Yet Another Reason To Stop Weighing Yourself

Photographed by Fernanda Silva.
We all want to feel (and be!) healthy, but those wellness goals don't need to be measured in pounds. And as it turns out, simply weighing ourselves could backfire on our health, suggests a new study.

The research, published online this week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, tracked how often 1,868 participants weighed themselves and how they felt about it, including feelings of depression and levels of self-esteem. All of the subjects were middle and high school students (both boys and girls) taking part in a 10-year study.

Results showed that, as we might expect, participants of both genders who were more concerned about weight were also more likely to weigh themselves frequently. However, among female participants, this increase in self-weighing also came with significantly lower self-esteem, decreased satisfaction with their bodies, and increased symptoms of depression.

Of course, these results are correlations and don't necessarily mean that tracking your own weight causes those negative psychological effects. But, as we've seen before, simply being reminded of weight or body image stereotypes can prime us to make unhealthy choices and feel bad about ourselves. Because weighing yourself — unlike skipping meals or putting yourself down in conversation — is seen as socially acceptable, it may go unchecked or unquestioned for longer (by you or by others), and could therefore be an insidious marker of unhealthy feelings and habits.

But it's not all bad: Because of that lack of social stigma, "adolescents or young adults may feel more comfortable reporting to their primary care provider information about how often they weigh themselves," the authors write, "compared with discussing how depressed they feel or responding to questions about self-esteem." So asking about weighing habits could be an easy way in to more difficult conversations.

As we've written before, we're not big fans of weight-based goals here at R29. This means we support finding a way to track health progress without a scale. Yours could be working toward deadlifting a certain weight, feeling more confident in your own skin, or finding creative ways to get more veggies into your meals. Whatever your goal is, it just has to be yours.

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