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Weigh In Once a Week or You'll Gain Weight

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Stepping on the scale is common among dieters, but how often should you actually weigh yourself?
Air Date: 3/3/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: John P. Higgins, MD
John HigginsJohn P. Higgins MD, MBA (Hons), MPHIL, FACC, FACP, FAHA, FACSM, FASNC, FSGC, is a sports cardiologist for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the Harris Health System. His research interests include the effects of energy beverages on the body, and screening for underlying cardiovascular abnormalities in 12-year-olds (sixth graders), and steroid effects on the cardiovascular system.
Weigh In Once a Week or You'll Gain Weight
A new study showed that the more frequently dieters weighed themselves, the more weight they lost. The study also showed that if participants went more than a week without weighing themselves, they gained weight.

The lesson here? Weigh yourself at least once a week if you wish to lose weight, and contrary to what some experts say, weighing yourself every day may help you stay on track.

Listen in to John P. Higgins, MD, as he discusses the importance of weighing yourself as part of your weight loss approach.

RadioMD Presents:Train Your Body | Original Air Date: March 3, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS

RadioMD. Your trainer Melanie Cole is here to motivate and help you perform. It's time now for Train Your Body.

MELANIE: Sometimes I'm afraid to step on the scale, but for the most part, and when I was in Weight Watchers, it was something that I did pretty often. Sometimes every day. Sometimes every other day. Some people will say, "Oh, it's not about how much you weight, it's about how your clothes feel or how you feel," but does weighing yourself and keeping that accountability actually help you to lose weight? Or, is it a detraction or a deterrent?

My guest is fan favorite, Dr. John Higgins, sports cardiologist at the U.T. Science Center in Houston.

So, Dr. Higgins, weighing yourself or not. Are you a believer in stepping on the scale? What's up?

DR. HIGGINS: Yes, Melanie, I definitely am. I think it speaks to the fact that any time we want to make some sort of behavior change or when we have a person that has something that they want to change about themselves, the first thing we need to find out is, "Okay, where am I know?" with this person and then, "Where do I want to get to?" and then we kind of figure out the pathway there. We frequently have to check in along that journey to make sure they are on track; they're heading in the right direction. Or if they go off track, that we can get them back on track with some encouragement and some other helpful hints. It's never a direct straight line from "A" to "B", Melanie, especially when there's a lot of snow outside and you're in your car.

MELANIE: Well, absolutely with the ice storms we've got going.


MELANIE: So, okay. So, if we talk about getting on the scale, how often a week would you like us to do that? Do you advise writing that number down just kind of keeping it in your head? I mean, some people say that that turns you into a little bit of an OCD person with that scale and, Dr. Higgins, as a woman--and you probably know nothing about this, because you are not a woman--


MELANIE: But, as a woman, we go up and down on the scale, sometimes by the minute. I'm serious. I could step on the scale and be 5 pounds up before my period and step on the scale after it's done and be 2 more pounds up or 4 pounds down. I mean, seriously, by the minute the scale can change. So, how do we not keep it from turning us into a psychopath?

DR. HIGGINS: Yes. No, that's is a great question, Melanie, and I think you can become overly obsessed and I've seen people that tell me they're weighing themselves in the morning, at noon time, lunch time, and they're trying to make changes during the day and I think that can become crazy and there are certain things you can't control. As you mentioned, Melanie, I mean, particularly with women, you know at different times during the month for pre-menopausal women, fluid retention and all sorts of things are out of your control, so I agree with you that you can overdo this.

But, the interesting thing about this study that came out recently, what they did is they looked at a group of about 40 or so overweight folks and they typically had BMI's over 25 and that's considered overweight and they looked at how often they weighed themselves during a whole year. They just kind of did this without...I mean, they didn't tell them they were doing a study. They basically just looked and saw what happened to their weight over the year.

The interesting thing that came out of this was the more regularly and frequently the person checked their weight, the greater their weight loss was over time. So, now when they pulled back and they looked at those people that actually gained weight over the year, they found that they had more than a week between their weighings that they were checking.


DR. HIGGINS: So, in other words, they weren't checking their weight very often.

