If you’ve been on a diet/lifestyle change in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve been advised to avoid weighing yourself too often. I’m not sure if this advice is something that will prove one of the things that separates weight loss from maintenance. The impetus for such advice seems to be concern that too frequent weighing might be demotivational.
However, studies over the last 10 years are finding that frequent weighing is correlated with successful weight loss and weight maintenance, and the particular issue of weighing in and mood was explored by researchers at the University of Minnesota:
"Results from this study suggest that, after adjusting for BMI, there is no significant association between depressed mood and self-monitoring of body weight in a community-based sample of adult women.” (Linde et al. 2007)
The National Weight Control Registry identified frequent self-weighing as a predictor of successful weight maintenance in its 1 year maintainers, and included it their STOP Regain program for new maintainers, or people who had recently reached a weight loss goal. They found:
“Since self-weighing is a key component of the self-regulation model, we compared the proportion of participants in each group who reported weighing themselves at least daily… In addition, in the face-to-face and Internet groups, a smaller proportion of participants who weighed themselves daily regained 2.3 kg or more, as compared with those who weighed themselves less.” (Wing et al. 2006)
But does weighing in cause successful maintenance or does it follow it? The discussion of the STOP Regain study looked into this, and there is more to self-monitoring that simply weighing oneself and writing it down, which is why this is but the first lesson on self-monitoring. Knowing what to do with the weight data is key (and you’re free to skip ahead to data vs. information if you wish.)
If you’re not persuaded yet and are interested in further discussion of what the numbers on the scale mean, you might check out my blog “Talking back to the scale” which provides some tools for applying critical thinking to weigh in data.
The key is whether a higher reading on the scale makes you throw up your hands, or if you use that as a reason to try harder at your healthy habits. Seeing the scale as a tool and not an end unto itself can turn it into a powerful ally.
“Results support the idea that daily weighing is valuable to individuals trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Daily self-weighing should be emphasized in clinical and public health messages about weight control." (Linde et al. 2005)
Linde et al. 2005, Self weighing in weight gain prevention and weight loss trials) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16336072
Wing et al. 2006, A Self-Regulation Program for Maintenance of Weight Loss http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa061883#t=articleTop
Linde et al. 2007, Relation of body mass index to depression and weighing frequency in overweight women http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2150565/