How often should you weigh yourself is the million dollar question. If you have a history of dieting, there may have been times in your life where you weighed yourself multiple times/day. You may be weighing yourself daily or weekly if you have a bathroom scale. Maybe you hop on the scale at the gym. You may only weigh yourself when you are at the doctor’s office. The problem is weighing yourself is two-fold. First, weighing yourself maybe very connected to dieting and it is often connected to a great deal of stress. Second, weighing yourself has very little to do with your health. Read more for a new way of thinking about dieting, your weight and your health.
Stop the dieting cycle
What is the dieting cycle? “Within a diet and thin-focused culture, the focus has been on weight loss as the goal. This ‘treatment’ is often promoted by well-intentioned friends, family, and professionals. However, what we know is that dieting is a casual factor in the development of eating disorders. Its essential for treatment to provide alternatives to dieting for improving health and body image. In fact, weight loss as a goal of treatment—as opposed to goals of improved self-care–can be damaging to the process of recovery.” ~Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
What does it mean to weight cycle?
Weight cycling is the yo-yo effect of dieting, weight loss and regain. This loss and regain is responsible for an increased risk of heart attack and stroke with a higher mortality risk associated than those in larger bodies where weight remained stable. It is even possible that weight cycling may be responsible for the correlation of health issues attributed to being in “overweight” or “obese” categories. The reason for the increased health risk with weight cycling is not clear- it is suspected that it is the swings in blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar and lipids, and kidney filtration rate that puts strain on these systems.
Multiple large scale studies show that weight lost through intentional weight loss programs is regained for 95% of people. It is typical to see weight regained within 2-5 years. It is important to know this fact since it is very common to carry this weight regain as a personal failure when in reality it is the effect of restriction within diet and the human body’s amazing ability to protect itself.
In order to see the effect the scale may have on your nutrition behaviors, body image, and self esteem take some time to answer the following:
- How long have you been watching the scale? What is the frequency in which you weigh yourself?
- Journal about how you feel when the scale shows a decrease in weight.
- Journal about how you feel when the scale shows an increase in weight.
Use the questions above to evaluate if weighing yourself often is bringing you CLOSER to your health goals or if it may be bringing your FURTHER away from your health goals. Try to identify feelings associated with weighting such as guilt, shame, accomplishment, anxiety, relief, pride, excitement, disappointment.
Beyond a Shadow of a Diet
One of my favorite resources is a book by Ellen Frankel and Judith Matz, Beyond a Shadow of a Diet.
What we find is that in general the focus on weight leads to dissatisfaction. We can understand from a dieting perspective the dissatisfaction if the weight has increased, but typically it is similar if the weight is stable and hasn’t changed. The disappointment and negative feelings may even lead to eating more in order to cope. Even if the scale goes down it may be met with “well it should be lower” “I have so much more to go” “i have to be really careful this week to maintain this” “i have to limit myself more to make it go faster”. These thoughts typically are not associated with the positivity we would imagine weight loss (as it is the goal in dieting) would bring about. It can lead to “reward” for weight loss using food, stricter restriction or even the “what the hell effect” binge eating. These responses are not a judgement just simply human nature to react in these ways when the success is make or break by the number on the scale. Using the scale as a motivator is just not helpful in the long term.
How Often Should You Weigh Yourself
Another question to ask yourself is if you were to give up weighing yourself daily, what fears can you identify? What might you gain?
Why can’t I eat intuitively and lose weight? Can I improve my relationship with food and healthily lose weight?
In our culture I believe the hardest thing to do is let go of a focus on weight loss. The message is everywhere that we must shrink ourselves to be happy and healthy. However, seeking out weight loss actually is in direct opposition to repairing the relationship with our bodies, food, and sometimes even exercise. When weight loss is the goal that means that there is an external source telling us what to eat- mostly eat less in order to control the weight. Intuitive eating at its core is trading out these external cues of when to start/stop eating with internal cues of hunger and fullness. As long as the scale is a measure of success it blocks us from listening and honoring what our bodies need.
It is time to throw away your scale!
Did you know that it is also possible to refuse to get weighed at your doctor’s office? If for some reason getting your weight is necessary, then you can certainly asked to have a blind weight done. This means that you would stand on the scale backwards and the health professional would read your weight, but not comment on it at all. Know that there are very few things that an exact weight is necessary. Be sure to communicate this with your doctor and the nurse and ask that it not be included on your online portal, lab slips, or print out from your visit. If you don’t mind being weighed or seeing the number you can also ask your doctor not to discuss weight loss with you.
Learn more about health at every size
The more important question is to ask yourself, why am I weighing myself? For more information on health at every size, take a look at this blog on What is Health at Every Size (HAES)?
If you are ready to stop using the scale as a barometer for your health, worth, or happiness make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians today. We will help you quit the diet and start nourishing your body with compassion. We see clients in Annapolis, Rockville, Greenbelt and Columbia, Maryland (Sundays through Fridays).
For more information on how to rebel against dieting, take at look at our book, Taste the Sweet Rebellion: REBEL Against Dieting,
We want to help you break free from dieting and get you to stop weighing yourself!!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this blog for BOGO (by one get one free for a friend or loved one)!
Dana uses her advanced training in functional nutrition and food sensitivities to help her clients love and trust food again as they heal from years of painful symptoms that have dominated their lives. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide.