Stepping on the scale daily may help women lose weight, according to a
new study.

For 2 years, at intervals, 294 college-age women provided information on their self-weighing practices and underwent body mass index and body fat testing. According to the data, women who weighed themselves daily saw significant decreases in BMI and body fat percentage over time.

“As with any study, ‘individual results may vary’ is an important reminder,” says Nia Shanks, coach, writer and author of the upcoming book Lift Like a Girl. “I think daily weighing for those who need to lose weight is one of many possible tools in the toolbox.”

Shanks adds that not everyone will benefit from daily weigh-ins because the practice can do more harm than good.

“I personally know what it’s like to allow the weight on the bathroom scale to dictate your mood for the entire day. If my weight was higher than expected, I felt like a failure, and that set [a negative] tone for the rest of my day. During that time period, the number on the scale determined my value and self-worth. That was a huge problem, and it’s one many women know too well.”

She says the scale can also become a powerful, objective tool, but whether that happens or not depends entirely on the individual’s emotional connection to her weight.

“If a woman has a history of chasing an ideal number on the scale and she has a strong emotional reaction to that number, getting to the point where [the scale] can simply be an objective, emotion-free tool can take time,” she says. “Something that may help in that transition is to explain body composition. Muscle is more dense than fat, so muscle takes up less space, and it’s possible for a woman to lose fat and gain muscle and see [only] a small difference in scale weight, but actually look different.”

If a woman can’t be objective about her weight, Shanks suggests, it may be better to use other measures of progress, like clothing fit, circumference, gym performance or energy levels.

“We even celebrate things like improving blood pressure, cholesterol and other health markers,” Shanks says. “Health and fitness isn’t just about losing weight—it definitely needs to be about all-around better health, too.”

She concludes, “The bottom line is that the scale is a useful tool, but there are others that can be just as helpful—if not more so—for some individuals.”

The study was published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (2017: doi: 10.1007/s10865-017-9870-y).

Question of the Month?

What do you think about the results of this study?

Do you encourage your clients to weigh often, or not?

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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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