Anyone who has ever pursued a body transformation journey has asked themselves this question, but when searching for a clear answer on the vast internet, it can be hard to find one. This is likely because the answer is subjective and might vary greatly depending on the (client’s) specific goals, the (client’s) lifestyle and timeline, and the authority (i.e. doctor, dietitian, coach etc.) providing the answer.
“I personally instruct my clients to weigh in once per week. No more, no less.”
To establish how often we should ‘weigh in,’ we will need to identify why we want to weigh ourselves in thew first place. The weigh-in is the most routine form of data collection utilized in any training program. This is because a standard home body scale is both an accurate way to measure our weight (lb/kg) and an inexpensive tool that can be purchased at just about any retail store. When we track our weight on a body weight scale, we are doing more than just identifying our current weight in the moment; we are doing so with the intention of collecting data. When we collect data, we can use this objective information to inform our decisions and methodologies throughout our body transformation program.
Any standard body weight scale can be used to get the job done, but you may be surprised to know that the biometric technology used in many scales has improved significantly and some can even record your body fat composition fairly accurately, but this we can discuss in a future article. Once we have a scale accessible to us, we can now begin tracking data. However, to do so, we must first define our goals and establish our methods.
Defining our goals
When setting weight loss goals, we must set goals that are both achievable and healthy. According to the CDC, individuals pursuing weight loss programs should aim to lose no more than 1-2 lb per week, though this number could be much higher depending on the person’s starting body composition.
Let’s say for example we weigh 195lb and we want to weigh 170lb. The rate at which we will achieve this goal depends on the effort, such as duration/intensity of exercise and adjustments to our eating behaviors, that we are willing to put forth. After all, a greater the caloric deficit yields a greater the rate of weight-loss. At 0.5lb per week, we can achieve this goal in 50 weeks. At 1lb per week, we can achieve the same goal in 25 weeks, and at 1.5lb per week, we will have reached our goal of 170 in just over 16 weeks!
Now that we have defined our goal weight and the rate at which we plan to achieve it, we need to establish our methods for getting there.
First and foremost, we need to Calculate our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), then calculate a caloric deficit that would lead to an approximate weekly weight loss of (X lb/week) on average. There are several calculators across the internet to help with this, but it is always recommended to speak to a qualified professional (i.e. doctor, dietitian, certified personal trainer etc.)
Establishing our Methods
Define what is a variable, what is a semi-constant, and what is a constant in your program.
Variables- include things like the variety in the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, and the unpredictable activities you do each day that burn energy (i.e. walking to the store, or walking in the office, or chasing your dog when it runs out the door).
Semi-constants- are things like caloric intake and energy expenditure during exercise; these are two factors that would ideally be held constant in theory, but in practice, this is incredibly difficult to do. In general, we aim to hit our energy intake and expenditure goals within a 10-20% variance, for consistent weekly results.
Constants- are things that can and should be held constant throughout your program from week to week, such as weigh-in time and weigh-in frequency.
Now that your methods are defined, it’s time to set weigh-in conditions. The conditions under which we weigh in each week should be as consistent as possible to yield the most precise results.
Condition 1: keep the time that passes between weigh-ins constant (i.e. every 7 days on Monday)
Because our weight can fluctuate so much from day to day it is best to allow a reasonable amount of time to pass between weigh-ins. This could mean we weigh in as frequently as once per week or less frequently, for example bi-weekly or monthly. How often you choose to weigh in is up to you and your coach, but weekly weigh-ins are standard.
(Daily weight fluctuations occur as a result of food and beverages consumed throughout the day, frequency of bathroom breaks, and changes in water/electrolyte balances).
Condition 2: For precision, weigh in at the same time each week (i.e. 9am).
Condition 3: Weigh in with similarly weighted clothing each week.
Because we want our body measurements to be as precise as possible, we want to limit the amount of clothing worn during weigh-in or weigh in wearing similar weighted clothing each week.
Condition 4: Weigh in before eating or drinking anything, but after using the bathroom.
Because food and beverages increase our body’s weight after consumption, we want to avoid eating or drinking anything until after morning weigh in. Additionally, we want to weigh in after using the bathroom, to reduce any added weight.
Condition 5: Eat your last meal of the day around the same time each day and no less than 2 hours before going to sleep.
Giving your body enough time to settle and digest your dinner before laying down to sleep will reduce bloating and acid reflux, but will also increase and help normalize morning bowl movements before weigh in.
Begin tracking on a routine basis to see that scale tip in the desired direction.
There you have it, a detailed analysis of why and how often we might want to weigh ourselves for the most precise and consistent results.
Remember, the scale is simply a tool for measurement. In order to see changes in the desired direction, we must define our goals and establish our methods, and if we are consistent and relentless, we will reach our goal weight in no time….. or in as much time as is desired. It’s really up to you!
Sources: “Losing Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 17, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html.