Stepping On The Scales

What Do You Think When You Weigh Yourself?

Do you compare your weight to a previous weigh in or what you’d like to weigh? Maybe you wonder what you did to make the scales go up or down? Have you ever made an action plan after seeing your weight? University of Oxford scientists decided to find out what went through peoples’ minds when they weigh themselves. With this information they could see what thoughts might be helpful for weight loss.

Study participants weighed themselves every single morning for eight weeks. During and after every weigh in they were to think aloud, audio recording or writing their thoughts in a journal. This was to capture their thoughts in real time and in their normal environment.

What The Study Found

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As you can see, 90% compared their weight to a previous or goal weight, but hardly ever made a specific action plan. As it turned out, the only behaviour that actually helped weight loss was making a specific action plan. The study also gave a few interesting insights. These may or may not be familiar to you.

Weighing each day gave feelings of happiness, shame, frustration or guilt depending on the numbers. The daily weigh-in made participants think about what behaviours led them to that weight but didn’t spur them to make a specific action plan. However, it was noted in the study that some people said their results influenced their actions for the rest of that day. Some participants were left baffled by the results as they couldn’t make sense of the weight fluctuations day to day. It was often frustrating as they would eat well one day but then see the scale being higher the next. Half of the participants said they liked being weighed daily as it helped them keep track. The other half thought daily weighing was too frequent but would do it weekly to see the trending of weight loss or gain.

Hate It Or Love It

For some people weighing themselves can be helpful and motivating. Others may find it demoralizing or frustrating. My advice would be to use it if you can do so without getting emotionally hung up on the results. That goes both ways. If you feel absolutely delighted when you see a positive change but feel terrible with a negative change just don’t do it. There are healthier ways to measure progress than putting yourself through that emotional roller coaster.

If you’re someone who can use weighing as a helpful but objective tool try and make a specific action plan when you do. If you dislike using the scales try this instead. Measure your progress by improving your behaviours. It could be improving your water intake up to at least 2 litres. Adding more protein to more meals. Including more vegetables in your daily nutrition. When your behaviours improve like this the weight loss will happen as a consequence. You won’t need the scales to show you.

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