I used to hate weighing myself.
Every day I’d wake up and dread the long, anxiety-producing walk over to the bathroom scale.
Will I weigh less today?
I’ve been good the past few days so my weight should be down…
With each step my heart rate would rapidly increase until I was face-to-face with the scale and my heart all but exploding out of my chest.
Whatever the scale read would determine the rest of my day.
If I lost weight I was ecstatic. The day was glorious, my smile infectious, and everything I encountered would be warm & fuzzy miracles.
If I stayed the same or, god forbid, gained weight…the day was ruined. I was pissed at myself, the world, and everything in between.
It was a bad cycle.
Fortunately, many years have passed since those dark times and I now have zero issues maintaining a lean physique year-round.
To get to this point I’ve had to learn a lot.
Nutrition, science, and other boring stuff aside, one of the most important things I’ve learned is how to use the scale without going insane.
“How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?”
See, some people say weighing yourself is pointless.
They say weighing yourself is a waste of time and an inaccurate measurement of fat loss.
While I agree that some people are better off never stepping foot on a scale, I wholeheartedly disagree with the contention that weighing yourself is pointless.
For instance, research has shown that individuals who weigh themselves on a consistent basis are better at maintaining their weight loss in the long-term.
Considering long-term weight loss maintenance is the ultimate goal (rather than short-term weight loss followed by weight re-gain) this is of the utmost importance.
What’s more, used properly and with the right mindset, weighing yourself on a consistent basis is a generally good measure of fat loss.
Obviously it can’t tell you exactly how much fat you’ve lost relative to water, glycogen, stomach content, muscle, etc but – plain and simple – if you aren’t losing weight on the scale then you probably aren’t losing fat.
Having said all of that, I want to show you how to use the scale to your advantage.
Specifically, if you’ve ever wondered “how often should you step on the scale,” I want to show you how to use the scale in a way that allows you to make consistent, long-term, maintainable progress without over analyzing every single weigh-in.
By the end of this article you will have a drastically better understanding of both the strengths and limitations of the scale, as well as how to use it to lose fat in the quickest, easiest, and most efficient manner.
How Often Should You Weigh Yourself? 10 Things You NEED TO KNOW Before Stepping on the Scale
1) Fat Loss is NOT Linear
Don’t expect to lose weight every single day.
It won’t happen.
On a day-to-day basis your weight will fluctuate up and down for countless reasons.
In other words: fat loss isn’t linear.
You won’t consistently drop X amount of weight on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.
To illustrate, below I’ve provided a real-world example from one of my online nutrition coaching clients.
If you look at the graph, you’ll notice on a daily basis his weight fluctuated up and down quite a bit. However, while the upward fluctuations were frustrating in the moment, from a long-term perspective you can clearly see the overall downward trend.
That’s what’s important – the overall downward trend!
Equally as important, you can’t predict how much weight you’re going to lose over time. As such, don’t ever trust those online calculators that tell you how much you should weigh by a certain date.
It’s probably wrong.
And by “probably” I really mean “almost definitely.”
They’re inaccurate and fail to account for a variety of individual, ever-changing factors (i.e. BMR).
Do NOT expect to lose weight every single day.
It seriously won’t happen and if you expect it to then you’re just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Instead, watch for an overall downward trend.
On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, check to see if your average weight is consistently dropping.
It doesn’t need to be insanely large drops (1-2lbs/week is phenomenal!) but you should see a consistent downward trend over time.
2) Losing 1lb per Week is GREAT Progress!
I’m not kidding.
If you lose 1lb per week that is PHENOMENAL progress!
Unfortunately, most people don’t understand (or want to understand) this concept.
Most people have no idea what constitutes a realistic rate of fat loss and often think losing anything less than 5lbs per week is unacceptable.
If you lose 1lb per week while employing a well designed strength training program that is absolutely phenomenal progress!
Granted, when you first start a fat loss program you may initially lose more (in some cases up to 8lbs) in the first week.
However, as you progress over time it’s vital to remember that a weight loss of 1lb per week is spectacular.
3) The Scale Does NOT Tell the Whole Story
This is my client, Kellie.Aside from being really, really good looking she’s also exceptionally strong, smart, and splendidly hilarious.
She’s a package deal.
Anywho, while you were drooling over her 8-week transformation pictures, you may have also noticed that she gained 10lbs over the course of our 2-month program.
Funny, isn’t it?
She’s 10lbs heavier and, in my opinion, a whole lot sexier.
But how is that possible?
How could she gain 10lbs in 8-weeks and look even better than when she started?
