Thursday, October 12, 2006

Should you Weigh Yourself Daily?

Yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine reports a study conducted by one of the biggest names in weight maintenance research - Rena Wing.

Rena heads up the National Weight Control Registry along with another fella named Jim Hill. The Registry was established in the 90s to help flesh out the factors involved in successful weight loss maintenance. To get into the registry you must have lost 30lbs and kept it off for 1 or more years.

The article in NEJM looks at the application of a maintenance program delivered either via telephone, the internet or face to face.

Not surprisingly, those with more face time were better at maintaining their weight loss.

The media however has picked up on another statistic from the article - those that weighed themselves more frequently seemed to keep the weight off better.

Having heard Rena present her findings at last year's American Heart Association Obesity Lifestyle and Cardiovascular Disease Symposium (which by the way was one of the best basic overviews of obesity I've ever been to and it's available online here for free!) I asked her what I thought was an important question.

What I wonder is whether or not success leads to daily weighing or whether daily weighing leads to success?

What I mean of course is I would imagine that those folks doing well with their lifestyles, would be more likely to use the scale to reinforce their successes, while those doing poorly may in fact be reticent to step on a scale for fear of what it might tell them.

Where there's no doubt is the fact that nipping weight regains in the bud is integral in successful weight maintenance.

What I would also like to point out is that while you're losing weight, I'm not a fan of daily weigh-ins. The fact is that weight fluctuates quite dramatically due to water retention, constipation and clothing and therefore daily weighing can at times be incredibly demoralizing as you might feel you're doing everything right and the scale shows you're up in weight.

I usually recommend that during weight loss, weigh once weekly, stark naked, Wednesday mornings (so as to provide a buffer from the weekend), and while I still don't know who's the chicken and who's the egg with daily weights during maintenance, I do recommend to my patients that once they've stopped losing weight, stepping on the scale daily and watching the trend can be very helpful.

I think it just keeps a person's head in the game, the fact is if you've got a body that has the genetic gift of being able to store calories for the future, it's not a terrible idea to track where you're at.