Should I weigh myself? 

It’s common for clients to come to me with a weight loss goal. They are often in a habit of weighing themselves when they first start their journey with me. You may have seen conflicting advice around weighing yourself, with some saying It’s ‘the only way to monitor progress and stay accountable’. But others state that ‘diets don’t work and weighing yourself only leads to harm’.  So, what’s the truth? Should you weigh yourself? 

Why are you weighing yourself? 

The first question to ask yourself is ‘why am I weighing myself’? The motivation behind wanting to lose weight can often help you to decide if checking the scales is a helpful habit or not.

My clients are often weighing themselves through a fear of weight gain and a pressure that they MUST lose weight. When I ask them why they must lose weight, the answer is often because they ‘feel’ that they should.  Society has made them feel that they are not good enough in a larger body. We are constantly surrounded by messages telling us that losing weight is important, and so we conclude that this is what we should do. This often means that our value as a person is connected to the way that we look. Therefore we feel that we are not good enough because of our body size or shape.

When we are placing demands on ourselves such as ‘I must lose weight’, or if we are ‘shoulding’ ourselves into doing something through fear, then we are not connected to this goal as something that has meaning to us. We are also telling ourselves that we are failures if this demand isn’t met, but we are not sure why we must meet this goal other than to gain approval from others.   

By connecting with your values and your WHY and really understanding if losing weight is something you NEED and WANT for reasons that are important to you, such as health goals, then you can work towards your goals from a caring and supportive motivation rather than a critical, pressured and fear-based motivation. 

If you do connect with your weight loss goal on a more intrinsic level and you have your own meaningful reasons to want to lose weight, this doesn’t automatically mean that weighing yourself is the right option for you – there are still more questions to ask. 

How often are you weighing yourself? 

How often do you weight yourself? If you weigh yourself once or twice a month just to keep an eye on the general trend of your body, then this might be a healthier approach to weight monitoring. 

Maybe you are someone that weighs themselves every week, every day or several times a day. This would suggest that you may have an unhealthy relationship with the scales. If you are having to monitor yourself this closely, then you would have to be honest with yourself about why and how this may be impacting your life. Are you trying to overly control something that is not fully in your control? Is this causing you to have anxiety around the scales, the food you eat or your exercise regime? 

Monitoring weight this closely is not going to be beneficial. Bodyweight will fluctuate from morning to night, so overly monitoring might lead us to believe that we have gained weight, when in fact it’s just the natural pattern of your body throughout the day, week or month. 

Have you had an eating disorder/disordered eating? 

If you have battled with an eating disorder in the past or if you display disordered eating behaviour’s then there is probably more to risk than to gain by weighing yourself. 

Weighing yourself per-se is not harmful, but it does have associated risks and there are certain people who will be more ‘at risk’ of these potential harms.  This is why in my 1:1 clinic I don’t tend to set weight loss goals or monitor weight with my clients. Instead, we focus on working on a client’s relationship with food, and the two don’t go together. 

Do you have body image concerns? 

If you are struggling with your body image, then working towards a weight loss goal is not advisable.  There are coaches out there who might tell you that they can help you to lose weight and improve your body image, but this isn’t how it works. If you are happier with your body because you have lost weight, then this is not improving your body image. This is you placing your value on how you look, and your self-esteem will be contingent on you staying that weight. If you don’t stay that weight, you’ll feel like you have a problem! 

Over-emphasising how you look can in fact move you closer to body dissatisfaction and further away from what you are trying to achieve. We don’t need to choose between working on our body image or eating well, they do go together.  When we learn body appreciation, we can respect our bodies regardless of what it looks like. This means implementing healthy eating behaviours within our lifestyle to care for our bodies. This isn’t about pretending you love everything about the way you look, it’s about being honest about how you currently feel, and then deciding to take steps that are most helpful to support you now and in the long run, even if that feels hard. 

Working on your body image is one of the most powerful things you can do to move yourself forward with your health and nutrition goals. This means working towards body neutrality; which is respecting and caring for your body whilst de-emphasising appearance. This requires a health-based approach, which means setting goals to improve health, not to change shape or size. Part of this work is to reduce body-checking behaviour’s such as weighing yourself. 

How do you feel when you weigh yourself? 

How do you feel when you weigh yourself

This is important, and be honest; does stepping on the scales fill you with dread and anxiety? 

Do you think that having ‘checked yourself’ this will reduce your anxiety? Or does it in fact drive your anxiety? 

If the scales don’t say what you want them to, does this impact on how you feel moving forward? Does it affect how you behave for the rest of that day/week? For example; you may feel that you’ve failed and therefore ‘give up’ on the diet. You might turn to food to try and manage those difficult emotions. 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may want to reconsider stepping on the scales.   

Does weighing yourself slow your progress? 

When we are making change, we should focus more on behaviours that are helpful and less on those that aren’t. Weighing yourself may be giving you a false sense of security that you are ‘doing’ something well. But if the result is demotivating, makes you feel like you’re failing and makes you forget all of your other successes, then the outcome isn’t meeting the intention. If this is the case then it’s probably time to do things differently. 

Conclusion 

So, should you weigh yourself?  For some it’s just a way of keeping an eye on general body trends and accountability for themselves. For others it is an obsession; a driver on anxiety or a tool to beat themselves up with.   

Weighing yourself is not for everyone. There are specific reasons why it might actually be harmful to engage with this behaviour. 

It can be extremely difficult to move away from weighing yourself and weight-based goals. However, with the right support it can be done.  If you resonate with this discussion today, then maybe it’s time to reach out and find another way.  

n.b. If you have an active eating disorder then please follow the advice of your specialist team. This blog is only offering general information, not specialist or individual advice.