How Often Should You Weigh Yourself On A Diet To Keep Making Consistent Progress?
How often should you weigh yourself? Daily? Weekly? Never? Everyone seems to have a different answer. But is there an ideal approach that will help you consistently lose weight?
"How's that diet going? Lost much weight?"
The eternal question from friends and family. Seemingly asked every five minutes. But the truth is, you're not quite sure.
You've been frightened to jump on the scale for the entire week. Scared to see the impact of a weekend off the rails. But could this approach be working against you? Would weighing yourself daily make you more accountable and focused? Or have Weight Watchers got it right with a weekly check in on the scales?
In this article, you'll discover the evidence-based answers, so you no longer need to fear your weight. Here's what you're going to be reading about:
- Why weight updates can be beneficial in the coaching environment.
- The reasons why your weight fluctuates and fucks with your head.
- The optimal frequency for weighing in on a diet.
- Downsides of regular weigh ins on your psychology.
- The long-term approach to weight management.
So over the next few minutes, prepare to get more information and answers than you ever thought possible on how often you should weigh yourself on a diet.
What Gets Measured Get Managed
"What gets measured get managed." A quote from Peter Drucker's 1954 book titled, 'The Practice Of Management."
And it's true. If you measure something, you can manage it. Not just in terms of your weight, but many things in life. To use another fitness example, consider your training. If you rock up to each training session not knowing what happened last time, then quite frankly, you're pissing in the wind. Progressive overload has just turned to 'winging it'. And neither pissing in the wind or winging it sound like the best way to approach anything.
As an online coach, data is a fundamental part of the process. There's no in-person contact, so the use of data becomes all the more important. Although, that data doesn't always have to be weight and hip thrust PBs. Qualitative data is also important. But more on that later.
A skilled coach can interpret the numbers on the scale and use it, in an informed way, to help you maintain consistent progress.
The coach vs client dilemma
Even though a coach may want as much data as possible, there's two potential challenges.
Firstly, you may not need or want a coach. And therefore, do the same rules apply to you? Don't worry, we'll be getting to that.
Second, regular weigh ins might not be the best thing for you from a psychological perspective. After all, the scale can be a fickle mistress. One day your best friend. The next, stabbing you in the back with 2kg of additional body fat misery. So what might be ideal for your coach, may not be right for you.
And in my experience, what's right for you always wins.
But why is the scale such a head-fuck? Why isn't weight loss a linear process from A to B? Surely, you should be able to eat in a deficit and see the weight come off day after day. It should be as predictable as a virgin jizzing in his boxer shorts at the first site of nipple.
Why Scale Weight Is Such A Fickle Creature
How many times have you jumped on the scale in the morning and prayed to the Gods of weight loss the number is lower than yesterday? Quite a few right?
But often the Gods don't hear your prayer. Either that, or they're wilfully giving you the middle-finger. Because, despite doing everything right, your weight's gone up 2kg. "Holy Fucking SHIT." What the hell happened? You stuck to your calories, got your steps in, drew a pentangle of salt around the scales, and sacrificed a goat just like the plan said. So what's the deal? This is weight loss voodoo of the highest order.
Here's the thing. It's not voodoo magic or a government conspiracy. It's fairly simple biology. Let me explain.
The Main Causes Of Your Weight Fluctuations
There are quite a few reasons why your weight fluctuates on a daily basis. Mainly, as a result of changes in water, rather than anything to do with body fat.
So let's talk about the three main causes of those everyday changes.
Shit & Piss
Believe it or not but your poop and pee weigh something. If there's a log jam one morning, and despite all your eye-popping straining it won't budge, then chances are your weight is going to be a little higher. And if you get to the bathroom one morning with plans to expel one of those orgasmic torrents of urine, but instead are faced with the fluid flow reminiscent of a leaking tap, then you're bodyweight might be different to yesterday, too.
Glycogen is a form of stored energy in the body, found in your muscle, liver, and blood. The maximum amount of glycogen your body will store is 15g/kg. But why is this important to know?
When you diet, your body's glycogen stores deplete. A result of energy utilisation, restriction, and limited replenishment. However, as your food choices change day to day, so does the amount of glycogen being replenished. You may not see drastic changes day-to-day, if your diet is very similar. But you'll experience greater fluctuations if on a particular day you have a few more carbs than you normally would.
That doesn't mean carbs are bad. After all this isn't a body fat fluctuation.
You see, for every gram of glycogen you store, it binds with 3 grams of water. So, someone weighing 80kg could potentially see a weight fluctuation of up to 4.8kg, if they were to go from zero to full glycogen.
