many health coaches recommend weekly weigh-ins, but I’m not one of them. In fact, whenever I start working with a new client , I always make them promise to put away their scale.

I think weighing yourself once every few months is enough. Or better yet, bag it altogether and let your doctor weigh you when you go for your annual physical.

Some people have a hard time with this, especially if they're trying to lose weight. But even if weight loss is your goal, it’s a bad idea to weigh yourself constantly. For one thing, your weight varies from day to day for reasons that have nothing to do with how many calories you’ve eaten. It's affected by your level of hydration, your digestive function, where you are in your menstrual cycle, and more. These fluctuations can account for as much as two or three pounds in a single day, making a daily weigh-in all but meaningless.

Weekly weigh-ins paint a more accurate picture, but they can also lead to problems of a different sort. To illustrate, let me share a story.

A few years ago, I was invited to give a talk about nutrition and mindful eating at a local library. At the same time my program began, a diet group was ending their weekly meeting at the church across the street. I hoped that maybe a few of those folks might come over and drop in on my presentation. But as the diet meeting let out, I watched them all climb into their cars and speed away.

I tried not to take it personally, but still, I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit discouraged. Then a woman in my audience spoke up.

“I used to belong to that group,” she said. “You know where they’re going, don’t you? They’re all going out to eat.”

It turned out that group members customarily starved themselves on the day of their weekly weigh-in, then they headed out for a feast the minute the meeting was over.

Needless to say, it was hard to find any comfort in this!

The pressure to “make weight” isn’t even the worst part. The worst of it is, we give our scales the power to dictate how we feel about ourselves. We invest a lot of meaning in that arbitrary number. But the fact is, that number doesn’t begin to reflect the state of your health.

It doesn’t matter one bit whether you weigh 130 or 132, or 162. What really matters is whether your diet results in your well-being, energy, fitness, and good spirits, or whether it makes you sick and tired. Your scale doesn’t provide the answer to that question. All it does is spit out a number, which you then proceed to stress about.

If it makes you nervous to not know how much you weigh, ask yourself why. After all, no one else really cares about your weight -- nor do they need to know. Assuming, of course, you don’t belong to a diet club.

Image © Fred Goldstein
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