MELANIE: And, that's true. I know this because when I stop because I'm afraid, because I know I've had a bad weekend of margaritas or I've eaten pizza or some hideous thing like that, I am afraid to step on the scale, so I don't. Then, I get on and then I'm like, "Whoa! Wait a minute!" So, basically, when people stopped doing it...

Now, also, Dr. Higgins, this is something that Weight Watchers has known for years because weighing in is something you have to do for these programs and when we used to have to weigh in, I'm telling you, for those 4 days before you weight in, you are like drinking water and eating lettuce.


MELANIE: And just being so, so good and then, you go to that weigh in, you pee 20 times before it and so, I mean, I get it. If you don't weigh yourself, it kind of goes out of your mind. So, it's like out of sight, out of mind, right?

DR. HIGGINS: Yes. No. Exactly right, Melanie and even to the point now where there are these, I would call them "smart scales" that you can get and they're available at most online stores where kind of a little bit like we've talked on the show before about those devices—the activity measuring devices, like FitBit and all that. All these scales now, they will sync with your apps and they will tell you if you're going too far up. Now, the nice thing about these smart scales speaks to the point that you were talking about before, Melanie, that they realize that peoples' weight varies during the day and, in fact, even during the weekdays. In fact, in this study, they had a very interesting finding. They found that on Wednesday, peoples' weight is the lowest. So, hump day is a great day to weigh yourself.

MELANIE: You know what? I can see that because, first of all, Mondays is the worst. Monday sucks.

DR. HIGGINS: Yes. Oh, yes.

MELANIE: Because you've had your weekend.

DR. HIGGINS: The weekend, yes.

MELANIE: And, Sunday night comfort food dinner.

DR. HIGGINS: Yes. Yes.

MELANIE: All those kinds of things. And then, by Wednesday, maybe it's been the middle of the week, you've had your chance to kind of get yourself back in, so every Monday is kind of your renewing start day.

So, the smart scales. I'm dreading the day the scales talk back to you and say, "Uh oh, you're up 2 pounds again."


MELANIE: What role do you think, Dr. Higgins, that hormones and water play, because, you know, I'm a trainer and, Dr. Higgins, people say to me, "Oh, I gained 3 pounds," and I'm like, "You didn't eat 9,000 calories yesterday. It's water retention."


MELANIE: How do we look at that scale and what's up and what's down and know what's real? We only have a minute or two left, but how do we look at those numbers? Tell us about that.

DR. HIGGINS: Yes. I think this speaks to the fact that, Melanie, we need better ways at monitoring our calorie input and some of the new apps are doing that, but also going along with these smart scales. So, the old-fashioned scale was just, "Okay, you're "X" pounds, "X" kilograms." These smart scales now, they are measuring the resistance of the body tissue, so they're able to give you a better idea of your percentage of body fat; your percentage of body fluid and so some of these smarter scales are now adjusting and also telling you what your dry weight is. So, they kind of compensate for the water.

The nice thing about those scales, too, Melanie is they're also, most of them have Bluetooth capability and they are uploading the data to your smart phone and they're sending you reports, weekly reports, telling you where you are, etc. So, it's not so much that you have to get on the scale and do a lot of work yourself. It looks like these are taking care of a lot of that. They're syncing with your other apps like Fitocracy, RunTastic and those sort of apps and they're also communicating with you when they start seeing a major problem—not a minor problem. Not a minor fluctuation that they think is just from fluid, but a genuine calorie expenditure mismatch which is resulting in your true weight gain.

MELANIE: That's great and that's a great wrap up place, here, Dr. Higgins, because as a woman, we look at those scales, we look at the number and if it can start to sort of disseminate the difference between that water weight that women have got--we all know we get it—and the weight that's actually calories that you got from the Lumelnatti's pizza that you ate last week and the exercise you didn't do, well then, that is a great way for us to keep track so it's down now. We know that weighing yourself does help keep you accountable. It does help keep you in check and keep your weight under control. So, ladies, you know, you heard it here. You've got to weigh yourself. It keeps you accountable, and now, with all the apps, your smart scales can sync in and it can give us more things to be crazy about.

But it might just work to help us keep our weight under control.

You're listening to RadioMD. The show is Train Your Body – Motivate and Perform with the American College of Sports Medicine right here on RadioMD. I'm Melanie Cole.

Thanks for listening and stay well.