September 21, 2014
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Weight Management

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Study: Daily weigh-in helpful for some dieters

A daily step on the scale may also be a big step towards making that New Year's resolution to lose weight a success, a study has found.

Many weight loss or weight maintenance programs encourage a weekly weigh-in as a means of measuring progress. But according to a study in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, some dieters may find it more effective to weigh themselves on a more frequent basis.

In the study, a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota looked at more than 3,000 obese and overweight adults who were enrolled in trials that either focused on weight loss or on the prevention of weight gain. About 20% of the people in both studies reported never weighing themselves, while 40% said they monitored their own weight on a daily or weekly basis.

Participants who reported more frequent weigh-ins were more likely to be older, have a lower fat intake, a lower body mass index and a greater history of dieting, among other differences.

Over a two-year period, people in both studies who reported more frequent weigh-ins were more likely to lose weight and less likely to gain. For example, in the weight loss study, those who weighed themselves on a daily basis lost an average of 12 pounds, compared to people who weighed themselves weekly and lost an average of six pounds. Those who said they never weighed themselves gained an average of four pounds.

In the weight gain prevention study, people who weighed themselves less frequently than once a day were more likely to gain weight than to lose it.

"Results support the idea that daily weighing is valuable to individuals trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain," wrote the study's authors. "Daily self-weighing should be emphasized in clinical and public health messages about weight control."

While more research needs to be done, including a study that randomly assigns dieters to different weighing schedules, the researchers say more frequent weighing may be an effective tactic because it offers dieters regular feedback into their progress.

Daily weighing may also help people lose weight or maintain their weight by allowing them to notice small increases in their weight to catch one extra pound before it becomes five or ten.

But it's not an effective tactic for everyone. For some people, for example those with some eating disorders, stepping on the scale can result in an unhealthy fixation on the numbers that appear. As well, because weight can fluctuate from day to day, daily weigh-ins may reveal temporary weight gains that would go unnoticed for a dieter who weighs himself or herself on a weekly basis, something that may be discouraging for some.


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