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Does Weighing Yourself Help?

June 28, 2016

Stepping on the scale can be a fear-inducing experience, but a recent study indicates that doing so could help you maintain a healthy weight.

The study, conducted by researchers at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing, involved 148 people who took part in a yearlong behavioral weight loss study. Participants were placed in three different groups according to how often they weighed themselves during their diet: the high/consistent group weighed themselves at least six days a week; the moderate/declined group began weighing themselves four to five times a week but dropped to just two times a week during the study period; the last segment, the minimal/declined group, went from a high of five to six weigh-ins a week down to zero.

During two points in the study, researchers also asked participants about their confidence to avoid overeating in stressful or enticing situations. Not surprisingly, they found a correlation between how often individuals did weigh-ins and how confident they were that they could eat healthy. The high/consistent group had the most confidence, while there was no change in the moderate/declined and minimal/declined groups.

What does this tell us? Though the study didn’t clearly indicate that people who frequently weigh themselves lose more weight, it’s likely that those who weigh themselves often are able to keep better track of their progress and don’t want to jeopardize this progress by overeating. When you aren’t sure of how much you weigh, the impact of overeating isn’t as apparent and your weight may slowly creep up without you realizing it.

While this study shows that frequent weigh-ins boosts a person’s confidence to lose weight, I should caution that the scale only tells part of the story. Your body goes through several fluctuations throughout the day based on what you eat and how physically active you are. Ever heard of water weight? Well, it’s a prime example that the number you see on the scale may not always connect to your real weight. Also, muscle weighs more than fat, so if you consistently weight train, the numbers on the scale may creep up even though your body is in better shape.

The digits on the scale shouldn’t be your be-all, end-all. Pay attention to how your clothes fit and how your body feels. Are you more sluggish than usual? Are you having digestive health issues? Do you drink more sugary drinks than water every day? If so, these are all indications that there’s room for your diet and exercise regimen to improve. Once you focus on this piece of the puzzle, weight loss should follow. But don’t obsess about the number on the scale — it doesn’t paint a full picture.