When people start a weight loss journey, the first question that comes to mind is: how often should I weigh myself? The answer is: it depends. No one method will work for everybody, so it might take some trial and error to figure out what’s best for you. Here’s what you need to know if you want to start weighing daily.
What’s the Right Way?
Everyone has a conflicting opinion. If you google it right now, you’ll find 15 articles with 15 different answers. There are a few schools of thought, though.
You can weigh:
Some people like setting a routine, so weighing sporadically isn’t for them. Other’s find weighing on a set schedule is restrictive and tedious. You might find that weighing daily stresses you out, but monthly doesn’t give you enough feedback.
Fluctuations and Accurate Results
Before picking how often you weigh, it’s important to talk about fluctuations. Fluctuations are small shifts in weight that are caused for a number of reasons. Most of the time they are within half a pound to a pound, but your weight can fluctuate up to 5 or 6 pounds in a day!
Some causes are: how much you eat, if you’re retaining water, where you are in your monthly cycle, how much you’ve exercised, or even if you’ve gone to the bathroom or not. The list goes on and on.
It can be discouraging to step on the scale and see a huge difference in the wrong direction, so it’s important to weigh at the same time of day. Most people (myself included) prefer to weigh in first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom, and only in my birthday suit.
This method ensures the most accurate numbers. Some clothing is heavier than others (think of how heavy your jeans are), so fully nude (or just undies) is best. Going to the bathroom before you weigh in means your bladder is empty and you’re your lightest.
It’s also a good idea to invest in one scale to always use, as each scale can be calibrated differently. This can cause slight shifts and less accurate numbers. I use the FitTrack scale. It’s a little pricey, but I enjoy the Bluetooth syncing and the interface of the app.
Okay, we’ve covered how to weigh in and fluctuations, so how often should you step on the scale? I said it before, but I like weighing daily.
If you only track your weight once a month, you might be retaining water on that one day. Same deal with weekly tracking. If your weight can fluctuate 5 to 6 pounds in a day, you never know what that one particular day holds for you.
Weighing daily gives you a good look at where you are every day. During my weight loss journey, I’ve found that weighing daily helps me be accountable and keeps me in check. If I’m updated each morning where I am now, I know how strict I have to be throughout the day.
When I go up a bit, I can run down my mental list of what I can do better on. Did I drink enough water? Maybe it was that cookie I ate? I also know if I stick to my good habits throughout the day, I can reverse that small gain.
The Downfalls of Daily Weighing
Stepping on the scale daily does have a few downfalls. The biggest one for me is the variability of each day. I go up some, drop down some, then I’m back up. It’s discouraging when you’ve done everything “right”, but you gain half a pound anyways!
It can also be stressful to know you have to face the numbers after a big night of eating. Every day is not going to be perfect, but nobody likes to see a gain.
Even if you just maintain your weight, it can be a bummer because you tried so hard and now you’ve got nothing to show for it. It’s nerve wracking!
It doesn’t have to be frustrating, though. You just have to relax and stay calm.
Each day is a microscopic look at the big picture of your journey. The best way to get the full effect is to look at the trend line of your weight loss. What’s a trend line? For this example, a trend line is a line you put on a graph that shows the general direction of where the numbers are going.
When you put a trend line on a graph you can see an overall pattern. If you go up in weight for two days, down for 3 days, up one day, down two days, etc.; at the end of the cycle you’ll be down. It might not look like you’re losing weight, but over the whole week you’ve lost 1 pound.
Outside of daily fluctuations, there’s going to be days you gain. There will probably even be weeks you gain. That’s okay! It’s a process. Watching the trend line can remind you of where you started, and let you get back on track to where you want to go.
If you look at my graph here, it shows my weight for the month of September. The dots represent the daily weight entries, and the line is the trend line of all of them. There are definitely some big spikes on there, but big drops as well. The trend line balances these spikes and drops to show the overall loss.
How to Find a Trend Line
There are a few ways to go about finding your trend line when you’re tracking daily. A lot of apps will calculate it for you when you input your weight. I use Happy Scale on IoS, but you’re just looking for an app that averages out the daily weights for you.
The Hacker’s Diet Online is a great option if you don’t want an app. The book linked on that page is also a great resource for a no nonsense look at diets. They also explain how you can chart your weights in excel or on paper, if that’s more your speed.
Is Weighing Daily Right For You?
Still though, weighing daily isn’t for everyone. Mentally it can be a lot to take on. If you’re the type of person that’s going to obsess over every small number or gain, you’ll probably want to avoid daily weighing.
A lot of people struggle with all or nothing thinking (I definitely do in some areas), and that can be a recipe for disaster when it’s mixed with a scale. Stepping on the scale and seeing a gain could lead you to just giving up on your diet, because “I might as well eat what I want if I’m going to gain”.
Seeing a plateau for a few days could cause you to think, “It’s not working so why am I even doing this”. When you make the decision to track your weight every day, you’ve got to get rid of the idea that each number matters.
You can’t give up just because it might appear it’s not working. The daily number is a very tiny part of the big picture. Definitely be honest with yourself, and watch yourself along the way.
There’s no right or wrong way to document your weight loss journey. You have to do what works for you, and that might not include daily weighing.
As a closing note I just want to give you one piece of advice: Never say you “only” lost x amount of weight. “Only” only applies to gaining, not losing or maintaining.