Why I Disagree with this CNN article about Weighing Ourselves Every Day

I read a health article on CNN today that I respectfully disagree with.  The article suggests that people might be better off with weighing themselves daily if they want to lose weight.

I say that you’ll be better off with either weighing yourself infrequently, like once a week or less, or perhaps by not weighing yourself at all.  If you follow me, you probably already know largely where I stand with scales, but I would like to point out a few things said in the article and offer some commentary as to why I feel this way.

The article outlines a study done by David Levitsky, PhD, from Cornell University.  In the study, 162 people were given scales to weigh themselves daily, and they were given two goals.  The first goal was for them to lose 10% of their body weight, and the second goal was for them to sustain that weight loss for a year.

Out of the whole group, 29% met both goals, and the study also found that two years later, those who continued to monitor their weight loss daily did a better job at maintaining their weight loss.  Fair enough.

There’s a Better Way

While I don’t dispute the results of the study, I personally believe that the study overlooks another crucial aspect of the lives of those who are trying to lose weight.  That aspect is the aspect of quality of life, and I believe that quality of life is at risk of being degraded by those who weigh themselves daily because weighing yourself daily can very easily cause a preoccupation with weight (to be fair, the author of the article did mention this).

Why do I say this?  I say it because over my career as a trainer, health blogger and so on (and over my life in general), I have known several to weigh themselves on a daily basis.  The trend I have seen in the lives of many of them is 1) a constant struggle to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 2) a constant confusion regarding what to eat and what not to eat, and 3) a preoccupation with day-by-day and even hour-by-hour fluctuations in weight that don’t mean anything.

When you weigh yourself everyday, you’re always thinking about what you eat and about how much you eat, and while thinking about your food to some extent is good, thinking about it too much takes the enjoyment and relaxation out of having a meal.  And at the end of the day, food was made to be enjoyed when put in the proper context.  How do I know?  Why else would we have taste buds or experience that contentment that comes after having a good meal?

The professor said the following things that I wanted to point out and comment on:

“A scale should be as important as your toothbrush” – I don’t doubt that having a healthy weight is important, but I have to disagree with this.  Because our body weight is constantly fluctuating due to a myriad of processes, the trend of your weight loss is more important to pay attention to, and you can’t see good trends by weighing yourself daily.  Weighing yourself every few days is better.

“If you’re gaining weight, you’ll see it and do something”– This might be true sometimes, but you don’t need to weigh yourself every day to see this.  For one, a good gauge of whether or not you’ve gained weight could be pictures or your peers (who you don’t mind telling you the truth, lol).  Secondly, I can see this encouraging quick, non-sustained measures to get the weight off quickly, versus encouraging habits that will keep the weight loss off and encourage a healthier lifestyle.

“If you see you gained weight, you’ll reflect on what you may need to change, and if you lost weight, it reinforces that whatever you’re doing is working.” – I do agree with this quote partially, because this measurement will clue you into whether your exercise and diet are producing results and whether they need to be updated.  However, I know that there is a way to lose weight where you can know you’re losing it without having to be on the scale all of the time.  You’ll feel it in your clothes, you’ll see it in the mirror, and you’ll hear it from friends.  Also, you’ll know that you’re increasing your health, which is most important.

“A recent study demonstrated that if you first step on a scale, then watch food commercials, it no longer [results in] eating” – These days, we are bombarded with TONS of commercials and advertisements.  Many of them are about food.  I believe that it is better to teach yourself to crave healthy foods than to have to rely on a scale reading to keep you from eating.

Again, to be fair, the author of the article mentions some reasons why weighing yourself daily might not be a good idea.  The author also talks about “scale anxiety” and how to get it under control.  I want to talk about that in closing this post.

As the author says (and please read the article to form your own opinion), you should definitely do what you can to eliminate scale anxiety.  Never let a scale mislead you into thinking that you’re not doing the right things to lose weight when you really are.  To fret over minor, meaningless fluctuations in weight is almost tortuous when you never reach your weight loss goal.

The truth is, not only is the scale misleading, but you do not need a scale to lose weight.  I also contend that weight loss that isn’t focused on the scale number, but rather, on adopting eating and exercise habits that burn extra fat, is more enjoyable weight loss.  When you lose weight by adopting sustainable habits, and you never really have to step on the scale to maintain it – that’s where it’s at.

Plus, if scales were really so necessary for weight loss, then why have obesity rates doubled since the 1970s when it was undoubtedly less common to have a readily accessible scale?


I write about this at length in my book, 13 Things to Stop Believing to Become Healthy and Lose Weight.


Trackbacks & Pings

Start a Discussion...

%d bloggers like this: