By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
For some of us, regular weigh-ins are one good way to monitor our health. This is true, whether we’re looking to lose pounds, build muscle, or simply maintain our current weight. But do you know what the best time of day to check your weight is—and how often you should be stepping on that scale? Here, we’ll discuss when and how frequently you should check your weight. Also, we’ll share some other ways to measure your body size and health. We’ll also tackle your ideal weight range—though, as you probably already know, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So, when is the best time to weigh yourself?
If you keep a scale in your bathroom, you’ve probably noticed that your weight fluctuates not only every day, but also from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. (Up to 4 pounds, even, if you’ve had a big dinner!) So what’s the most accurate measurement, the scale reading in the morning, or at night?
Experts have recommended for years that you check your weight first thing in the morning. They say it’s best to weigh yourself after you’ve gone to the bathroom (and eliminated any extra water weight). To add complexity, they recommend weighing in before you shower, eat, drink, or get dressed for the day. It’s wisest to step on the scale when you’re not wearing anything, since the weight of your clothing, shoes, and even your accessories can vary from day to day, and the goal is to keep an eye on any small changes. In other words, the best time to weigh yourself is when you’ve used the bathroom and undressed for your morning shower, just before you jump in. Stepping on the same scale at the same time each day means the readings will be consistent. This will help you track your weight loss progress.
This one doesn’t have an easy answer that applies to everyone. We’re all on different journeys, and what may be right for one person may not work well at all for someone else. You may have to experiment a little to figure out what is best for you. There’s some evidence that, if you’re trying to lose weight, hitting the scale every morning will help you visualize your goal. In other words, daily weigh-ins are great weight loss motivators.
On the other hand, some dieters may find that the day-to-day fluctuations they see (which aren’t great indicators of overall progress) are discouraging and frustrating. For them, once-weekly weigh-ins (on the same day of the week) are far more helpful. Only you can decide what’s most appropriate for you—the way you process information about your health, what motivates your eating and exercise habits, and what has helped you succeed in the past. If you have questions about your personal weight loss journey, your general practitioner can provide you with professional advice and proven strategies tailored to your own needs.
If you’re not trying to lose weight, you may find that daily or weekly weigh-ins help you maintain your present body weight. Do this, and you’ll avoid surprises about unwanted gains when you visit the doctor once or twice a year. (Keep in mind that you generally step on the scale in your doctor’s office wearing your street clothing, after you’ve been eating and drinking, so you may notice a small increase in poundage there.) Again, you know yourself better than anyone else ever will. You may find that weighing yourself frequently makes you feel anxious or eats away at your self-esteem. If this is the case, then you may want to make it a once-and-awhile check-in rather than an every-morning habit.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you’ve been working out on a regular basis, you may be replacing your fat with muscle, which might mean the scale doesn’t budge even though you’re eliminating excess body fat.
Do you just hate that judgmental little hunk of metal staring up at you from your bathroom floor? You’re far from alone. There are plenty of ways to measure weight loss without a scale. After all, it’s just one tool in your toolbox—and there are many ways to monitor your health and wellness. If weight checks bring you down and make you feel defeated, they’re not helpful. A good self-image is an important part of your fitness journey.
There really is no easy answer to this question either, because each one of us is so different. Our dietary needs and restrictions, our workout habits, our genetics, our age all affect the answer. Each one of us is unique, and your happy and healthy place may be significantly different from someone else’s, even if it’s a sibling who is close to your age or a workout buddy whose height and bone structure are similar to your own.
You can check out this body mass index table from the National Institute of Health to get an idea of where you fall on the chart. Keep in mind that this is not the only way to determine whether you’re at a healthy weight. It also does not present a complete picture of your overall health. For example, the ratios of your waist to your hips and your weight to your height also can serve as effective predictors of risk for cardiovascular complications, type 2 diabetes, and other serious medical issues. Again, though, these measurements don’t tell the whole story. Therefore, it’s important to see your doctor for regular checkups to make sure all is well. Your doctor also can help give you a better and more informed idea of your ideal weight range based on your build, age, and individual health history.
At the end of the day, we are all trying to stay healthy by making good dietary choices. We eat mindfully, exercise on a regular basis, and keep an eye on what our bodies are doing. We do this whether we’re trying to shed a few pounds or simply maintain an already healthy weight. If daily or weekly weigh-ins help you stay on track with your wellness plan and reach your targets, they can be a valuable strategy.
If you feel stressed or depressed when you weigh yourself, there are other ways to measure your progress. Try some techniques that don’t require a scale, and you can still lower your risk of developing weight-related health complications. Your general wellbeing is more important than a number. As such, you might explore some wellness trends to find some healthy activities that you will enjoy. Ultimately, only you (with the help of your physician) can choose the best plan of action for your unique needs.