There are a lot of negative connotations associated with weighing yourself. While stepping on the scales and seeing that your weight has dropped is a rewarding experience, plenty of people walk into the bathroom in the morning with a sense of dread – fearing what will stare back at them on the dial.
With the above in mind, some argue that the act of weighing yourself can not only be discouraging, but can even be psychologically damaging.
In this article, I will help you to decide whether you should weigh yourself. I will address both the pros and cons of doing so, and give you the information you need to make the best decision relative to your unique personality and circumstances.
The Benefits of Weighing Yourself
The key benefit to weighing yourself is that doing so has been demonstrated to make you more likely to maintain or lose weight.
Consider for example a 2005 study that compared the weight loss difference between two distinct groups: adults who enrolled in a weight gain prevention trial, and adults who enrolled in a weight loss trial. The results were conclusive: weight loss dieters had greater weight loss and lesser weight gain compared to weight gain preventers over 24 months. The weight loss dieters’ success was attributed to the higher frequency at which they weighed themselves.
The findings of a 2007 study conducted with participants who lost more than 30lbs and kept the weight off for more than a year suggested that it was due in part to consistent self-weighing. The researchers concluded:
Consistent self-weighing may help individuals maintain their successful weight loss by allowing them to catch weight gains before they escalate and make behavior changes to prevent additional weight gain.
There is also a wealth of evidence (such as these two studies) to demonstrate that self-monitoring is a highly effective means of facilitating weight loss. By following a few simple steps (which we’ll cover in an upcoming article), weighing yourself is in my opinion the easiest and most practical way to get a measure of your progress in terms of weight loss.
From an anecdotal perspective, weighing yourself arguably makes you more mindful of your weight. It’s difficult to argue that the weight ‘creeped on’ if you weigh yourself regularly, and one of the principal arguments in favor of weighing yourself is simply that knowing you’re putting weight on is enough to encourage you to take positive action.
Furthermore, if you choose to weigh yourself regularly, you will begin to notice how different activities and habits (in terms of what you eat, the exercise you do, etc.) impact upon your weight. This kind of feedback is invaluable in terms of you getting to know your body better, and making more informed decisions in the future as a result.
In other words, regular feedback from a weighing scale provides people with a sense of personal accountability and continued awareness, in the same way that a diabetic monitors their blood sugar daily and uses the results to guide future choices – particularly when modifications are needed.
Finally, without knowing which direction you’re heading in, it becomes a challenge to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction. In other words, you can’t manage what you don’t keep track of. While weighing yourself certainly isn’t the only (nor a comprehensive) way of measuring your body’s changes, it represents arguably the easiest means of tracking progress. And if you’re tracking your progress, you can take note of results on a periodical basis, and make adjustments as necessary. Doing so without some kind of objective feedback is a challenge.
The Arguments Against Weighing Yourself
There are two main arguments against weighing yourself.
The first is that it can lead to psychological issues. Many of us will be familiar with the sense of dread when stepping on the scales after a less-than-disciplined period of time, but some argue that the psychological effects of weighing yourself extend beyond that.
For some, emotions ranging from disappointment, to anger, to shame can result from periodical weigh-ins. A 2012 study concluded that young adults who weigh themselves frequently are more prone to depressive symptoms; women were found to suffer lower self-esteem, while men had lower body satisfaction.
That said, the key question is whether the root of the issue is in the act of weighing oneself, or if it is simply a trigger.
Much of the evidence available does not support the argument that weighing yourself, in and of itself, can lead to psychological damage. In a 2013 study involving 178 obese adults, daily self-weighing did not appear to be related to increased disordered eating behavior and was in fact associated with better weight loss outcomes. Results of a 2014 study of adults between 18–60 years old indicated that weight loss intervention focusing on daily self-weighing does not cause adverse psychological outcomes, but instead boosted the self-esteem of those who tried to lose weight.
Other studies suggest that ’emotional eating’ in participants was more likely brought upon by stress and being constantly worried about what their weight was, even when they weren’t actively weighing themselves.
Should You Weigh Yourself?
One reasonable conclusion from the above would be that weighing yourself is not inherently a psychologically damaging act, but that it’s more a question of the person’s preexisting psychological state.
For those disproportionately psychologically affected by every pound gained or lost, stepping on the scales on a regular basis could be akin to riding a psychological rollercoaster. However, the issue arguably lies not within the scales – which is, of course, an inanimate object – but more in one’s outlook. Those who suffer from an eating disorder would be an obvious example of the type of person that could really put themselves through the wringer by regularly stepping on the scales. Under such circumstances, one could say that avoiding the scales altogether would be the best course of action.
Notwithstanding the above, if your goal is to lose weight, finding an objective means of measuring your body’s changes is something I’ll always advocate. And while the scales aren’t the most accurate means of measuring fat loss, they are arguably the most practical.
In my opinion, the key is more in how you choose to measure yourself, as opposed to whether you should do it or not. And for most, the scales are arguably the right choice.