Over the course of our 8-week program Kellie added 10lbs of scale weight but scale weight doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” weight!
See, the scale measures everything in your body: muscle, water, fat, bone, stomach content, etc, etc, etc.
While the scale can be a useful tool to see if you’re losing weight over time, it’s important to understand that not all weight is created equal.
So what happened to Kellie?
Over the course of our program she gained 10lbs of many different things such as muscle, water, stomach content, glycogen, bone density, and *gasp* even a little bit of fat.
The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
There’s a whole lot more than just muscle and fat inside your body and the scale can’t make that distinction.
Remember that you can use the scale to track progress over time but it’s extremely important to realize it’s not the end-all-be-all of fat loss.
Oh, and as Kellie’s pictures splendidly illustrate, gaining weight isn’t always a bad thing.
How Many Calories Do You Need to Eat to Burn Fat?
4) You Will [often] Weigh More the Day After You Lift Weights
It’s counterintuitive isn’t it?
You work out, burn a whole bunch of calories, but when you weigh-in the next day you’re even heavier than before….
Don’t worry, this is 100% normal.
After you work out your body needs to recover from the stress (lifting weights) placed upon it. In order to recover effectively your muscles actually store more glycogen (i.e. carbohydrates) which often results in a short-term weight – NOT fat – gain.
Going one step further, after weight training it’s normal to [unconsciously] eat more food in order to support muscle recovery and growth. In doing so, you not only hold onto more glycogen and water, you literally have more food in your stomach which also contributes to temporary weight – NOT fat – gain.
Slight weight gain the day after working out is totally fine and 100% normal.
That being said, if your goal is to lose fat and you aren’t seeing a consistent downward trend over time…odds are you’re eating too much and need to re-evaluate your nutrition.
5) The Scale Isn’t the Only Way to Track Fat Loss
Not by a long shot.
There are numerous ways to track fat loss other than the scale.
To name a few:
Q: How do you know if you’re losing fat?
A: Check in the mirror, silly goose!
This is the best way to track progress.
Because most people trying to lose fat just want to look good nekked.
Obviously lots of people want to do it for better health, longevity, and blah, blah, blah….
But most people just want to look better with their clothes off.
That being the case, who gives a shit what the scale says so long as you look sexy as all hell?
If the scale says you weigh 400lbs but you also love how you look…fuck the scale!
You’re hot. End of story.
How Do Your Clothes Fit?
How do your pants fit? Are they getting looser?
Are your shirts getting baggier?
Do you need to buy some new dress clothes?
If you find yourself dropping clothing sizes then odds are you’re on the right track.
On the other hand, if your clothing is getting tighter (or not changing at all) you may need to take a step back and re-evaluate your diet.
Are You Getting Compliments from Friends, Family, or Co-Workers?
When this happens you know you’re doing something right.
When working with clients I regularly ask if they’ve received any compliments from friends, family, or co-workers.
The answer is almost always a resounding “YES! How did you know!?“
As you progress towards your fat loss goals you will often receive compliments from those around you.
Sure, they want to be nice and supportive.
But they probably also want to know what the hell you’re doing to look so damn good!
When you start getting these comments take it as a good sign that things are working exactly as they should.
The scale is a fantastic tool to help you stay on track and make sure you’re making significant progress.
However, don’t forget there are plenty of other methods, such as the ones mentioned above, that are equally valid and just as useful.
6) Muscle Doesn’t Weigh THAT Much
This is my client, Lisa.
Over the course of our time working together in my online nutrition and training coaching program, Lisa’s lost over 30lbs while strength training 3x/week, gaining A TON of muscle, and lifting nearly 300lbs.
What’s important to keep in mind is SHE LOST 30LBS while lifting heavy and gaining strength.
What’s my point?
Muscle doesn’t weigh THAT much!
Lot’s of people chalk up unwanted weight gain to new muscle growth from beginning a strength training program.
Welp…unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that.
First and foremost, in order to gain muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus (i.e. eat more than your body burns) on a consistent basis.
Conversely, in order to lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (i.e. eat less than your body burns) on a consistent basis.
See the problem?
It’s physiologically impossible to gain a significant amount of muscle while losing fat.
Granted, beginner weight lifters can build a small amount of muscle while losing fat, but this phase is short-lived and the total amount of muscle gained won’t make a significant difference on the scale.
Second, even in the absolute best conditions, a muscle gain of 2lbs per month is extraordinary.
Allow me to say that one more time…
2lbs of muscle gain PER MONTH is incredible!!!
