So should you weigh-in? If so, how often? When? Where?
To answer the first question, the answer is a resounding yes. The real question is how often should you check your weight.
The question is actually more complicated than you think. Why is it complicated? Because of you! (And me too). Individuals are complex and reacted differently to different stimuli. Some are O.C.D. like me, while others are easily hurt and discouraged. To answer the question of how often you should weigh-in you first have to ask some questions about yourself:
- Are you easily discouraged?
- Do you have a very hectic schedule?
- Do you eat at odd times during the day?
- Are you trying to lose weight?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions hitting the scales weekly or bi-monthly should be enough time in between weigh-ins to allow you to see improvement, catch errors in your program, and chart your weight loss over time. Easily discouraged folks will benefit because weight loss is more visible over the long term, and taking a week or two between weigh-ins will lead to more weigh-ins with positive results. If you have a very hectic schedule often you won’t be able to get a consistent weigh-in which will lead to confusing (and often discouraging) numbers. Moreover, those of you who eat at odd hours of the day (i.e. dinner at midnight) also won’t be able to get a consistent weigh-in. Lastly, if you are trying to lose weight sometimes it is easier to weigh-in weekly in order to see the impact AND better wrap your mind around your goals. [Although I do discourage using only or primarily weight loss based goals]
- Are you a persistent person?
- Does data excite and motivate you?
- Are you trying to maintain past weight loss?
- Do you have poor self-discipline?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions you might benefit from weighing in daily. Why? Daily weigh-ins, when placed in the proper context, are an important feedback tool to gauge your success. They are also a reminded of what fast food can do you. BTW I dare you to eat a super sized meal at McDonald’s and hit the scale the next day. It won’t be good news, trust me. Daily weigh-ins make us conscious of the direct effects of bad choices the day before. Furthermore, if you are trying to maintain weight loss, studies have shown that weighing in regularly (everyday or at least several times a week) is an effective mechanism to maintain that weight loss. Why? Because daily weigh-ins will make you aware of drastic gains sooner than a more extended periods between weigh-ins.
Well, once you’ve decided on what kind of person you are and how often you should weigh-in, what about proper weigh-in procedure. I’ve found that many folks who get frustrated with the scale fail to exercise any kind of controls in their weigh-in process. For example, let’s look at some simple questions and variables:
When do you weigh in?
If you weigh-in on day 1 at 7 a.m. and Day 2 at 10 a.m. you’ve introduced an inconsistency into your weigh-in process. You weighed yourself in on the first day before ever eating and on the second you’ve already consumed breakfast. Guess what, 9 out of 10 times your 10 a.m. weight will be more than your 7 a.m. weight. You can thank the breakfast burrito for that.
Where do you weigh in?
The first day you weigh-in at home on the digital scale, on day 2 you weigh-in at the gym on the good old fashioned balance scale. See a problem? Different scales give different readings. When you weigh-in you are going for the most accurate reading, you don’t want to introduce needless variable.
What are you wearing?
Let me admit to something, I prefer weigh-ins in the nude. Why? Because I am not interested in finding out what my clothes plus me weigh. Ditch the clothes and you will ditch another needless inconsistency.
When did you eat?
Weigh in before eating because who want to know what their food weighs, right?
I think by now you get the point. The goal is to get the most accurate reading so you can compare numbers and get a clear and precise picture of how well you are doing. So what parameters do I recommend for weighing-in. Well here is a cheat sheet just for you:
First thing after you wake up, around the same time of day.
Make sure to use the bathroom facilities before weighing-in. Depending on what you ate or drank last night, that might be quite a big addition to your actual weight.
Use the same scale every time.
For me this equates to weighing-in at 7 a.m., before breakfast and post restroom, on my trusty digital scale, and in the nude (my apologies for the mental picture). Also, when you do hit the scale, it might help you to record it on an excel spreadsheet. That way you can turn your data into a graph and now you have a great tool to see how your body handles certain exercises programs and methods.
THE CAVEATS! Although monitoring your weight can be important, it is also important that you keep things in their proper context. Weight is JUST ONE of several indicators. Don’t stress over fluctuations in your weight, they are normal. However, if you are eating about the same amount of food each day and drinking about the same amount of water your weight shouldn’t swing too wildly in either direction. I would say anything below a 1% (and possibly as high as 1.5%) difference can be considered a normal fluctuation.
For example, a 182 lbs man might see a difference in as much as 1.8 lbs up or down between daily weigh-ins.
So don’t get shocked by those fluctuations. Take some time, look over your recorded weigh-ins, and put that trip to the scale in its proper context. God bless and enjoy the weigh-ins however often they might be!