By Harriet Mallinson | Published on October 30, 2017
Weighing yourself is rarely fun. You haul the weighing scales out onto the cold bathroom floor, you take off all your clothes – in case your socks add on unnecessary pounds – you screw your eyes shut… and step on.
When you’re looking to lose weight, weigh-ins like this, however traumatic, can become almost addictive. You think, “I passed on the chocolate cake at dinner last night and went for a run – I must be down a few notches?” Alas no. This obsessive approach to tracking weight loss can be ineffective and you can be doing yourself a disservice by not taking the proper steps.
So, to help you out, MACROS have spoken to several experts to find out the best way to weigh yourself and keep on top of your progress.
When should we weigh ourselves?
It’s universally acknowledged that you should weigh yourself when you wake up in the morning after going to the loo, so both your stomach and bladder are empty. This way you’ll be at your lightest before you’ve consumed any food and drink which will add weight to your body.
You should try to weigh yourself at the same time each time. Luke Thornton, a coach and fitness entrepreneur at UK online sports supplements store, Discount Supplements, advises, “Consistency is the most important thing in following your progress. Pick a time on a specific day, say Tuesday at 7am, and make sure that every week you stick to it.”
Indeed, the day itself is significant. Amie Richmond, a nutritionist, wellness coach and founder of UK-based My Body Fabulous health clinic, says, “Professionally speaking I recommend picking one day a week to check on your weight and to monitor your fat loss. I don’t agree with Monday morning weigh-ins as our calorie consumption over the weekends can increase and lead to temporary weight gain.
“Daily check-ins can make or break your whole day so I advise a Friday morning – first thing before you have had anything to eat or drink and after using the toilet and always on the same set of scales.”
How often should we weigh ourselves?
As tempting as it may be when you’re nailing the healthy eating and exercise, daily weigh-ins are inadvisable. “The body’s weight can fluctuate due to varying factors such as stress, heat, or even the time of month for females,” says Luke. “Once a week should give you an accurate reading of your progress, but if you need to do it more, pick days with space between them, for instance, Monday and Thursday.
Pollyanna Hale, a UK nutritionist and founder of weight loss plan, The Fit Mum Formula, agrees: “Most people are looking for fat loss and/or muscle gain and it takes longer for these to change. Day to day fluctuation is likely just water changes, or bowel content weight (which will be more if you’ve eaten a bulky, high fiber meal, even if it wasn’t high in calories).”
However, dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Priya Tew believes we should aim to avoid scales. “Ideally you want to step away from the scales and not weigh yourself regularly,” she says. “Instead think about how your clothes fit, about eating well and being active. Unless you are trying to lose or gain weight I would recommend no more than monthly weighing.”
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How much fluctuation can we expect?
Although our body might not look different throughout the day, our weight can fluctuate a surprising amount. Both men and women experience this but ladies can observe greater monthly fluctuations, especially if they bloat around menstruation.
“The average person will fluctuate between 4-6lbs during a 24-hour period,” confirms Amie. “Hormonal changes, eating, drinking, urinating, having a bowel movement and exercise can all impact your body weight. High-carb and high-salt foods can also cause water retention which can look like weight gain on the scales.”
What’s the best way to track weight loss?
Buying your own weighing scales may seem like the most effortless option when it comes to monitoring weight loss but the experts advise against this.
“I would say don’t buy scales,” says Priya. “The scales you have at home are often inaccurate and the number can change depending on the floor you weigh on and how you stand. If you really want to weigh yourself on accurate scales go to a chemist that has scales and get a print out or use the scales in a gym or at your GP’s surgery.”
It might seem like back to basics, but a tape measure could be your best friend here. “Your waist to hip circumference can be a better way to track your weight and health outcomes than the number on the scales,” recommends Priya. “Write down your numbers every week. Some people find a chart or graph useful to see how far they have come. Pin it up somewhere you will notice it during the day or leave it on the fridge door as a reminder of your goals.”
Other options can vary from simply taking photos of yourself to caliper measurements – which can often be carried out at your local gym – and even underwater hydrostatic body fat assessment which is the most accurate but unfortunately not very practical.
Amie advocates body composition scales. “These can determine your body’s exact fat, muscle and water content,” she says. “This way if your overall weight does increase but your fat percentage has gone down and muscle mass has increased, you know you’re going in the right direction.”