Daily or weekly, how often should you weigh yourself?

In this age of peak health and fitness, they were constantly bombarded with news and information about the latest developments, diets and exercise trends.

From YouTube workout videos and social media fitness influencers to traditional and holistic medical advice, there are a variety of platforms and channels from which to access information or find inspiration for different types body and lifestyles.

However, at the core of most health messages, the basics remain the same.

Many people still track body weight as an indicator of health. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain weight, the numbers on the scale have remained the most popular way to gauge body changes.

We weigh ourselves to monitor changes in body composition, assess health status and track progress towards goals, says Nur Al Abrach, clinical nutritionist at Nabta Health. It is advisable when done in moderation and under professional guidance, especially for people managing conditions such as obesity or malnutrition.

Periodic weigh-ins provide information on progress, encouraging motivation and adjusting strategies. Weekly weigh-ins are generally recommended to prevent obsession and promote a balanced approach to weight management under professional advice.

While some diet programs suggest tracking your weight daily to track fluctuations, others say once a week gives a better overview. There are also some who suggest not weighing yourself at all, getting out the scale and using markers like body measurements or clothing fit to track progress.

So how often should you weigh yourself?

The importance of weight fluctuations

One of the most important things to consider when trying to change your weight is how much it fluctuates, not just day-to-day, but sometimes hourly.

Weight is not only dependent on calories in versus calories out, but is also affected by sweating, exercise, and other environmental, physical, and emotional factors.

Weight can fluctuate rapidly or slowly, says Dr. Donald Hensrud, associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. When it fluctuates rapidly hourly or daily, it’s usually due to fluid changes because changes in body fat and lean tissue don’t happen as quickly. If someone is in hot weather and/or exercising, they may lose some weight through sweating or when exercising, using the body’s glycogen stores.

Glycogen is a form of glucose and is how carbohydrates are stored in the body, muscles and liver. Glycogen contains a lot of water and the body uses it as a quick energy reserve.

When used, glycogen releases water, Hensrud says. Conversely, if someone eats a lot of food, especially salty food, and drinks a lot of water, they can gain some body water weight and/or glycogen relatively quickly.

Along with food intake and hydration, stress levels and hormones can play an important role in weight fluctuations, the latter particularly affecting women with weight changes caused by water retention and changes in appetite In this case, the increasing numbers on the scale are due to an increase in body weight, but not fat.

Hormonal changes like the menstrual cycle can affect water retention and eventually show as weight gain, says Sushma Ghag, clinical dietitian at Aster Hospital, Mankhool.

The average adult weight ranges from five to six pounds per day [2.5kg-2.7kg].

Is it water weight or fat weight?

While the number on a scale provides a snapshot of weight at a given time, it cannot differentiate between water retention and body fat.

Measuring body fat percentage can be more informative than body weight alone, Ghag says. There are several methods of measuring body fat percentage, including the bioelectrical impedance scale, skinfold calipers, and the Dexa scan. A decrease in body fat percentage is a good indicator of a healthy body composition.

If the goal is weight loss, fat loss should be tracked over a longer period of time than water loss.

It’s important to recognize the difference between losing weight and losing fat, which takes longer to gain and lose, says Sarah Lindsay, co-founder of Roar Fitness. Everyone’s weight fluctuations are different, and generally the older the person and the more muscle mass, the greater the chance of disparity. My body weight will fluctuate by 2kg daily depending on the time of day, what and how much I’ve eaten and drunk, if I’ve traveled and if I’ve exercised, especially in the heat.

What other ways can you track changes in your body?

In addition to or instead of stepping on the scale, there are many other ways to track changes in body shape that don’t focus on weight. One of the most popular methods is to take measurements of body parts such as the waist, hips, chest, arms and thighs to see if there has been any loss or gain.

Taking before-and-after diet photos can help you visually track changes in your body’s shape and appearance, says Ghag. Fitness levels and general stamina are also good indicators of a healthy body.

Trying on clothes in a smaller size or removing items from your wardrobe that no longer fit and trying them on each week is a good way to check your progress, as well as being aware of your energy levels, sleep quality and the mood

The only way to track your body weight is to weigh yourself, but there are far more important markers of health and fitness progress to look out for, says Lindsay. Like body composition: is your muscle-to-fat ratio improving? Strength: Are you lifting heavier weights? Recovery: Is your recovery faster between sets or sessions? And most importantly, how do you feel?

How often should you weigh yourself?

The answer will vary depending on the individual, their goals, and how weight tracking affects their mental health.

Constantly weighing yourself can make people feel unhappy or disappointed when they don’t see the number they expect on the scale, says Ammarah Ashraf, a clinical psychologist at Nabta Health. Constantly exposing yourself to this disappointment can also lead to developing unhealthy habits like skipping meals, crash diets that can affect nutritional requirements, and disordered eating habits just to see how the numbers on the scale move.

Add: Some of the signs that you have become obsessive could be experiencing anxiety about your weight, developing extreme reactions to scale readings, and developing a preoccupation with your weight.

If weight loss is the goal, experts recommend a slow and steady approach to making effective and sustainable changes, with a loss of one to two pounds per week considered average. This approach lends itself to daily or weekly weights.

There is some controversy about this in the medical literature, Hensrud says. To track true weight changes, not just changes in fluid status that affect weight, many people recommend weighing perhaps weekly and looking at the trend over time. This is generally what most medical professionals recommend.

People should note weight changes over time to adjust their diet or exercise routine to meet goals.

If you can weigh yourself without it having a negative impact on your mental health, potentially twice a day, morning and night for consistency, it can provide useful information, says Lindsay. The problem with weighing yourself irregularly is that it can be a snapshot of a particularly high or low reading that can be misleading and change behaviors unnecessarily.

Adds Hensrud: No matter how much someone weighs, looking at trends over time, such as over weeks, will be a more accurate reflection of actual changes in body fat and lean tissue, not just fluid changes.

Updated: April 25, 2024 at 09:50

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