Using a scale is an important tool to ensure you’re on the right track during any weight loss journey. Here’s what the research says about how often you should be sizing up your weight.

There are plenty of great reasons to slim down, and the good news is you do not have to lose much to realize some pretty impressive perks.

It seems that dropping just 5% of your body weight is enough to reduce blood pressure, joint pain, and heartburn, and boost energy, sleep quality, and self-esteem.

Most importantly, keeping trim fends off your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Staying at an ideal weight is critical, and the scale can be an invaluable tool to help you get there.

The essential job of self-monitoring

When it comes to improving habits, experts hype up the importance of self-monitoring.  

Self-monitoring is just a fancy way of saying being acutely aware of how your behaviors might be impacting your goals, and the science shows that people who self-monitor are better at correcting their behaviors so that they reach their goals faster.

During a weight loss journey, using a scale lets you closely track your weight in real time based on how you eat and exercise. It can let you know if you are on target, or if it is time to adjust.

Not only does this boost motivation and lead to more lost weight, it may also keep you from gaining the weight back in the future. So how often should we be checking our weight?

The case for daily weigh-ins

Time and time again, researchers are finding that those who weigh themselves daily tend to lose more weight and keep the weight off.

One recent study showed that subjects who weighed themselves every day for 6 months lost an average 20.3 lb compared to 6.8 lb among those who weighed themselves less often. As expected, daily weighers were much more engaged in weight control behaviors like reducing their daily calorie intake, cutting out snacks between meals, exercising for 30 minutes or more, and increasing daily steps.

If the thought of weighing yourself daily feels like a tall order, rest assured that any amount of self-monitoring is valuable in helping you to track your progress on your weight loss journey.

Stepping on the scale every day is not for everyone

The science may point to daily weighing as a great strategy for weight loss, but as with so many things health-related, what works for some may not work for others.

For many people, weighing every day, or even at all, can lead to real emotional distress, especially for those susceptible to disordered eating.

Some fall into the anxious, obsessive trap of fixating on a number, and when desired results do not pan out, their self-esteem, outlook, and motivation take a real hit.

For those struggling with these issues, checking weight just once or twice a week, or even stepping away from the scale entirely, may be a better plan. Sharing any related concerns you have with your healthcare provider is always the best option.

What the scale does not tell you

Dropping the pounds may be your ultimate goal, but it is important to remember that the number on the scale is just one piece of the puzzle.

It does not take into account all of the valuable progress you are making, how much energy you now have, how much sounder you are sleeping, how much calmer you feel, and how much better your clothes are fitting.

Also, the scale will not always reflect when your body composition changes for the better. Muscle weighs more than fat, so gaining muscle and losing fat may show your weight did not change.

It is easy to get hung up on the scale, but remember there is so much more to you than simply how much you weigh. Long-term healthy habits are what really count when it comes to your health and well-being.

Keeping tabs on your weight

Having a constant pulse on your weight can be a pretty bumpy ride. Weight can naturally fluctuate because the body retains water- even as much as five pounds a day - which can happen if you eat especially salty or high carb foods, if you are less active, or are about to start your menstrual cycle.

We also tend to weigh more in the fall and winter months than in the spring and summer. But if you are looking for ways to keep close tabs on your weight, consider these tips:

Consistency is key. Using the same scale, wearing the same clothes, and weighing at the same time each day will give you the most accurate results. The best time of day to weigh? Experts say first thing in the morning, before you have eaten. If you opt for a weekly weigh-in, weigh on the same day each time.

Look beyond the scale. Feeling good in your clothes is an excellent barometer to indicate you are losing weight, and measuring your waist is a great way to tell whether you have too much fat around your middle, which can lead to serious chronic diseases. Women should measure less than 35 inches around the waist while men should measure less than 40.

Remember what is most important. The scale is not the only benchmark of weight-loss success.  Celebrate well-deserved, non-weight victories along the way. Have your healthier habits led to a drop in blood pressure? Are you sticking to wholesome choices even when temptations are all around? Are you finally able to keep up with your energetic family? Focus on your hard-earned progress and feel good about how far you have come.