Whatever your weight loss goal is, getting started is probably the most daunting task. If you’re feeling hesitant about making that first step, it’s probably because the first step you have in mind is overwhelming and too disruptive. (Think: cutting out all carbs immediately on day one.)
Instead, set yourself up for success by kicking your weight loss journey off with an attainable goal. The number one thing you can do every day to lose weight is to step on a scale. This tip may be one of the most effective, simplest weight loss tips you can follow.
“That’s it?” you might be thinking. Yes, that’s it. The simple act of stepping on a scale is something anyone can follow and that will have a big impact long term.
Why does weighing yourself daily help you lose weight?
When you’re beginning your weight loss journey, you need to establish a reference point. That’s why Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure tell us that one of the first things they ask clients to do is to step on a scale.
Once you have that reference, you can use it throughout your journey. “When the number [on the scale] moves in the wrong direction, most people take action immediately and tighten the reigns on their eating behaviors,” say The Nutrition Twins. “[Weighing yourself regularly] is the best way to hold yourself accountable and to keep things in check.”
Knowing what the scale is reading isn’t just a good preventative measure—it’s also positive reinforcement. “It is very motivational to watch the needle move down,” say The Nutrition Twins. “For many people, this motivates them to keep going in the right direction and keep working to lose weight.”
And motivate them, it does. According to the National Weight Control Registry—an ongoing research project that has been collecting data for over 25 years on how people lose weight—75% of people who are able to lose weight and keep it off weigh themselves at least once a week.
Cornell researchers have also studied this phenomenon. They challenged study participants to lose 10 percent of their body weight but didn’t give them any diet advice or restrictions. The only thing they had to do? Step on a scale every day.
Those who had to weigh themselves regularly lost an average of two pounds more over the course of a year compared to those who weren’t instructed to weigh themselves. As a bonus, this group even kept the pounds at bay throughout the second year.
Weighing yourself “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight,” said David Levitsky, PhD, professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell and the author of this study to the Cornell Chronicle. “It used to be taught that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily, and this is just the reverse.”
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How can you apply this tip to your life?
“You just need a bathroom scale and an excel spreadsheet or even a piece of graph paper,” says Levitsky.
After you step on the scale, record your weight in a journal you keep by the scale, to a note on your phone, or into a spreadsheet on your computer. The goal is to keep yourself accountable by establishing this habit as well as keeping your weight loss goals top of mind. “The second you see the scale go in the wrong direction, you can immediately course correct,” say The Nutrition Twins.
They recommend stepping on the scale early in the morning and around the same time every day. This way, your body has the same amount of food in it (none!) to avoid any fluctuations in weight due to large meals.
Keep in mind
The Nutrition Twins share a word of caution. While weighing yourself daily may be an effective weight-loss tool, it can become obsessive to some. If you’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder or experience disordered eating, it’s probably best that you keep your weighing times to once a week rather than once a day. The good news is that studies show that once a week is just as effective as daily.
Additionally, if you get caught up in the weeds rather than in the full picture, you may become discouraged. “Weighing yourself every day could mess with your mind because your body weight will naturally fluctuate,” The Nutrition Twins say. Water weight, hormones, and even bowel movements can all cause the scale to read a higher number on one day—even if you’ve been losing body fat.
“Pay attention to the trend that the scale is showing—not so much the number on the scale,” say the Twins. If it helps, make a point of checking in at the end of the week to review your results from the week prior. If your weight at the end of the week is the same or less than the week before, you’re on the right track!
If you want to supercharge your weight loss efforts, consider adding some strenuous activity to your routine. A staggering 90% of weight loss winners exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day. Now that doesn’t mean you need to pump iron or cycle for an hour (although those would certainly help). Even lightly strenuous activities will do. For example, the most frequently reported form of activity in the National Weight Control Registry study was walking. If you want to go down this route, get started with our must-follow tips for when you’re walking to lose weight.