People who step on the scale every day tend to avoid gaining extra kilograms, a new U.S. study suggests.
Nutrition researcher Jamie Cooper of the University of Georgia and her colleagues set out to examine whether the simple act of weighing oneself daily could prevent weight gain during the winter season, spanning mid-November to early January in the United States.
This period has been shown to disproportionately contribute to yearly weight gain, sparing not even those who exercise regularly.
Results published in the journal Obesity show that participants who weighed themselves daily and received graphical feedback of their weight changes either maintained or lost weight, while those who didn’t weight themselves daily gained an average of about 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms).
In the group that did daily weight-checking, overweight and obese participants lost weight.
“We were somewhat surprised ... since our instructions were to maintain weight and not lose weight,” Cooper said in an email to Reuters Health.
People who started out at a weight that was in the normal range for their height, however, did stay in that range.
“It is possible that (overweight and obese) adults were less aware of their actual body weights at the beginning of the study, and seeing their weight on the scale perhaps prompted them to make some healthier choices or behaviors which led to actual weight loss,” Cooper said.
For the study, 111 adults, ages 18 to 65, were instructed to maintain their weight through the 2017-2018 holiday season. Half of them were randomly assigned to the self-weighing group. Researchers followed up after 14 weeks to see who’d been successful.
Sara Bleich of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health it’s hard to know whether the results were entirely due to daily self-weighing because the instruction to maintain weight may have affected participants’ behavior.
Still, she believes the data could point to an easy way to ensure people stay conscious of their weight.
“The fact that we have a $70 billion weight loss industry in the United States is a testament to the fact that weight loss is very hard,” Bleich said.
“What works for one person may not work for another... I would suggest that (daily weighing) is one more tool that can be added to the arsenal of behaviors people consider around the holidays to help prevent weight gain.”
Dr. Nanette Steinle, an endocrinologist and nutrition expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, agreed that the results suggest stepping on the scale every day could be a smart way to boost adherence to an overall “healthy living” plan.
“Having defined goals or metrics and feedback toward goal achievement is often motivating to those who are engaging in weight management,” she said.
Cooper believes the practice of weighing oneself everyday could have mass appeal, given it is a simple yet effective way to encourage people to stay fit during times when they are most prone to relax their exercise regimen or consume more calories than usual.
"Daily self-weighing is quick, easy, and relatively low cost,” she said.
Committing to a daily action "is also a way for people to self-select the behavior changes they want to make,” she added. "For example, if someone likes to exercise, they can use that and adjust exercise levels to maintain weight. For a different person who doesn’t like to exercise, they can use a different strategy."