Thursday, August 03, 2017

Will Weighing Yourself Daily Really Help You Lose Weight?

There are no shortage of people and stories who'll report that one of the easiest things you can do to help yourself lose weight is to weigh yourself daily.

And there are plenty of journal articles too, like this one which came out just last week, that concluded,
"these data extend the possibility that daily self-weighing may be important for prevention of unwanted weight gain"
The problem with the majority of these studies however, is that they're not randomized trials designed to compare the intervention of weighing oneself daily to not, but rather they're either longitudinal studies, or retrospective studies, that look at weight loss and whether or not there's an association with daily weighing.

That matters a great deal because it certainly might follow, and this would be consistent with the experiences I've observed in working with thousands and thousands of patients, that when people know they're struggling with their diets and lifestyle changes, they avoid stepping on the scale, and therefore my bet would be that daily weighing is simply a marker for people who are doing well with their efforts.

So have there been randomized controlled trials of daily weighing on weight loss?

Surprisingly, I could only find one that isolated daily weighing as the primary weight loss intervention. It was a study which randomized 183 adults with obesity to weigh themselves daily, or not, and both groups were given weight loss advice that was known to be ineffective. That last bit is important if you're trying to suss out whether or not daily weighing itself provides benefit.

The authors' conclusion?
"As an intervention for weight loss, instruction to weigh daily is ineffective. Unlike other studies, there was no evidence that greater frequency of self-weighing is associated with greater weight loss."
I also wonder about whether or not daily weighing might lead to increased recidivism? Though I couldn't find any studies that looked at daily weighing and its association with patient dropout, given that day to day weight fluctuations are normal, and that weight loss (and life as a whole) isn't often a straight, consistent, line, I worry that those weighing themselves daily will provide themselves with more opportunities to be discouraged and hence, more likely to quit their intentional weight loss efforts in frustration.

In our clinic we recommend our patients weigh themselves weekly, on Wednesday mornings, naked, after pee, before breakfast, with the rationale being it's important to ensure weight gains, if they're occurring, are noted, because if you're off course, it's easy to gain a great deal of weight in a short period of time and avoiding the scale because you know things aren't going well might lead you to gain more than you would have were you aware of your trend.

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