By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN

As a Registered Dietitian working in a Medical Weight Management program, I encounter patients every day who agonize over the number on the scale.  It is painful to witness.  I KNOW there are many other factors besides fat that show up on the scale but often my reassurance falls on deaf ears because the person is filled with shame and failure.

So what factors DO affect the weight?

  • Consistency matters: Weighing on the same scale, in the same clothes, at the same time will provide a more accurate determination of weight loss.
  • Time of day: Weighing yourself first thing in the morning (preferably after the a.m. bathroom visit) will provide a lower number because you are just coming off of a fast.
  • Water retention: Sodium and alcohol both contribute to water retention and will skew any real weight loss.
  • Muscle weighs more than Fat: The scale can’t differentiate how much of your body weight is muscle versus fat.  If you have adopted a new exercise routine you could be changing your body composition by adding more muscle.
  • Where are you in your cycle: If you are women of childbearing years, your hormones fluctuate throughout the month causing you to retain water and feel bloated.

Evidence does support that people who maintain their weight loss long term also monitor their weight on a regular basis.  It is a form of self-monitoring and accountability (1).

According to guidelines from the National Weight Control Registry, most NWCR members reported continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity.

  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Bottom line:

Weekly weigh-ins are ONLY one of  many helpful tools that can help sustain long-term weight management. Some other tools include:

  1. Checking in consistently with a weight loss counselor, coach or support group.
  2. Monitor portion sizes – use measurement tools and kitchen scales to keep portions in check.
  3. Keep track of “non-scale” victories such as clothes fitting better, making healthful choices in tempting situations, having more energy, or an improvement in lab numbers.


Wing, R. R., & Hill, J. O. (2001). Successful Weight Loss Maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 21(1), 323-341. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.21.1.323

Barbara Broggelwirth is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients.  She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.