Health & Wellness Articles

Take the Stress Out of Weighing In

Regain Your Power Over the Scale

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Does seeing the wrong number on the scale make you crazy? Many people find that a “bad” weigh-in ruins their mood and saps their motivation, making it difficult to keep doing what they know they need to do.

Things don’t need to be this way. You can learn to use the scale as a helpful tool, instead of giving it the power to dictate your feelings and your actions.

Many experts and experienced dieters will tell you that the only realistic way to take the stress out of your weigh-ins is to skip them altogether—or at least keep them to a bare minimum. After all, there are many other ways to measure your progress towards your health and fitness goals, especially since weight loss is rarely predictable or orderly.

Although we talk about weight loss in terms of numbers—calories in versus calories out—your body is not a calculator and it doesn't operate like a checking account. A number of things (like fluctuations in water weight, increased muscle mass, and your body’s anti-starvation mechanism) can and regularly do conspire to make the number on the scale the least reliable measure of weight loss success. And if you’re the type of person who needs to see that number coming down on a regular basis in order to avoid frustration, despair and panic, frequent weigh-ins may be exactly what you shouldn’t do.

But let’s face it. Expecting yourself not to weigh-in frequently is like expecting yourself not to scratch when you’ve got an itch. For many of us, it’s just not in the cards. And besides, there are some good reasons to track your weight frequently. Since most of us don’t exactly match the “average” person used in all the formulas for predicting energy expenditure, you may need a little experimentation to find the right combination of calories and exercise that will work for you. Watching the scale as you experiment can be an important part of that process.

So, maybe the real issue here is how you can have your cake and eat it, too. Here are three things you can do to make sure your love-hate relationship with the scale doesn’t cross over the line and become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • The numbers on a scale go up or down for a reason, and most of the time we know what that reason is--that's what stresses us out--knowing that we did this to ourselves, and that's why we track everything that goes into our mouths--to make sure we are being honest with ourselves, and to make sure something else isn't going on with our weight issues. - 10/5/2015 12:36:12 PM
  • Research has shown that those who weigh often, even daily, have more success than those who weigh less frequently. I chalk this up to the improvements in digital scale technology which allow very precise measurements with a high degree of accuracy. Weighing daily allows one to plot far more points on the trend line, and see progress even where weekly weigh-ins might miss it.
    I feel my daily weigh-ins have been a huge part of my success, keeping me accountable. It's much easier to maintain a good habit for 24 hours than for 7 to 14 days. Each day that I weigh in I reaffirm my commitment to succeed. - 2/4/2015 9:41:48 PM
  • I've found that weighing myself before I drink anything first thing in the morning in the same "outfit" shows me where I'm trending.

    If my weight goes up, I feel a little disappointed at first. I can see that I'm retaining water - maybe I had more salt than usual or was dehydrated.

    I feel a bit of a rush when the scale shows a drop in weight. But then once I record it, it becomes like the higher weigh-ins. A data point.

    Some may find daily weigh-ins too much. We each have to be mindful of our own responses. What works for me, might not work for others. I find that I feel overwhelmed the first week of daily weigh ins. Then I notice I'm less overwhelmed by it. It becomes a data point, like my pants feeling loose or my bra feeling tight.

    My childhood best friend would get so angry weighing in that she broke every scale she ever purchased. She finally stopped buying them. Other measures worked better for her.

    The scale doesn't tell me who I am. I'm more than my weight. - 2/4/2015 2:18:01 PM
  • I would love to have a weight-loss spreadsheet, as mentioned, but I hate the idea of setting one up. Gonna find it. Gonna find it. - 7/20/2014 8:28:51 PM
  • This is such a sensible article and expresses my feeling exactly. I weigh every morning. I never get upset by daily fluctuations. I expect them. But if the trend is up, up, up, I've got to reevaluate what I'm doing.
    Avoiding the scale is how I gained weight in the first place.
    Keeping an eye on it daily is how I've maintained for over 4 years.
    - 2/8/2014 7:32:08 PM

    New to spark. How do you weigh in and get a chart of your weight in?


    jr - 8/20/2013 5:08:34 PM
  • I don't like the scale. I just like for my doctor to tell me where I am. - 6/28/2013 4:50:22 PM
    I can sympathize with you! I remember that my body isn't a machine and even if I'm doing all the right things it takes time to catch up some weeks, or I am just weighing in at a bad time. I weigh in on Monday mornings and if the # doesn't look right based on what I've been doing I weigh in again Tuesday morning and take that # instead. Sometimes I've eaten a large meal the night before (within my cal count) or had a salty meal, etc. Otherwise, if the # is going up I may need to change something and review my behaviors. Overall, if my intake is less than my output I know the scale will cooperate eventually. That # is feedback, telling us something about what our body is's not a verdict.

    Be patient but persistent! - 3/10/2013 7:56:29 AM
  • Great article and I especially appreciate the perspective that the number on the scale only means that is what you weigh at that moment. So often I've attached so many other things to that number when really, it is exactly as the article says: what my body weighs at that moment. Cool! - 12/31/2012 8:07:29 AM
  • All this estimating portions is such non-sense, sorry to say that. Come on folks, if you are serious about your weight loss, stop estimating and do measure. A kitchen scale costs less than $20 and it tells the ultimate truth! Never seen a person who reached and maintained any significant weight loss with these "estimates".
    Exercise is a benefit, not a method to lose weight (unless you are a pro-athlete, you can't out-train your diet); being conservative and excluding it from the energy balance may be a good idea. - 12/3/2012 6:42:54 PM
  • a great inspiratonal and helpful tool,to help you along this journey, - 9/19/2012 8:44:06 PM
  • 2012BELLE
    True - 9/19/2012 6:59:56 PM
  • So true. Scale is not the final judge of whether the healthier eating is working.
    - 8/19/2012 11:27:45 PM
  • While the number on the scale may not be the whole picture, how my body actually looks can vary with even a couple of pounds, I am not even 5'1" and have very small bones. I have SO SO SO much stress in my life - a good body would be my only source of joy (or whatever seems like joy. I really don't remember it.) - 5/6/2012 12:51:45 PM
  • This has been me. I always get so upset when the scale shows Ive gained. I rarely looked at a scale at all for a few years, but that just enabled me to gain weight. I need a healthy relationship with the scales. I need to get over my thinking that the scale is the end all source of success. - 4/24/2012 5:33:55 AM

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