To Weigh Or Not To Weigh?

Dec 15, 2015 | Diet, Fitness, Nutrition

One of the most common issues clients face is getting too friendly with the scales. Especially if the client is on a limited time-frame to achieve success like a 21 day or even 8 week Challenge. I mean seriously, all they want is a little budge on the scales as an indication that waking up at the crack of dawn for a sweat sesh is well worth the commitment.

Before you can decide when and how often you should weigh yourself, you first need to understand why your weight is simultaneously an important and useful measure of progress AND a confusing and deceptive number that often fails to tell you the whole story. Here’s what I mean…

The Importance Of Weighing Yourself

  • It shows if things are working.
    Fat and muscle both weigh something, which means that losing fat will typically cause a decrease in body weight and building muscle will typically cause an increase in body weight. So what’s the best reason to weigh yourself regularly? To ensure that what you’re doing is actually working. Meaning, if your weight isn’t moving in the right direction for your goal, it’s a pretty good sign that your current diet/workout isn’t working and needs to be adjusted somehow.
  • It shows if things are working at the ideal rate they should be.
    In addition to just knowing if your body weight is moving in the right direction for your goal, there’s also the issue of whether your body weight is moving at the ideal rate for your goal. You see, depending on your exact goal and a few other factors specific to you and your body, there is a certain rate of weight loss and weight gain that is considered optimal. So what’s the second best reason to weigh yourself regularly? To ensure that your body weight is changing at the speed it should be (not too slow, not too fast).

The Problems With Weighing Yourself

  • “Weight” is more than just fat or muscle.
    There would be no downside to weighing yourself if the weight you lose and gain was guaranteed to always be either fat or muscle. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Your body weight can and very often does change as a result of a loss or gain in muscle, fat, water, glycogen, poop, food intake and more. That means daily fluctuations in body weight (plus extra monthly fluctuations for women) are extremely common and normal. And it’s this fact that causes 3 other problems…
  • “Weight” alone tells us nothing about the composition of that weight.
    The number on the scale only allows you to track your weight… not the composition of that weight. And since most of us want to lose fat (but not muscle) and gain muscle (but not fat), the composition of the weight we lose or gain is often more important than anything else. That’s why most people should do more than just weigh themselves to monitor progress. For example… use measurements, body fat percentage, before and after pic, clothing etc.
  • Unrelated fluctuations in weight can skew progress or lack thereof.
    Let’s pretend you’re trying to lose fat, but your weight stays the same. Did you fail to lose fat, or did you lose fat successfully but have that weight counterbalanced by a gain of something else? And looking at it from the other side, are you incorrectly assuming that your lack of weight loss is a result of a gain in muscle when in reality you’re just failing to lose fat?
  • Normal daily fluctuations in weight can drive a person crazy.
    Some people just aren’t aware of the fact that it’s normal for their body weight to fluctuate, and this can easily cloud that person’s judgement about the effectiveness of their diet/workout and generally drive them insane. Hell, even when you know there are other factors influencing your scale weight every day, just seeing that number fail to move (or move in the wrong direction) can still get into your head and lead to all sorts of problems.

What Does All Of This Mean?

It means that you should weigh yourself regularly because it’s a useful tool for tracking progress, but at the same time realize that the numbers you are seeing aren’t always an accurate representation of what your body is doing.

So How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

As usual, the true best answer is that it depends on you and the type of person you are.

  • Every Day
    As long as you do it correctly (take the weekly average) and don’t let the daily fluctuations negatively affect you, then it’s the most accurate. But if you are the type of person who will turn it into an unhealthy obsession and respond negatively to seeing typical day-to-day changes in your weight, then you should probably avoid this option.
  • Once A Week
    In terms of a combination of accuracy and sanity, weighing yourself once per week might be best for certain people.
  • Once A Month
    And for certain extreme cases that may warrant other extremes, weighing yourself just once a month may be the best way to do it.

When Is The Best Time To Weigh Yourself?

The best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Be sure to wear as little clothing as possible. (If you do keep any clothes on, be sure to wear that same amount of clothing every time you weigh yourself.)

Why? Because weighing yourself any time other than first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will throw things off completely. Every bit of eating, drinking, sweating and what you do (or don’t do) in the bathroom over the course of the day will destroy any sense of accuracy.

Weighing yourself at random times “just to see” is completely pointless and potentially dangerous and it will just drive you crazy!

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