Hint: Weigh in at the same time every single day.
When you start a weight-loss plan, adopting simple strategies that have been shown to work can set you up for success. One such tactic is using an accurate bathroom scale to help you track your weight and stay focused on your goal. To get results, studies suggest you should weigh yourself daily, not just occasionally or once a week.
The Best Time to Weigh In
You should step on the scale first thing in the morning. That’s when you’ll get your most accurate weight because your body has had the overnight hours to digest and process whatever you ate and drank the day before.
And you should try to turn that step into a regular part of your routine. For one thing, you’re less likely to forget to do it. For another, it’s the easiest way to see trends over time. Weight fluctuates, so a pound or 2 up or down isn’t the issue; it’s the extra 2 or more that stick around for several days that you want to pay attention to.
“You need to know that number on a consistent basis to help you manage your weight to make better decisions about your health,” says Holly Wyatt, MD, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Research over the past decade backs up Wyatt’s words. Studies have found that daily weight checks lead to greater weight loss and less weight regain compared with less frequent weigh-ins. These benefits may be due to the number on the scale being a motivator, prompting people to make small changes in behavior every day, whether it’s eating less or exercising more.
A study in the April 2015 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics followed 47 obese men and women, all of whom were on the same diet plan for six months. In that time period, those who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 13 more pounds than the less frequent weighers. They also adopted more healthy habits, such as cutting out late-night snacking and exercising for 30 minutes or more, than those who weighed themselves less frequently.
In another study, published in the Journal of Obesity in May 2015, researchers tracked 162 overweight women and men over two years. They found that those who weighed themselves every day and tracked their results over time were more successful in losing weight and keeping it off, especially the men.
Participants who lost weight in the first year of the study were able to maintain it in the second year. “You just need a bathroom scale and a piece of graph paper so that you can see patterns,” says David Levitsky, PhD, a co-author of the study and a professor emeritus of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University. This method “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight.”
Not everyone will take the time to graph their progress, but a March 2021 review of studies in the journal Obesity found that digital tools such as websites, mobile apps, and wearable devices mitigated some of the challenges of paper tracking. Overall, using these tools to self-monitor weight, diet, and/or physical activity was associated with weight loss among those who were overweight or obese.
Stepping on a scale every morning has another important benefit: preventing age-related weight gain. “A trivial 100 calories every day can add up by the end of the week,” Levitsky says. “But if you’re aware of that, you can make a small change every day, like reducing portion size or skipping a snack.”
The Right Way to Weigh In
Follow these steps to get an accurate daily weigh-in, which will help you make smart choices about what to eat and how much to exercise. Use your scale every morning after you empty your bladder (and before you eat or drink anything), wearing as little clothing as possible. Because you lose water weight overnight, you’ll get a lower number, too.
- Place your scale on a hard, even surface—no carpeting. A wobbly or tilted scale can result in an inaccurate reading.
- Stand still, with your weight distributed evenly on both feet. If you’re using a body-fat scale, you should be barefoot.
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