Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control
Tracking weight loss accurately
As you work on your goal to lose weight, you may wonder how you can accurately track your weight loss. Should you weigh daily? Invest in an expensive scale? Is weighing yourself even the best option to track loss?
“Being able to track real weight loss is important for motivation and progress,” shares Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Research shows that weighing regularly tends to help more of us be successful at losing weight and maintaining weight loss. Weighing once a week is usually enough because you can become discouraged by the minor fluctuations that you may see day to day or even throughout a day. If you do choose to weigh daily, check your weight at the same time each day – right after you wake up and use the toilet is a good time – then take an average over the week. If your average weight increases for two straight weeks, then its real weight that you need to address.
“Various factors can cause your weight to fluctuate throughout the day and week, such as sodium intake, fluid intake, even medications,” adds Mills-Gray. “So focusing on weighing weekly or figuring an average for the week gives you the most realistic snapshot of your weight.”
If you want to monitor your weight, any basic bathroom scale – dial or digital – that gives consistent readings is sufficient. Models that have advanced options may give you more information, but are rarely more accurate. When shopping, try out different models – sit the scale on an even floor and weigh yourself several times to see if the reading is the same. Keep in mind that when you shift from side to side the reading shouldn’t change.
In your weight loss endeavors, you may be increasing physical activity, so keep in mind as you gain muscle that you may also gain weight.
“Judging progress toward better health solely on your weight number on a scale may be disheartening for many. I suggest you use the waist measurement method for tracking true progress,” says Mills-Gray. Place a tape measure at the narrowest point between your lower rib and the top of your hip bone. The tape should be snug, but not cutting into the skin. If you can’t find the narrowest point, measure just above your belly button. Stand straight and breathe out normally – don’t suck in your belly! Just like the recommendation for weighing, do this first thing in the morning before eating. If your measurement is 37 inches or higher for a male or 32 inches or higher for a female, you are at increased risk for health challenges. Readings over 40 for men and 35 for women represent significant increased risk for poor health.
University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2013
National Institutes of Health
American Diabetes Association
Last update: Tuesday, February 17, 2015