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Can Your Scale Help You Lose Weight?

If you’re overweight and otherwise healthy, it just might.

 used with permission
Source: used with permission

In recent years, there has been a move away from traditional weight management tools such as weighing yourself every day and keeping a daily food diary, as health experts became concerned that encouraging frequent self-monitoring encourages an unhealthy preoccupation with body size and shape as well as disordered eating, especially in teenagers and young adults. But some health experts still recommend these methods for those men and women who are trying to lose weight and are not at risk of developing unhealthy dieting behaviors, knowing that it is lot easier to nip a small weight increase in the bud than it is to let all your excess weight pile back on and then try to lose it again.

In a small study published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers at Duke University’s Obesity Prevention Program found that overweight men and women who weighed themselves every day while following a calorie-controlled diet lost an average of three times as much weight and body fat as men and women who weighed themselves about 5 out of the week. After six months, participants who weighed in every day lost an average of 20 pounds, while those who weighed in 5 times a week lost only seven pounds.

In this study, those who weighed themselves daily also reported more consistent adherence to healthier lifestyle changes, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks, drinking more water, and increasing their physical activity. Combined with self-monitoring tools like routine weighing and journaling, these consistent lifestyle habits may help prevent weight gain and weight regain in previously overweight adults.

Routine scale-hopping is not helpful for everyone. It can be frustrating to find that in spite of many efforts, your weight has not dropped as quickly as you hoped or that you’ve reached a weight plateau, where the numbers may not budge for weeks at a time. If you are working on weight-related issues with a physician, dietitian, or counselor, talk to them about the pros and cons of routine weighing in to decide if it’s a good idea for you.


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