January is fast approaching and with it comes New Year's resolutions, which are often based on unrealistic goals, fad diets, and unhealthy habits like stepping on your old dusty scale daily only to place your self worth in a number. Scales are apart of most peoples bathroom landscapes. Something so innocent as stepping on a scale becomes much more threatening if we aren't careful. The scale can become a measure of our self worth. A powerful oracle that can determine if we have a good day or bad day. The judge, jury and executioner of whether we are a good or bad person --- good looking or not --- or whether we hide under our clothes or show off our gains.
The idea that you should weigh yourself daily for weight management benefits is extremely frustrating for me and feeds into a bunch of deep topics that we will dive into on some later blogs. Today we will dive into what the research says about weighing daily and hopefully find a balance with this subject matter. I always believed that health was about the quest for improved energy, sleep, strength, flexibility, quality of life, cardiovascular health and self confidence. When you weigh everyday your health will turn into a number purely connected to the number on that scale.
In a study published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 1,902 young adults were assessed over a 10 year period. The majority (over 2/3) of the sample would be classified as “normal” weight. Participants were asked to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I weigh myself often.” The researchers also gathered data on weight, body mass index, weight disparity (the difference between self reported ideal weight and current weight), body satisfaction, weight concern, depression, and self-esteem.
Results of this study indicate that for both males and females, there was no association between self-weighing and either weight or BMI. This calls into question the common belief that self-weighing leads to weight loss or maintaining a lower weight; if that was true then the participants who regularly weighed themselves would weigh less than those who did not. What the researchers did find was that, for both males and females, self-weighing was associated with greater concern about their weight. Females who weighed themselves regularly also experienced more dissatisfaction with their bodies, more depressive symptoms, and lower self-esteem.
Based on these results, it seems like stepping on the scale doesn’t make people lose weight but it may make you feel bad about your body (increased weight concern and body image dissatisfaction), feel bad about yourself (lower self-esteem), and feel depressed. Meaning that the scale comes with lots of risk and no clear benefit.
Now let's discuss the opposite end of the coin as well. Never weighing yourself isn't the best option either. Basing your health entirely on how you feel isn't the best method and not the right way to go as well. While that number that looks back at you should not be the ultimate deciding factor of your self worth, it does give an objective view in terms of you reaching your goals (gaining lean muscle, losing body fat, etc). The number doesn't deserve the right to control your feelings about who you are but it may help you navigate whether you should make adjustments to your nutrition or exercise program.
What we should do? The fact is, you don't need a scale to tell us how our body is doing. You could take measurements of your chest, waist, hips, arms and legs so you can track progress objectively. This type of measurement could give insight into if you are losing body fat, changing dress sizes, and gaining lean muscle. You could also monitor how much better your performance is on your exercise program. Whether that be a strength training program, or cardiovascular program. Both can be monitored to see if you are improving. You could also weigh less frequent. Maybe once a week or every other week. Creating a habit to where you get on the scale at the same time once every 1-4 weeks isn't a bad practice. It is all about balance and approaching it with the correct mindset. Balance.