For women…think half of that.
If you’re trying to lose fat and the scale continues to creep up…odds are it isn’t because you’re packing on slabs of muscle. Rather, you’re probably eating too much and need to get your diet in check.
If your coach insists the extra weight gain is purely muscle…it might be time to find a new coach.
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7) Weigh Yourself Under the EXACT Same Conditions
If you decide to use the scale as a way to track your progress, it’s essential to consistently weigh yourself under the exact same conditions.
To which conditions am I referring?
Use The Same Scale
Your body weight will vary from scale-to-scale.
On some scales you’ll read as heavier while on other scales you’ll read as lighter.
Truth be told, it doesn’t matter which scale is “right.”
Seriously, it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that you weigh yourself on the exact same scale so you get an accurate portrayal of whether or not your body weight is trending downward over time.
Weigh In at the Same Time
Weighing yourself at differing times will give you inconsistent results.
For example, if you usually weigh yourself first thing in the morning (prior to eating & drinking) you’re going to weigh much less than if you weigh yourself immediately after lunch.
To keep things consistent and eliminate as many extraneous factors as possible, my clients weigh-in every morning immediately after waking up and before eating or drinking.
As often as possible, make sure to weigh yourself on the same exact scale, at a similar time, under similar conditions.
While it certainly isn’t a flawless method, it does provide you with more accurate data on a regular basis.
8) If You Don’t Lose Weight for 2-Weeks It’s Time to Re-Evaluate
I didn’t say 1-day.
If you don’t lose weight for 2-weeks it’s time re-evaluate your diet.
Unfortunately, after a few days of stalled weight loss most people get antsy and make the executive decision to drop calories, increase physical activity, or both.
I say 2-weeks, not because it’s a magical time period, but because it’s not uncommon to stall in weight loss for a week or more.
Just because your weight doesn’t drop for a few days doesn’t mean you’ve plateaued (I really freakin’ hate that phrase) or that you need to drastically change your approach.
All it means is you’re human and your body is adjusting to your new weight.
You aren’t going to drop weight every day
…or every 2 days
…or even every 5 days
It just won’t happen!
I know it sucks, and you need a hell of a lot of patience, but take your time because, in the game of fat loss, slow and steady wins the race.
9) Don’t Bother Stepping on the Scale After a “Bad” Day
Allow me to digress.
I hate phrases like “bad day” and “cheat day” as they imply you’re doing something wrong.
It’s 100% fine to go out, eat “unhealthy” foods, and live life to the fullest.
Seriously…you’re supposed to do that kind of stuff.
That being said, it’s equally important to find the sweet spot that allows you to enjoy yourself on a regular basis without going overboard.
Learning how to do that – live a lifestyle that emphasizes flexible dieting – is exactly what I teach in my online coaching program and help clients do in a way that suits their individual needs.
Back to the topic at hand, weighing yourself the day or two following a big event (birthday, holiday, celebration, etc) is pointless.
It’s not only pointless…it’s actually just plain stupid.
It doesn’t take a genius to know the day after you eat a lot more than normal you’re also going to weigh a lot more than normal.
That being the case, why bother weighing yourself when you know you’re going to be unhappy with what you see?
What’s more, you logically understand that you didn’t add several pounds of fat in a single night.
That’s not how fat gain works.
Regardless, when you see the scale jump several pounds overnight your first reaction is going to include a panic attack that has you contemplating fasting for the entire next week.
Don’t weigh yourself the day or two after a “bad” day!
You know the results are going to be skewed and all you’re going to do is end up messing with your head.
Take the next few days away from the scale and, most importantly, focus on getting back on track with your diet. As long as you get right back into the swing of things you’ll continue to make progress and see extraordinary results.
10) Don’t Let the Scale Rule Your Life
Picture courtesy of the one and only, Molly Galbraith
Too often we get caught up in the minutia of our day-to-day lives and forget what’s truly important: living a happy, healthy, balanced, lifestyle that allows us to live in the present and truly enjoy every moment.
I love training, nutrition, and fitness in general…but too often we let the quest for the “ideal” body or “perfect” health take over our lives. Ironically, this often leads us to becoming less healthy, excessively neurotic, and living extraordinarily unbalanced lifestyles.
The scale, when used correctly, is an incredibly useful tool that can help you keep track of progress while achieving your ultimate goals.
Like all things, though, it’s important to keep an open mind and understand that the scale isn’t inherently good or bad, right or wrong.
There is a time and place for when the scale can be used just as there are other moments when it should be forgotten.
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