If you are trying to lose weight, you may not see your bathroom scale as an ally. But studies suggest that making realistic goals for yourself and tracking them with regular weigh-ins can make a difference.
The importance of healthy weight
People who are overweight or obese face serious health problems. They are more likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems and certain cancers.
Smart eating and regular exercise are important to weight control. When you have made a commitment to losing weight, set goals that you can reach. You can greatly improve your health by losing 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight. That would mean a loss of 10 to 20 pounds for a 200-pound person.
So how often should you step on the scale? Every day? Every week? Experts don't always agree. But research suggests that weighing yourself at least once a week may result in greater weight loss than if you do it less often.
Tips for losing weight and maintaining weight loss
The National Institutes of Health suggest:
- Write it down. Goals are more real to you if you write them down.
- Weigh yourself on the same scale, at the same time of day once or twice a week. Write down your weight and set your next weight goal as soon as you achieve the first.
- Make realistic goals. Pie in the sky goals seem motivating but small realistic goals may be more successful. Make them small and achievable. You can set a new goal when you've succeeded.
- Keep moving. The number on your scale will drop faster if you are active. Set an achievable goal to get yourself started. If you set a starting goal to walk for 10 minutes per day rather than run a 5K race, you are more likely to achieve it. When you reach 10 minutes, add 10 more and so on.
- Try for a loss of no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds each week. Any more than that is likely to be from loss of water or lean body tissue like muscle. If you weigh yourself once or twice a week, you should see the scale number go down.
- Give yourself rewards. Reward yourself whenever you reach a goal. Choose a non-food reward like a new outfit or a pedicure. This will motivate you to reach the next goal.
Weighing yourself gives you valuable feedback. Do you find yourself gaining several pounds? It may mean you are not sticking to your plan. Let the scale be a reminder to re-commit to your healthy eating and exercising goals.
Remember that your healthier body will show itself in more than just a number on the scale. As you lose weight, your clothes will feel looser. You will be able to climb a flight of stairs more easily. You will sleep better and have more energy at a healthy weight.
The importance of attitude
As you watch your weight, make sure to watch the negative thoughts. You can help change your behavior by changing the way you think. Don't let negative thoughts take over. One mistake doesn't undo all of the progress you've made toward healthy habits.
Reinforce positive thoughts as you build your healthier habits. And be patient with yourself and your journey to a healthy weight. Some weeks you may get on the scale and the number hasn't gone down. Or maybe it has actually gone up. This is not the time to get negative. Both good and bad habits develop over time.
Maybe you made a bad food choice that week. Forgive yourself and move on. When you scold yourself for making a poor choice, you feel less able to stick with your plan. It's a vicious cycle. Ask what triggered the poor choice and what you have to do to get back on track right away.
Encourage yourself. Focus on your progress. Tell yourself, "I can do this. I am a strong person." It will take a while, but you can learn to think differently — which can help you get to a healthier weight.
Created on 08/20/2007
Updated on 09/10/2013
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Guide to behavior change: Your weight is important.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Why is a healthy weight important?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping it off.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improving your eating habits.