The One Thing Everyone Trying To Lose Weight Should Do

I just bought a brand new digital bathroom scale, so naturally I step on it every time I'm anywhere near the bathroom in order to watch my weight fluctuate. A mammoth salad for lunch? I'm up two pounds! A pleasant ramble with the Yorkie-poo? They've gone! Dinner at my sister's house? They're back! But by tomorrow morning, they'll probably be gone again. Or not.
03/14/2014 07:27 am ET Updated May 14, 2014

I just bought a brand new digital bathroom scale, so naturally I step on it every time I'm anywhere near the bathroom in order to watch my weight fluctuate. A mammoth salad for lunch? I'm up two pounds! A pleasant ramble with the Yorkie-poo? They've gone! Dinner at my sister's house? They're back! But by tomorrow morning, they'll probably be gone again.

Or not.

Once the fascination of this new toy wears off, I'll probably revert to my usual routine, which is to weigh myself whenever I happen to be naked in the bathroom with my glasses on. (Without them, I can barely see the scale itself, let alone the numbers.)

A friend once confided that when it comes to evaluating the mental health of her girlfriends, she had but one simple criteria. Their bathroom scale. No scale at all? Enviably sane and well-adjusted. An ordinary bathroom scale? Normal. Spa-quality scale measuring not only weight but body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone mass and total body water? Probably needs therapy.

With this in mind, I logged onto Facebook and asked my pals how often they weighed themselves.

Many told me that they just aren't into it.

"I never weigh myself."

"Doctor's office only."

"I threw away the scale years ago. My feeling is that unless you are in need of great weight loss, there is no need for a scale in your life."

"How often do I weigh myself? Like, uh, never! If I can button my jeans, dayenu."

This "by the seat of your pants" method of tracking weight was, in fact, quite popular:

"I don't need a scale. I can tell if I gain or lose weight by how my clothes fit."

"If my "Happy Weight Pants" feel too tight, I know I'm in trouble."

But my pal Suzanne wasn't buying it:

"I have a scale to keep myself honest," she told me. "I usually wear baggy clothes so if I wait till they feel tight -- it's too late."

Many of my friends, like Suzanne, weigh themselves on a regular basis. How often?

"Every morning."

"Every day!"

"Every day. Ugh."

"Every few days. It's the key to staying within a weight range."

"Too often, almost every morning, and for what? Nothing ever changes, unfortunately."

Certain multi-taskers incorporate a weight check into some other part of their routine.

"I weigh myself whenever I hit the basement to do the laundry."

"I weigh myself once a week when I go grocery shopping. My grocery store has one of those old-fashioned scales."

I did wonder for a moment about the following response:

"How often do I weigh myself? Once every 17 years!"

Why 17? Is it in accordance with some arcane algorithm? Whenever a particular comet passes the earth? Every time the Cicadas return and begin their chirping?

I could have asked, but I decided that it was more fun not to know.

So how often, according to the experts, should you weigh yourself?

It depends on what you want. If you need to lose weight, weighing yourself daily can help. One study, cited by "Prevention Magazine" in an article called (with no apparent irony) "Make Friends With Your Scale," found that people who weighed themselves each day dropped twice as many pounds as those who got on the scale once a week.

Whereas dieters who avoided the scale altogether actually gained 4 pounds.

Further, according to the National Weight Control Registry (who knew there was such a thing??) 44 percent of their members who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept them off for more than a year weigh themselves daily.

Neither study said anything about middle-aged women with brand new bathroom scales who check their weight (to the ounce!) every few minutes.

Which, for the sake of my own sanity, is probably just as well.

(This essay first appeared on Zestnow.)

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