I regularly use the scales with clients to track changes and trends in body weight. There is ample evidence on self-weighing, A systematic review of literature on self-weighing found that self-weighing can be beneficial as it can increase a person's self-awareness of current weight and weight patterns. Increased self-weighing frequency can help an individual prevent weight gain and weight patterns particularly when performed daily or weekly, without causing untoward adverse effects" (Shieh et al 2016).
Another systematic review of the literature on self-monitoring in weight loss by Burke et al concluded, that although there were methodological limitations to the studies reviewed, there was ample evidence for the consistent and significant positive relationship between self-monitoring diet, physical activity or weight and successful outcomes related to weight management.
The Body Coach then goes on to say
“Because no matter how hard you train, or how well you eat, the scales cannot measure some of the most important things when it comes your body, health and wellbeing.
Things the sad step CANNOT measure:
“So, I say throw away your scales or hit them really hard with a hammer. Focus on yourself and your journey to getting fitter and stronger. You ARE making progress every day and you are melting fat even when the sad step tells you otherwise. So be consistent, work hard and don't give up. Fat loss is a journey not a race.”
Now I agree with this to a certain extent as the scale cannot measure those things. What I would recommend is not to just use the scale by itself to track progress. Using the scales is quick and easy, but it should be used alongside some other method to track results/changes to get a better indicator of progress, you could pick others such as such as-
What is often also overlooked when people weigh themselves is the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
When someone tries to slim down, the goal is not usually to lose weight—it’s specifically to lose fat. Although slow progress on the scale may be frustrating, changes in the mirror and how you are feeling can be better than what the scale suggests. But I do think monitoring weight can be beneficial to track progress.
What you can get with going on the scale now and again, you can see roughly where you are in terms of progress and adjust your food intake or activity levels accordingly. Scales going up? Maybe time to adjust food intake or activity levels accordingly.
The Sad Step/Scales- The evidence about the psychological impact to weighing yourself?
Self-weighing has been associated with weight loss, there is mixed evidence regarding the psychological impact of this behaviour. Conflicting views as to the helpfulness or harmfulness of self-weighing for the control of body weight have been presented in the fields of obesity and eating disorders. Because self-weighing is increasingly being considered as an intervention to promote weight loss or prevent weight gain, it is timely to consider unintended psychological outcomes and behavioural correlates of this behaviour.
A literature review by Pacanowski et al stated that though self-weighing has shown promise in aiding weight control, the degree to which weight loss, and not self-weighing, affects psychological outcomes is not clear. Further assessment of psychological outcomes in self-weighing research may be warranted, as this review suggests the potential for adverse effects of self-weighing in some individuals.
Benn et al carried out a meta-analysis the psychological impact of self-weighing. The findings suggest that, for the most part, self-weighing is not associated with adverse psychological outcomes. However, in some cases the association between self-weighing and psychological outcomes may be more negative than in others. However, the psychological impact of such information may diminish over time as it becomes less surprising.
Therefore, although self-weighing is, for the most part, not psychologically aversive, it is possible that in some circumstances and among some individuals self-weighing can be problematic.
LaRose et al. conducted a study on daily self-weighing within a lifestyle intervention and the impact on disordered eating symptoms. One-hundred and seventy-eight adults were enrolled in a randomized trial. The trial concluded that daily self-weighing did not appear to be related to increased disordered eating behaviour and was associated with better weight loss outcomes.
When the problems may start....
Sometimes the trouble starts when people start getting obsessed with the scales and the number without taking other things into consideration. What can happen is people can step on the scales each day or even multiple times in a day and start worrying about short term fluctuations, which can naturally occur and don't really mean anything (how many times you have been to the toilet, what you have eaten that day, water weight, salt intake, etc. can all play a part in short term weight fluctuations).
Weight might go up slightly one day because of something you ate or even toilet frequncy, and the person worries unnecessarily. One thing to also note is that for female’s measurements can be skewed by changes in water weight though the menstrual cycle.
How and When
A good gage of where you are with your body weight is take an average measurement of weigh over a 7-day span or at very least compare day for day at the same time of day i.e.-
Monday to Monday or Friday to Friday.
For example, no point in comparing weight on a Monday and a Friday as many people will eat or drink more over the weekend so will probably gain a little weight. by the Monday then come down again by the Friday. By being consistent with times you are weighing yourself or by taking a 7 day average, it can help take out those random fluctuations.
There is evidence that self-weighing can be beneficial as it can increase a person's self-awareness of current weight and weight patterns and although self-weighing is, for the most part, not psychologically aversive, it is possible that in some circumstances and among some individuals self-weighing can be problematic.
Self-weighing can be an effective tool for weight control because it allows people to monitor their progress, detect changes in their weight, and apply corrective action if needed. One reason why self-weighing may have a negative effect on psychological outcomes is that it draws attention to the discrepancy between desired and current weight and therefore they may get distressed. In the most part though, self-weighing has been found not psychologically aversive.
