A common question I frequently encounter from individuals is, "How often should I weigh myself?" This question is a great one because while it seems to have a straightforward answer at first glance, it has more depth than one might assume.
The initial question someone should start with is: "Why?" Why rely on the scale as a measurement tool, and what significance does the number on the scale truly hold? This questioning should naturally lead to another crucial question: "What are your goals?"
Before diving into this, it’s best to establish the goals behind incorporating fitness and/or nutritional changes into your daily routine. Typically, these types of goals fall into one of four categories.
Therapeutic Goals: Fitness is harnessed to enhance physical, mental, or both forms of well-being.
Performance Goals: Exercise is pursued to excel in a particular skill, whether it be strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, or mobility-related.
General Health and Wellness/Maintenance Goals: Long-term aspirations revolve around maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with exercise and nutrition being pivotal components.
Aesthetic Goals: Goals center on altering one's appearance, which may involve gaining muscle, shedding fat, or both.
Regardless of your goals, it's important to note that weight is less significant than you may think, and depending on what your goals are, the scale's usefulness in tracking progress varies. For most of the goal categories, your Lean Mass Percentage is a more valuable metric compared to mere weight. In fact, lean mass percentage is a far greater predictor of health, and longevity, and also contributes to a pleasing aesthetic and improved overall performance. (It's worth clarifying that an elevated lean mass percentage doesn't mean bulking up. For instance, Paul Rudd maintained an impressively high lean mass percentage of 93% for his role in the Antman movies, and let’s face it, no one thinks of Paul as "bulky" or "jacked.") So while the scale might not be the optimal metric for monitoring progress, it still remains the most accessible and usually the most tangible.
So now that we’ve covered that, how frequently should individuals weigh themselves?
Therapeutic Goals: For those pursuing fitness for therapeutic reasons, regular scale checks might not be needed. Although weight has little to nothing to do with the goal, it is still something to be considered for overall health. For this goal feel free to ditch the scale for alternative methods like the fit of your clothes.
Performance Goals: Individuals with performance-oriented objectives might choose to weigh themselves weekly or monthly, depending on their specific goals. Nonetheless, in this category, various other metrics could be more pertinent for tracking progress, ones more specific to performance.
General Health and Aesthetic Goals: Individuals striving for general health, longevity, or aesthetic enhancements can effectively employ the scale as a tracking tool. Weekly weigh-ins are a good starting point, though some might prefer checking a couple of times per week. However, it's important to keep a few things in mind;
Weight fluctuations are not linear, you should expect to see your weight move up and down with the goal of it moving in the direction you want.
When weighing yourself as a way to track progress, be sure to do your best to be consistent. If weighing yourself weekly, weigh yourself on the same day every week as well as the same or similar time. There are many reasons for weight fluctuation, so this consistency will help to give the best info feedback to know if your routine is working for you. Similarly, if you weigh yourself more than once per week, try to stay consistent with the time of day. As an example, my weight can fluctuate anywhere from about 4 to 7 pounds per week, and up to a couple of pounds per day depending on the day of the week, what I have had to eat or drink, hydration levels, or the last bathroom visit. Please know this, so that when looking at the number on the scale, you understand there can be more factors at play. Staying consistent will help to mitigate these factors.
If you are finding yourself becoming obsessive with your weight and it’s negatively affecting your mental health, it’s best to ditch the scale and find a different focus.
Keep in mind that the scale is simply a tool to help you track your progress (and not even the best one at that). If your goals are anything other than weight loss or gain, try to get a lean mass scan done once or twice a year. This is a body composition scan that will show you a comparison of lean mass to fat mass. There are different ways to get this done, and your doctor should be able to help you get an appointment.
If you are interested in weight loss or gain, aim to do it every 12 weeks, and continue to use your clothing sizes and photos as measures of success too. Just because you’re not seeing the scale move, it doesn’t mean you're not seeing success. Many of the people I work with do not always see the number move as much as they were expecting, but when they see body fat mass go down and lean mass go up, they understand the process is working. More is going on with your body that you may not be able to see reflected on the scale.
For any inquiries about goal setting or tracking metrics, feel free to reach out to me via email at email@example.com.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on goal setting to assist you in achieving your results.
Author: Jim O'Brien