If you’re trying to keep your weight in-check this winter, weighing yourself regularly can be key to staying on track. And while weighing yourself seems like a fairly straightforward procedure, there are many common mistakes people make that can lead to inaccurate readings. Whether you’re stepping on a scale for the first time in months, or have been doing so for quite some time now, be sure to follow these simple steps to avoid misleading numbers.
Being consistent with weighing yourself is important, especially when you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight. Studies show that regular weigh-ins make you more aware of where you currently stand and how you’re progressing. Self-monitoring also helps to prevent your diet falling to the wayside. However, what defines “regularly” is still up for debate—some believe it’s important to weigh yourself daily to stay on track, whereas others think once every few days will suffice, and that weighing yourself too often can lead to scale obsession. The most recent research suggests that weighing yourself daily leads to improved weight loss and weight control, but many people still find success with weigh-ins once every few days. It comes down to personal preference—if you find that daily weigh-ins are leading to negative emotions and an unhealthy scale obsession, space them out to once every few days.
It’s best to use the same scale every time you weigh yourself—even if the scale isn’t perfectly calibrated. When choosing a scale to use, it’s best to buy your own rather than using a public scale like the one you’d find in a gym locker room. Gym scales are used quite frequently, and this overuse can lead to calibration problems and inaccurate measurements.
Scales function best when used on a hard surface, rather than a cushy one like a bathroom rug or bedroom carpet. Rugs and carpets can cause the scale to shift around during usage, which could potentially throw off measurements.
To accurately track your weight, it’s important to weigh yourself at the same time each day—weighing yourself at different times can lead to major discrepancies in your weight pattern. The best time of day to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning—after you’ve used the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything. Why? Because the normal things you do each day—eat, drink, or sweat—can lead to weight fluctuations.
It’s quite easy to drop a few pounds during a strenuous workout session—that’s because you’re losing water weight in the form of sweat. An average person sweats between 0.8-1.4L per hour from moderate- to high-intensity exercise, which is equivalent to a loss of 1.7-3lbs. If you happen to exercise at the crack of dawn, make it a habit to have your regular weigh-ins before you work out, and before you’ve had your pre-workout fueling.
Clothing and shoes will pack on the numbers of the scale. That’s why you should weigh yourself completely naked. For consistency, be sure to weigh yourself in the same amount of clothing each time—whether that be nothing at all or dressed head-to-toe.
Fluctuations in weight happen from day-to-day that can reflect more than the effectiveness of your diet and exercise regimen, so don’t drive yourself crazy over the numbers on the scale. It’s important to keep in mind that your weight on the scale is only that, and it may not be an accurate representation of a healthy bodyweight. An individual with a short stature who carries a lot of muscle and little fat may yield a weight that classifies them as “overweight,” when in reality this may be an appropriate, healthy weight for them. If stepping on the scale becomes a traumatic experience, it may be best to try other evaluation methods that test body composition, such as skinfold and girth measurements.
BY CHARLOTTE MARTIN, RD