Here at the Beck Institute’s Diet Program, we don’t necessarily have a firm guideline on how often our clients should weigh themselves. For some people it works to do it every day, and for some just once a week. One of the benefits of getting on the scale every day is that it more quickly accustoms dieters to the fact that their weight will definitely NOT go down every single day (or even every week). We always tell our dieters that when they step on the scale, their weight should be plus or minus two pounds of where it was the day before. There could be any number of reasons to account for why a dieter’s weight might up on any particular day that have nothing to do with how well or not well their diet is working, such as eating something salty the night before, hormonal changes, retaining water, or other bodily functions. If dieters weigh themselves only once a week, it takes much longer for them to gather enough evidence to see that their weight won’t go down every day, or even every week, but this is normal and what is supposed to happen. Dieters who weigh in weekly may happen to get on the scale the one day that week in which their weight is abnormally up – and then they get very discouraged and sometimes contemplate quitting, even when nothing is really wrong.
We prepare our dieters with this knowledge and from there let them decide how often they want to get on the scale. Most dieters end up trying it both ways and then figuring out which feels better to them. When Jamie came to see me this week, this is something she was trying to work through. She was having a very hard time getting herself on the scale every morning (when she had lost weight the first time she weighed in every morning, and then when she started gaining weight she avoided the scale altogether), but she also had strong memories of how helpful it was when she was losing weight the first time, and how it really facilitated her in controlling her night eating.
Jamie and I discussed various options for how she should handle this, and we talked about what sabotaging thoughts she was having that made getting on the scale in the morning so hard. Jamie identified that she was having sabotaging thoughts such as, “If my weight is up it means: I’ve failed; I’m never going to be able to lose weight again; I’m a bad person; nothing is working.” Jamie and I came up with helpful responses to these thoughts, including that she would remind herself that her weight has nothing to do with who she is as a person or her value, she was able to lose weight in the past which means she’ll be able to do it again, she has already proven to herself before that just because the scale goes up one day it doesn’t mean her diet isn’t working, there’s no such thing as failing as long as she keeps working towards her goals, it’s okay if she stumbles from time to time because she’s only human, and it’s worth it to her to push through the discomfort because she knows getting on the scale will be worth it in the end. Jamie made response cards for each of the new, helpful responses and committed to reading them every morning before she gets on the scale.