No matter how you feel about the weighing yourself, Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, shares details from a new study on how the scale can help with weight loss.
According to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers from Duke University Obesity Prevention Program reported that those who weighed themselves daily lost about three times as much weight and body fat, compared to those stepped on the scale less frequently.
The Duke obesity researchers enrolled 47 overweight men and women into a weight loss clinical trial that used electronic scales that were networked to the researchers' computer network. All subjects were instructed to weigh in daily and were given some basic advice about healthy eating and exercise behaviors (i.e., increase water consumption, walk more, eat fewer snacks, enjoy more fruits/veggies).
Using data from the subjects' escales, the researchers could objectively track the frequency of weigh-ins as well as the actual weights recorded. Previous studies have relied on subjects' self-reported information about weigh-ins, which is considered less reliable.
After six months, the researchers evaluated both body weight and composition of all subjects and found that those who weighed in daily (51 percent of all subjects) lost an average of 20 pounds, compared to about seven pounds lost among those who weighed themselves about five days per week. Subjects who weighed themselves daily were also more likely to report following through on more healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors.
The authors concluded: "Daily weighing may trigger the self-regulatory processes that promote behavior change. Those who weigh daily report greater adoption of diet and exercise behaviors associated with weight control."
This study adds to previous studies that also reported that those who weigh themselves more frequently lose more weight and are less likely to gain weight over time. As a dietitian, I've always been hesitant to recommend getting obsessed with the number on the scale, but newer studies suggest that it's important to keep tabs on your body weight so that you can alter behaviors when you notice small increases in weight gain. It's a lot easier to lose three or five pounds than it is to lose 20 or more, so frequent weigh-ins are one way to keep your weight stable for a lifetime.