So while nothing related to body fat, glycogen can play a significant role in your bodyweight.
Blood volume, which can be affected by fitness level and hydration status can also impact your scale weight. If your mouth is as dry as a Badger's ass, then chances are you will see that reflected in your scale weight, in show way. Likewise, if you're very athletically fit, or become fitter, this too can influence scale weight. For example, there can be up to a 1.3 litre difference between a trained (6 litres) and an untrained runner (4.3 litres).
There are other reasons why your scale weight fluctuates on a daily basis, but the important thing to remember is that sharp spikes up and down are largely not a result of body fat gains or losses.
How Often Should You Weigh Yourself: Is There An Optimal Frequency?
Some coaches will have you religiously weighing in every day. Come hell or high water, you're stepping on those scales every damn day. Whereas, support groups, such as Weight Watchers hold the weekly weigh in as the most important marker of progress. But what does the actual evidence suggest?
Is the an optimal frequency of weigh ins to ensure consistent progress?
There is evidence in support of a daily weigh in approach. Linking them with a reduced likelihood of binge eating and going off plan. However, the study from which these conclusions are drawn is associational. And therefore, it has its limitations. So, with that said, I'm NOT going to be the gimp who says EVERYONE should be weighing in daily. I'll leave that assertion to the clickbait, sensationalist websites with lazy journalists.
Benefits Of Daily Weighing
There are three clear benefits to weighing yourself on a regular basis.
Weighing yourself multiple times per week is likely to be more reflective of true progress. With a single weekly weight check, there's a possibility of judging your progress on a day that you may have simply experienced a large water weight spike. It's conceivable your average weight across the week shows great progress, but on the day you weighed in, it was simply an anomaly.
Here's an example to illustrate the point.
Putting Your Mind At Ease
It's not uncommon to associate bodyweight with body fat. But your body weight is more than body fat. And acute changes in weight are rarely attributable to fat, for one good reason.
You'd have to eat a lot of fucking calories to put on 2kg of pure body. Let's do the maths.
2kg of body fat is the equivalent of approximately 15,400 kcals. So you would need to eat 15,400 kcals above predicted maintenance in order for an overnight weight increase to as a result of body fat. And that's a lot of food. In fact, if your daily target was 1,500 kcals, it's more than 10 days of food. So next time you see the scales pike up 2kg overnight, ask yourself... Did you eat 10 days worth of food yesterday?
If the answer's NO. Then don't panic, it's probably just a water fluctuation.
But if the answers YES. Then I doth my cap to you. Seriously, I'm not even mad. I'm impressed.
You see, daily weigh-ins can help you see these spikes for what they are. You can begin to rationalise the data and remove the anxiety and emotional attachment to the number you see each morning.
Map Out Your Menstrual Cycle
Clearly one for the ladies... The menstrual cycle can have a huge influence on scale weight. Variability pre-ovulation and during the luteal phase is not uncommon. Mapping out these changes using daily weigh-ins can help set your expectations. Knowing when in the month your weight may go through natural peaks and troughs can help further remove your anxieties around changes in your weight.
Methods Of Weighing In
However frequently you decide to you weigh yourself, you should aim to do it first thing in the morning. Before you eat or drink and after you've done your business in the bathroom. This won't remove all variability, but it's going to give you the most consistent data.
The Downside Of Weighing Yourself Regularly
But there is a downside to regular weight checks, which is important to understand.
The psychology and situation of the person MATTERS. And it matters A LOT. Applying a regimented and rigid approach to the wrong person, in the wrong situation could create obsessive behaviours, and potentially disordered eating tendencies. It can also affect mood, happiness, and well-being.
Ultimately, the frequency with which you weigh yourself becomes a personal decision.
How Often Should You Weigh Yourself? The Bottom Line
There's evidence both for and against weighing yourself on a regular basis. Ultimately, your goal should be to not place your entire self worth and happiness on the numbers of your bathroom scales.
Tracking calories and daily weighing have clear parallels. They're both great tools. But they're not necessarily for everyone. And, if they are used as a tool to assist with weight loss, they should be supported with education and the goal of transitioning to aa life without them.
Aim to get to a physically healthy weight and achieve your aesthetic goals using the approach that suits you best. But regardless of approach, educate yourself along the way, or else you'll always be a slave to the scale.
And never forget, your self-worth isn't defined by the scale. Because, let's face it, people won't love you any less if you weigh 1kg more tomorrow. No one gives a fuck. And neither should you.
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
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But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.