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It's OK to Weigh Every Day

Armen Hareyan's picture

You don't have to feel guilty for frequent weighings. You'll probably be just fine, even if you weigh as often as the woman in the story. \n

Once upon a time there was a woman who went on a low-carb diet and became very interested in what her weight was doing on a regular basis. She woke up every morning and weighed herself. Then she would go to the bathroom and weigh herself again. Then she would weigh again after her shower. Then she'd weigh herself after she put her clothes on. And she would weigh herself finally before she went to bed at night.

Every day it was the same roller coaster ride. When she weighed after going to the bathroom, she knew her diet was working, because she would often weigh a full pound less than what she weighed a couple minutes earlier. That's pretty good weight loss for a couple minutes.

But then, when she put her clothes on and weighed again, she would be horrified and question the whole diet. She had gained 3 pounds!

And, if that wasn't enough, she also started measuring her waist every morning and night. She discovered that her nighttime measurement was often half an inch more than her morning time tape reading. That made her sure the diet wasn't working. But then, by morning, she would be surprised to find her measurement down half an inch, and she would brim with enthusiasm for her great diet.

In the end the woman gave up her diet, went insane, and went bankrupt from all the scales and measuring tapes she had to buy over her lifetime.

So what's the moral of the story? Obviously the woman in this story took measurements too frequently. With all those ups and downs how could any human being stay sane? She was riding the measurement roller coaster.

You've been warned!! If you don't want to end up like this woman, don't weigh yourself any more than once a week.

The Real Point of the Story

If you haven't picked up my sarcasm, let me fess up now. My tongue has been planted firmly in my cheek so far. So what's my point?

Many low-carb gurus will tell you: "Weigh yourself just once a week". But the fact is that most dieters weigh themselves much more often than this. Most weigh at least daily. I just wanted to take a chance here to encourage you. You don't have to feel guilty for frequent weighings. You'll probably be just fine, even if you weigh as often as the woman in the story.

So why do the gurus give this advice? Well, I suspect (and I'm only guessing here) that Dr. Atkins and others got tired of hearing from the small minority of dieters who would
freak out when their weight went up one day. Or they would go to the scale every morning expecting a drop, and not see one for maybe 7 mornings in a row! It was for them as agonizing as waiting at the mailbox every day for a college acceptance or rejection letter or something would be for the rest of us.

And some people really probably can't put things in perspective, and are probably better off weighing only once a week. But I have a hard time believing this involves anything more than a small minority of dieters.

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How can you tell which group you are in? Well, weigh yourself every day and see if it drives you crazy.

Let me now tell you how weighing just once a week can actually drive you more crazy than weighing once a day.

How Weekly Weighings Can Backfire

Suppose you are losing a pound a week, but your weight normally fluctuates 4 pounds depending on the level of fluid retention you have. So suppose your average weight is 180 and your weight fluctuates between 182 and 178. When you lose a pound the next week you will weigh 179, and your weight will fluctuate between 181 and 177.

Now suppose you weighed just once each week. The first week you weighed and the scale read 178 (the bottom end of your normal fluctuation at that time). And the second week you weighed and the scale read 181 (the top end of your normal fluctuation a week later). What will you think then? According to the scale you've gained three pounds! You waited all week, and you found out you gained three pounds. You would be understandably disappointed.

But if you had weighed daily, perhaps you would have seen something like this: 178, 180, 182, 181, 179, 178, 177, 181.

Now that 181 reading has some context. Sure your measurements that stand exactly 7 days apart say that you gained 3 pounds in 7 days. But let's look at the context. Both readings were aberrations. The first reading was unusually low, and the second unusually high. There's really nothing to worry about here, and the readings are consistent with ongoing weight loss.

In this case, then, weighing every day is clearly superior to weighing once a week. In fact it might be the difference between sticking to a diet that's working and getting discouraged and giving up.

In Conclusion

Now you might be wondering why I'm spilling any ink over this issue at all. Is it really that important how often we weigh ourselves? My answer to that question is no. It really doesn't matter how often we weigh. What matters is that we can put the measurements in perspective and understand the role of normal fluctuation. I guess I just like to question advice that I hear over and over when it doesn't seem like there are very many good reasons for the advice in the first place.

And since I don't want to be completely one-sided here. There are some benefits to weighing only once a week, too. First, it takes less time. Second, you don't have to deal with the little emotional ups and downs (just be prepared not to over-react if your weekly weighing goes against you). Third, you will probably go through fewer scales in your lifetime. And fourth, you can test your will power by trying to stay off the scale every morning.


Jim Stone writes about low carb nutrition and human motivation.