The first image that usually pops into a person’s head when thinking about the concept of weight loss is usually a bathroom scale. After all, most traditional diets require you to weigh yourself at least a couple of times, while the majority would have you do so once a week once a month or on some other regular schedule. However, is stepping on the scale really as good for the effort to lose weight as we would believe it to be?
After all, when you lose weight, it feels great to see that number shrinking away, but when you maintain or – gasp – gain weight, it can be extremely painful on an emotional level and it can be detrimental to our motivation to keep going.
So what should we really think of the practice of weighing ourselves and, if we should be doing it, what’s the right way?
Use the following “rules” to help you to stay on track and to use your bathroom scale in a way that it will work as your dieting buddy instead of being your weight loss enemy.
• Don’t check your weight any more than once per week. Ideally, most people shouldn’t be weighing themselves as often as weekly, but if you are absolutely dying to see some sort of measurement to tell you about your progress, then do so a maximum of one time per week. No more than that.
• Check the scale first thing on a Wednesday morning. Regardless of whether you weigh yourself weekly, once every two weeks, or monthly, do so only on a Wednesday morning, first thing. A study conducted in 2014 in Finland found that the lowest amount of weight fluctuation occurs on Wednesday mornings. Therefore, before you shower or even get dressed, hop on the scale on Wednesday morning if you want to see what the bathroom scale really has to say.
• Aim for ranges, not specific numbers. While it is easy to think that a drop of one pound on the scale means that you’ve lost one pound of fat, our body weight is made up of a lot more than fat. It is also made of muscle, fluids, and a great deal more. That said, muscle and water weight – particularly the latter – fluctuate quite a bit throughout the day as well as from one day to the next.
Therefore, while it may not look like you’ve lost any weight overall, you could have dropped two pounds of fat. It’s just that you might also be retaining water or you might have built up your overall muscle from all those extra workouts. It’s hard to see that on the scale. Therefore, it’s better to hope to fall within a certain weight range instead of aiming for a specific number every weigh-in.