Regardless of your specific goal, one of the easiest and most common ways of tracking your progress is by weighing yourself regularly.
Simple and obvious enough, right? But like anything else, there are still important questions that need to be answered. For example, how often should you weigh yourself? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? And when you figure that out, when is the best time to do it? Morning? Afternoon? Night?
Your answers to these questions can result in some HUGE differences, so it’s important that you get them right and know all the facts. Let’s start with the most important fact of all.
Weighing Yourself: It’s Great And It Sucks
Before you can decide when and how often you should weigh yourself, you first need to understand why your weight is simultaneously an important and useful measure of progress AND a confusing and deceptive number that often fails to tell you the whole story. Here’s what I mean…
The Importance Of Weighing Yourself
- It shows if things are working.
Fat and muscle both weigh something, which means that losing fat will typically cause a decrease in body weight and building muscle will typically cause an increase in body weight. So what’s the best reason to weigh yourself regularly? To ensure that what you’re doing is actually working. Meaning, if your weight isn’t moving in the right direction for your goal, it’s a pretty good sign that your current diet/workout isn’t working and needs to be adjusted somehow.
- It shows if things are working at the ideal rate they should be.
In addition to just knowing if your body weight is moving in the right direction for your goal, there’s also the issue of whether your body weight is moving at the ideal rate for your goal. You see, depending on your exact goal and a few other factors specific to you and your body, there is a certain rate of weight loss and weight gain that is considered optimal. So what’s the second best reason to weigh yourself regularly? To ensure that your body weight is changing at the speed it should be (not too slow, not too fast).
The Problems With Weighing Yourself
- “Weight” is more than just fat or muscle.
There would be no downside to weighing yourself if the weight you lose and gain was guaranteed to always be either fat or muscle. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Your body weight can and very often does change as a result of a loss or gain in muscle, fat, water, glycogen, poop, food intake and more. That means daily fluctuations in body weight (plus extra monthly fluctuations for women) are extremely common and normal. And it’s this fact that causes 3 other problems…
- “Weight” alone tells us nothing about the composition of that weight.
The number on the scale only allows you to track your weight… not the composition of that weight. And since most of us want to lose fat (but not muscle) and gain muscle (but not fat), the composition of the weight we lose or gain is often more important than anything else. That’s why most people should do more than just weigh themselves to monitor progress. For example… use measurements, body fat percentage, pictures, mirror and so on.
- Unrelated fluctuations in weight can skew progress or lack thereof.
Let’s pretend you’re trying to lose fat, but your weight stays the same. Did you fail to lose fat, or did you lose fat successfully but have that weight counterbalanced by a gain of something else? (This is a topic I cover in a ton of detail here: Why Am I Gaining Weight?) And looking at it from the other side, are you incorrectly assuming that your lack of weight loss is a result of a gain in muscle when in reality you’re just failing to lose fat? (I cover this here: Weight Loss Plateau Myth: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat?)
- Normal daily fluctuations in weight can drive a person crazy.
Some people just aren’t aware of the fact that it’s normal for their body weight to fluctuate, and this can easily cloud that person’s judgement about the effectiveness of their diet/workout and generally drive them insane. Hell, even when you know there are other factors influencing your scale weight every day, just seeing that number fail to move (or move in the wrong direction) can still get into your head and lead to all sorts of problems (making unnecessary changes, depression, eating disorders, etc.).
What Does All Of This Mean?
It means that you should weigh yourself regularly because it’s a useful tool for tracking progress, but at the same time realize that the numbers you are seeing aren’t always an accurate representation of what your body is doing. And the reason you need to know this is because it all plays a role in answering the questions we originally set out to answer…
So How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?
Well, the most common recommendations you see are to weigh yourself every day, once a week, or once a month. And when you take all of the above into account, you’ll see that each frequency has its own PROS and CONS.
Weighing Yourself Every Day
Most people think weighing yourself every day is the LEAST accurate way because of those normal daily weight fluctuations I mentioned before. In a way, this is true. But, if you make one small change to the way you do it, you’ll see that daily weigh-ins are actually the MOST accurate way to do it.
Let me explain…
- If you weigh yourself every day and make decisions based on these day-to-day changes, you’re doing it wrong. Because of all of that daily weight fluctuation stuff I keep talking about, this would be the worst way to do it.
