Like many Americans you probably have a love/hate relationship with your bathroom scale.  You step on it, see you are a couple of pounds lighter and your day is made!  You get on it and the number has gone up, that disappointment might send you running to the freezer for a pint of ice cream therapy.  In any list of weight loss tips, a scale and weighing yourself is deemed important, but there is a right and wrong way to use your bathroom scale.

Weight Watchers

There is no doubt that weighing yourself regularly can help keep your weight in check and monitor your progress.  However, hopping on the scale every day can be a diet disaster.  Your weight can fluctuate several pounds on any given day. Yes, several pounds, so daily weigh-ins could leave you discouraged and un-motivated to keep up with your healthy diet and activity efforts.

A Women’s Health Magazine article chronicling one woman’s numbers on her scale for a 12 hour day revealed weigh fluctuations from as low as 132 pounds to a high of 138 pounds. She ended her day at after 9 PM at night at 137 pounds.  That’s a six-pound weight difference in one day.

Obviously she was not gaining and losing fat in the amount of six pounds in less than 24 hours.  The numbers on the scale are a reflection of what you eat, are wearing, and the time of day.  You are lightest in the morning when your stomach is empty, you are in your pajamas, and mildly dehydrated from not drinking or eating for 6 to 8 hours or more.

On the other hand, you may be heavy in the morning because you ate a huge salty mean the night before.  Or maybe you had a monster workout at the gym and your body is retaining water to repair your muscles.

Both of those things can cause you to retain water, not fat, but drive the number up on the scale.

The Right Weigh

So when and how often should you weigh yourself?

WebMD medical expert’s best weight loss tips for using a scale are:

  • Weigh first thing in the morning the same day of the week every week
  • Go to the bathroom first
  • Don’t eat or drink anything before you step on the scale
  • Wear nothing or the same type of clothing you always sleep in
  • Place the scale on a hard even surface, not carpet or uneven bathroom tiles.

You might be tempted to weigh in after a day at work, too. Don’t be surprised if the number is higher than it was in the morning.  You will have food in your stomach, be retaining fluid, maybe have full bladder or bowel and be wearing a few pounds’ worth of clothing, shoes and accessories like a watch, necklace or rings.

Related:  Modest Weight Loss Lowers Disease Risks in Middle-Aged-Women

Scale Down Your Options

If you are going to use a scale for weekly weigh-ins, choose a fairly high quality one. It does not have to be the most expensive and you may not need extra features like, saving your last five weigh-ins or a body fat estimation.  Why waste money on features you probably won’t use?  In general, digital scales are the most accurate with the dial scales most likely to be off by up to 10 pounds.

Worth The Weight

Resist the urge to weigh yourself daily and set aside a day and time each week to step on the scale. Weighing yourself once a week will help you monitor your progress the most accurately.  If the number on the scale each week is a little less, then what you are doing is working.  If the number creeps up, you can catch the diet slip-ups and get back on track before too much damage is done.