Weekly vs. Daily Weigh-Ins: What's Most Effective?

Patient Expert

Do you really believe the myth that you can manage your weight better when you step on the scales once a week instead of every morning?

Sadly, most of the so-called experts tell us that it’s a mistake to weigh daily. “In most instances, weighing yourself every day is unnecessary and unhealthy,” is supposedly one of the “10 Common Mistakes” we make about weighing ourselves. Actually, suggesting that weighing daily is a mistake is itself one of the most common mistakes you can read about and hear.

Condensed Sample Weight Graph

When I learned I have type 2 diabetes, my doctors and nurses told me to weigh myself once a week because the inevitable daily fluctuations would discourage my weight loss efforts. They probably told you the same thing. They were ignoring two small studies “Charting of daily weight pattern” and “The efficacy of a daily self-weighing.” But they can’t ignore a large, new study that shows that daily weighing helps us take off the pounds and keep it off.

Researchers at Cornell University randomized 162 people with an average body mass index, or BMI, of 33.5 to intervention and control groups for two years. That high BMI means they were obese. The Journal of Obesity just published their results, which are freely available online.

For the first year of the study the intervention group got a typical bathroom scale and were asked to weigh daily right after getting out of bed in the morning. They were taught the “Caloric Titration Method,” which is simply to weigh on their scale and then check off a data point on a chart that they hang on the wall over the scale.

Simple Tools

“You just need a bathroom scale and an Excel spreadsheet or even a piece of graph paper,” says Professor David Levitsky, who teaches nutrition at Cornell University and who is the study’s senior author. He says that the people in the intervention group were given weight loss targets, but “because we didn’t prescribe, they found their own ways of losing the weight.”

After one year the people in the intervention group lost significantly more weight than those in the control group, 13 pounds vs. a little less than 9 pounds. Then, in the second year of the study the people in the control group started to use the Caloric Titration Method while those in the intervention group continued to use it for their weight maintenance. Now, the control group people were able to get similar results as the intervention group got in the first year of the study. And the intervention group kept their weight off.

This result is a pleasant surprise. Most dieters gain back 40 percent of their weight loss after one year and typically regain all of it after five years.

Men and Women Are Different

Strangely, however, the amount of weight that men and women lost was significantly different. Women lost weight on the program, but far less than the men.

“It seems to work better for men than women, for reasons we cannot figure out yet,” Professor Levitsky says.

In any case, weighing on a scale and then recording the number primes “you to be aware of the connection between eating and your weight,” he says. “It used to be taught that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily, and this is just the reverse.”

See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:

12 Ways To Lose Weight And Manage Your Diabetes

A New Way for People with Diabetes to Lose Weight

Nutrition Scales