- HOWEVER, if you weigh yourself every day and then take the AVERAGE at the end of the week (and base your decisions on THAT weekly number)… then you’ll have the most accurate figure you could possibly get. Doing it this way actually serves to eliminate the potential of daily weight fluctuations throwing things off.
This is definitely my #1 recommendation for how often you should weigh yourself, at least among sane, level headed people who truly understand how body weight works. Unfortunately, some people don’t fit this description.
Instead, some people will see the normal daily weight fluctuations I mentioned before and panic or feel depressed or make changes to their diet/workout that didn’t need to be made. So while weighing yourself every day is best in terms of accurately tracking your weight (and is my preferred way of doing it), it’s also a way that can potentially do more harm than good to certain people.
Weighing Yourself Once A Week
In terms of accuracy, weighing yourself once per week isn’t perfect. It’s certainly not useless… but it’s just not as good as weighing yourself every day and taking the weekly average. I mean, think about it.
Let’s say your once a week weigh-in happens to fall on a day when one of those normal weight fluctuations are taking place. Your progress (or lack thereof) is skewed and you’d have to wait until a week later to know for sure (unless of course next week’s weigh-in is skewed as well). This is why I often recommend waiting 2-3 weeks before making any changes to your diet or workout based on what your body weight is doing.
However, despite not being as accurate as possible, once per week might still be the right option for certain people. Which people? The ones who will go a bit crazy (or completely crazy) watching the day-to-day changes in weight that would come with the previous option.
I’ve just personally seen/heard about way too many people obsessing over their weight and making stupid decisions and changing their diet or workout as a result of letting daily weight fluctuations affect their judgement. Not to mention, the potential for this to lead to negative thoughts, depression and full blown eating disorders definitely exists.
To avoid all of this, certain people will be better off if they just weigh themselves once per week.
Weighing Yourself Once A Month
Let’s be honest here… in terms of monitoring progress, weighing yourself just once per month is pretty terrible and not recommended at all from an accuracy or tracking standpoint for obvious reasons.
But on the other hand, if you’re someone who will be driven to an eating disorder (or are recovering from one) or will just generally go nuts as a result of weighing yourself too frequently, then once per month may be just right for you.
And The Winner Is…
So how often should you weigh yourself? As usual, the true best answer is that it depends on you and the type of person you are.
- Every Day
In terms of the most accurate way to do it, weighing yourself every day is the best option. It’s how I do it, and as long as you do it correctly (take the weekly average) and don’t let the daily fluctuations negatively affect you, then it’s how I’d recommend it be done. That’s why it’s the tracking approach I use in my Superior Fat Loss program. But if you are the type of person who will turn it into an unhealthy obsession and respond poorly to seeing typical day-to-day changes in your weight, then you should probably avoid this option.
- Once A Week
In terms of a combination of accuracy and sanity, weighing yourself once per week might be best for certain people.
- Once A Month
And for certain extreme cases that may warrant other extremes, weighing yourself just once a month may be the best way to do it. In all other cases however, I don’t recommend this option at all.
So, that’s how often to do it. What about the best time to do it? Let’s find out…
When Is The Best Time To Weigh Yourself?
And now for the MUCH easier question to answer. Simply put…
The best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Be sure to wear as little clothing as possible. (If you do keep any clothes on, be sure to wear that same amount of clothing every time you weigh yourself.)
Why? Because weighing yourself any time other than first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will throw things off completely. Every bit of eating, drinking, sweating and what you do (or don’t do) in the bathroom over the course of the day will destroy any sense of accuracy.
It’s not unusual to see as much as a 5-10lb shift in weight at different times throughout the day, which is why: A) weighing yourself at random times “just to see” is completely pointless and potentially dangerous (it will just drive you crazy), and B) the people at the gym who weigh themselves before/during/after their workouts looking for signs of progress are F-ing hilarious!
This sort of thing is also a common cause of what I like to call “false” weight loss plateaus. I actually wrote an entire chapter about this topic in Superior Fat Loss where I cover ALL of the causes of both true and false plateaus, why they happen, what causes them, and how to easily get back to making progress again in each scenario.
Step On Up To The Scale
So, there you have it. The best time of the day to weigh yourself and how often you should do it. As long as you use your weight for what it is and ignore it for what it isn’t, it’s one of a handful of useful tools for tracking your progress.