What I would recommend is if you are weighing yourself is to use it alongside something else that can give you a better overall indicator of your progress and that whatever measurement method you decide to use, just be consistent about it.
A note on the Body Coach
This end bit has been added on. I originally never intended to write it but I think it is an important piece to add.
The Body Coach is a guy who has many, many followers and people hang onto every word that he says. He is a good-looking guy who has a cheery-cheeky-chappy image that the media laps up. I am now at the point i at the point in thinking though.
There is so much misinformation, lack of critical thinking on his part, with blanket statements with information that is dulled down without any context and can send people on the wrong path. Because he is so popular, and he is the media darling it can be downright harmful, confusing and disempowering for many people.
Here are some of the messages and statements that are wrong or just blanket statements without context that confuse things include.
1). He states about protein powder- “Rule number 1, Real food burns fat, not dust!”
Honestly WTF does this even mean? It is such a confusing statement to make. Protein powders are just derived from different food sources including- rice, egg, milk, pea, hemp, soy. For example whey protein is derived from milk. Protein powders are fine and can be used in conjunction with a proper diet.
Making statements such as "real food burns fat, not dust" Is just silly, confusing and misleading.
2) In a Q & A some female said “I do cross fit 3-4 x per week but haven’t lost a gram” His response without probing further…….. “You might be undereating”
Mind boggles with statement like that. Again, blanket statements. No further questions asked from him about the individual.
The main thing is it will not be because she is undereating. The law of thermodynamic and energy balance! She needs to consume less calories than she expends!
Again this is confusing people. I have heard people think that the reason they are not losing weight is because they are not eating enough because of statements like this. The reason people wont be losing weight will not be because they are not eating enough. The reason is they are not in a calorie deficit! Making wrong food choices or under reporting food intake.
3) The slogan “Eat More, Move Less. Now I think the issue many have with the marketing of this message is the broad statement which was advertised on buses, posters, media etc.
There are many of the general public that saw the tagline took it too literally and were lead to believe that they had to eat more or exercise less to lose weight. I have literally heard conversations where people were saying the reason they are not losing weight is because they are not eating enough and not getting the concept behind it (volume, satiety etc). People like the idea that it is easy and only have to work out 15 mins a day and can eat more. But 15 mins isn't magical and the after burn effect is so overplayed by The Body Coach. The note on not eating more is also confusing many.
4) In an interview on The This Morning program he states- “People don’t realise that they can eat so much more food than they think and if you do 10 to 15 minutes of high intensity exercise you can enjoy more food, so its going to be more sustainable”
Again, this is just a blanket statement without any context and is more likely to confuse people. If people are looking to lose weight, they must be in a calorie deficit. HIIT training isn’t magical, it wont just melt fat as he often tells people. It wont burn as many calories as he implies or give you that "after burn effect".
The danger is people take statements like this literally. There are so many factors that come into play when people are dieting and statements like this are irresponsible.
5) His views on calories- this could be an entirely new blog alone. Again, he makes blanket statement “counting calories is an old school-outdated approach to nutrition” and he does not list calories of his recipies (no wonder have you seen the calorie content of some of his meals!). Counting calories do work for some people, if it helps them stay in a calorie deficit.
To lose weight you must expend more calories than you consume- you must be in a calorie deficit. It does not matter how much of it is "healthy fats" there is no magical macro combination, it wont matter that macro combination if you are not in a calorie deficit. Certainly some foods or combinations of foods are better at keeping you fuller for longer (notice I said foods not calories), which can help you consume less calories, which helps you lose fat.
I also noted that he says about his plan. "when you sign up you fill out a questionnaire and we create a tailored plan and calculate your portions" So Mr Wicks does that not mean your team calculate the individuals calories?? or is it guess work on how much a person eats?? hhmmmm
6) Throw away the scales- Again another blanket statement and lack of context. As we have seen using the scales to gauge progress can help people with weight loss. Might not be suitable for everyone but it can help many people. It is irresponsible to just make a broad statement like "it is the worst measure of success you can possible get and it’s time you threw them out the window" sure it may not work for some people, but it does work for many others and can be a useful tool when dieting.
The last bit of this article went off in a bit of a tangent, which never meant to. However I believe it to be important. Joe Wicks has so many followers and a vast media presence, he ticks all the boxes for being a media star. What he says seems to go unchallenged. However a lot of the statements and advice he gives out are misleading, wrong or lack evidence and can end up doing more harm than good. He is right, fat loss is a journey and not a race. But when people give out misleading advice it can make their journey a lot harder and even get them lost.
It would be better to give out good solid advice it can help empower people to make the best choices for them, that can help them achieve their goal instead.
Jamie Miller- Personal Trainer
UK Fitness Personal Training
Fitness, Nutrition & Personal Training