Daily Weighing Helps People Lose Weight, Prevents Gain

Armen Hareyan's picture

People who are trying to either lose weight or avoid gaining do better by weighing themselves daily, according to a new study in the December issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The research team evaluated self-weighing practices of more than 3,000 people participating in either a weight loss or a weight gain prevention program. The study's key finding: "Higher weighing frequency was associated with greater 24-month weight loss or less weight gain."

When people weigh themselves daily, "something is going on. It's independent of things such as diet and exercise, so it may be worth recommending," said lead researcher Jennifer Linde, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. "If people see that their number has gone up they may realize it's time to do something. It's probably easier to make that small correction," Linde said, than to try to compensate after gaining a lot of weight.

The first study group consisted of 1,800 obese or overweight adults enrolled in a weight loss program. Participants all had a body mass index (BMI) of at least 27. They were randomly divided into three groups: a telephone-based weight loss intervention, a mail-based weight loss intervention or a usual-care control condition. The researchers weighed them every six months for two years.


"The average 12-month and 24-month weight losses of 1.3 and 2 BMI units respectively ... were in the clinically significant range," reported the researchers.

The other group consisted of 1,226 overweight adults, BMI above 25, enrolled in a weight "gain prevention program. They were randomly divided into either an educational weight-control intervention, the same educational intervention plus a reward for returning self-monitoring postcards or a minimal-contact control condition. The researchers weighed the participants at the study's outset and every year for three years.

For the weight-gain prevention group, the researchers found that "the control group decreased weighing over time and both intervention groups increased weighing over time." Even though weight maintenance was the goal for this group, daily weighing also led to weight loss at the 12- and 24-months time points.

Well-known behavioral programs such as Weight-Watchers(TM) have not widely recommended that followers weigh themselves daily; instead, many programs recommend weekly self-weighing. Public health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control do not include self-weighing at all.

The researchers say their results suggest that "clinical as well as public health recommendations for regular weighing should be considered."

"It is not surprising that daily weighing correlates with success: people who do well like the feedback," says Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. "I suspect it helps people who are succeeding and is a problem for people who are not losing or losing slowly, but the only way to tell is with a randomized trial that assigns people to different weighing schedules."