If you are trying to lose some weight and keep it off, stepping on a scale every day may help more than hurt, say researchers.
Although it may not be pleasant to see where that bag of potato chips wound up, a new study found that weighing yourself every day may help you keep minor fluctuations under control. In addition, meeting with a weight-loss counselor, either in person or on the Internet, may help to motivate you to keep the weight off.
“The years immediately following weight loss poses the greatest risk for weight regain.” said Dr. Rena Wing, study author and director of the weight control center at Brown University, “Thus, a major problem is the treatment of obesity is prevention of [gaining back the weight].”
For the study, which was presented at an obesity conference, 291 people who had lost at least 10 percent of their body weight in the last two years were counseled on diet and exercise and divided into three groups.
Two of the groups met either online or in-person with a weight-loss counselor every week for four weeks and then monthly for a total of one-and-a-half years. All of the participants had to submit weekly weight reports and were notified if they had gained five pounds or more. The third group only received monthly newsletters on weight loss.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that 46 percent of participants who had in-person counseling and 55 percent of the participants who had counseling via the Internet had regained at least five pounds. Those who went without counseling fared worse—nearly three-fourths regained a significant amount of weight.
While the power of weight-loss counseling has been known for some time, Dr. Gary Foster, clinical director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania, was surprised by how well online support groups worked. “If you can do that well with the Internet, it makes counseling so much more available.” he said.
Wing also found that there was a strong connection between the regular use of a scale and the ability to keep off the lost pounds. In fact, 61 percent of the patients who weighed themselves once a day were able to keep their weight off, while only 32 percent of the less-frequent scale-steppers were able to.
“The scale gives you feedback and allows you to reverse small weight gains before they become big weight gains.” said Foster.
Other means for monitoring weight gain, like trying on a pair of jeans, tend to be more subjective. A person can make excuses, claiming that the jeans were stiff from the wash or that they shrunk, said Foster.
But a scale is undisputable, said Foster. “It is a reality check.”