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"Don't weigh yourself every day" was the advice experts used to give for those of us trying to lose weight, but a growing number of studies find that people actually lose more weight - and keep it off - if they step on the scale daily.
The thinking had been that checking your weight every day might be discouraging and possibly cause eating disorders if you saw that you weren't making any immediate progress. Weight Watchers, for example, makes the weekly weigh-in a cornerstone of its plan.
But a new Brown University and University of Tennessee study of 178 adults, average age 52, found that subjects who weighed themselves daily lost more weight than those who didn't do this.
"We teach participants to view the weight on the scale as information. Stepping on the scale regularly gives you feedback about whether your weight is in the desired range and enables you to take corrective action if it is not," said coauthor Jessica Gokee LaRose, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown, who specializes in obesity prevention.
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LaRose said in an email that this study, due to be published next month in the journal Health Psychology, as well as others have found that a daily weight check "is not associated with negative psychological effects," like depression or eating disorders. In fact, she added, "the opposite is often observed," with people making more lifestyle changes to help them take, or keep, the weight off.
Previous research seems to back her up. A University of Minnesota study that tracked the scale habits of 1,800 dieting adults showed that those who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 12 pounds over two years, while those who checked their weight weekly lost only 6. The daily weighers were also less likely to regain the pounds they had lost.
Similarly, a study of 3,500 members of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) who had lost 60 or more pounds and had kept them off for at least a year found that 44 percent weighed themselves daily. And according to Drexel University researchers who checked in with 3,000 successful dieters after a year, those who stopped weighing themselves daily regained more weight than did those who kept up the daily routine.
Weight-loss researcher Sherry Pagoto, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said people who have trouble "facing the music" by stepping on the scale should remember that "it's just information" to help you see which behaviors result in small gains or losses. Knowing your weight each morning can help when you're deciding on which foods to eat during the day or whether to skip exercise, she said in an email.
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"Weighing yourself isn't the scary part," she added. "Avoiding the scale is what creates the fear." Make it part of your morning routine, like brushing your teeth, she said. "It's a simple act that can result in weight loss."
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