What You Need to Know About Scales
More weighing = more weight loss. A 2016 study found that people who engaged more with their digital scale lost the greatest amount of weight. The scales used for the test were internet-enabled, uploading the weight data to a web-based community of fellow dieters. The people who weighed themselves more regularly had a higher chance of weight loss, and they lost more weight than those who used regular scales or didn't weigh themselves regularly.
Weighing yourself daily works. A 2015 study found that weighing yourself daily and tracking the results can have a huge effect on weight loss. Not only did the weighing and self-tracking lead to better initial results, but the people who lost weight were better able to keep the weight off for the two years following the test.
No less than once a week! In a 2014 study, it was found that people who weighed themselves at least once a day had a higher chance of weight loss, but those who weighed themselves less than once a week were more prone to weight gain.
Scales aren't the only indicator of fitness. While it's easy to use scales to track weight loss, one 2007 study found that measuring body fat (using a measuring tape) is the better way to predict cardiovascular risk. Weight is less important than body fat/BMI when analyzing health and fitness overall. Another 2017 study supported this statement, indicating that waist circumference is more important than overall body weight.
There is such a thing as weighing yourself TOO OFTEN. One article in The Guardian examined what happened when people weigh themselves every hour, rather than daily. The test subject was more prone to depression and discouragement because their weight fluctuated so much.
Digital scales are surprisingly accurate. Many people have complained that their scale isn't accurate or gives them widely varying results. One 2013 study took a closer look at this and found the reverse to be true. Out of 18 analog scales and 43 digital scales analyzed, it was discovered that digital scales tended to be more accurate. In fact, there was only a 0.5% margin of error with digital scales, far smaller than the analog scales.
Soon, scales may be able to measure diseases. Medical-grade scales may soon be coming to clinics near you, thanks to a 2017 study. A team of scientists from the Kaunas University of Technology are developing a scale that can monitor your health and alert you to potentially dangerous problems, including cardiac arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure.
If used correctly, digital scales can help you to stay on top of your weight loss, as the above-mentioned studies prove. Stepping on the scale daily serves as a reminder that you need to eat right, exercise, and make healthy choices. In the end, the simple act of weighing yourself can be enough encouragement to keep up with your fitness efforts.
Types of Scales to Consider
Not all bathroom scales are built equal! It's important that you understand the various types of scales you have to work with:
Analog scale – This is essentially a spring-loaded scale that uses a dial that turns when you step on it. As one of the above-mentioned studies indicated, analog scales are NOT the most reliable. In fact, that study found that the scales tended to be set to 0.95 kg instead of zero. You can find a wide variety of analog scales sold online, and they're usually significantly cheaper than a digital scale—anywhere from $3 to $10.
Digital Bodyweight Scale – This is the classic modern scale, one made using digital sensors to calculate your weight. The results of your weigh-in are displayed on an LCD screen, and you usually have the option to switch between pounds and kilograms. The results are measured to within 0.20 pounds or 0.10 kilograms, and you get fairly accurate, precise readings from a digital scale.
Many digital scales come with other fancy features (see the next section), but you can expect to pay from $5 to $15 for a simple, no-frills scale that only measures bodyweight. If you want to measure body fat percentage, you'll need a fancier scale—one that costs upwards of $10 to $20.
These are the two most common types of scales you can buy to use in your bathroom. However, there is one more option to consider:
Balance Scale – This is the type of scale you'll usually see at gyms, fitness clubs, and doctor's offices. The scale uses a platform and a system of weights to take your measurement. The upright balancing mechanism gives you very accurate results, but not the most precise (you have to guess more or less where your weight is). Balance scales are by far the most accurate, but the lack of digital readings means you don't get precise information.
Balance scales are also much larger than your average bathroom scale, and weigh A LOT. They're not the most practical to use at home, which is why most people opt for a simple digital or analog floor scale.
Scale Buying Guide
When planning to buy a scale, here are the things you need to take into account:
Weight Limit – Yes, ALL scales have a weight limit. Most analog scales only go as high as 299 pounds, while digital scales tend to have a weight limit upwards of 350 pounds. Be sure to check the weight limit on your scale to make sure it can handle your weight. If you're too heavy for the scale, it won't deliver accurate readings.
Accuracy – The more accurate the scale, the more consistent the readings. Cheaper scales will often give you different readings from one weigh-in to the next, even if you weigh yourself seconds apart. To get a truly accurate measurement, you need to find a digital scale that provides precision weighing using sensitive digital sensors. You MUST read user reviews to find out whether or not a scale is accurate.
LCD Display – The LCD screen will display the numbers as it measures your weight, but it will also display other measures (body fat, muscle mass, etc.). Digital scales allow you to change settings (kilos to pounds and vice versa, measuring body fat), and that is done via the LCD screen. Some screens light up in the dark when you step on them, allowing you to weigh yourself even in a dark bathroom. A large LCD screen is always easier to see, but a smaller screen could give you a larger weighing platform or a smaller scale overall.
Body Fat/Muscle Mass/Water Weight Measurement – This is a VERY handy feature to consider when shopping for a digital scale. As mentioned above, weight isn't the only measure of fitness. You also want to measure your body fat so you can know how much fat to lose to be truly "healthy" or "fit". Measuring lean muscle mass helps you know what your BMI is, and measuring water weight enables you to make accurate body fat calculations. You'll usually end up paying more for the high-end scales that allow you to track these other body metrics.
Size – The size of the scale is something to consider when shopping. If you have limited bathroom space, you need a scale that takes up less floor space. A heavy, bulky scale may be too unwieldy to store beneath your sink, whereas a lightweight, sleek scale is easy to keep out of the way.
Durability – Many digital scales are made with a tempered glass surface, which can be a bit weaker than the old steel cases used for analog scales. Tempered glass is shatter-resistant but not shatterproof, especially in extreme weather environments. For very heavy users, it may be better to find a scale made from aluminum or steel rather than tempered glass.
Connectivity – Being able to connect your digital scale with your computer or smartphone allows you to track your weight. Fitness tracking apps and software have proven effective at encouraging weight loss over time. Wi-Fi-enabled scales connect to the internet and your devices to upload the data directly into your fitness tracking program.
User Profiles – Some scales come with the option of "user profiles", multiple stored profiles for anywhere from 2-8 people. The profiles store past weigh-in information, and they display the amount of weight gained or lost since last weigh-in, over the last week, or even in the last month. This is a very handy feature for tracking weight loss progress.
Solar Power – Some bathroom scales integrate solar power along with the regular bathroom power. This is an excellent feature to consider if you want to reduce battery usage. As long as your bathroom gets enough direct sunlight, you can get excellent battery life from your scale.
Style – Your scale should match the décor of your bathroom. Consider the interior decoration of your bathroom—modern, homey, cozy, contemporary, minimalistic, etc.—and find a scale that enhances and complements the décor.
Non-Slip Feet – The surface of the scale should be non-slip, but the legs/feet of the scale should also be made non-slip. The last thing you want is for the scale to slide out from under you as you step on it. Most scales are made with rubber feet that keep it securely in place.
Measurement Increments – Most analog scales measure your weight in increments of 0.2 pounds. You can find digital scales that offer measurements in pounds (0.2 pounds), ounces (2 ounces), or kilograms (0.1 kilograms). Smaller increments mean more accurate weight measurement.
How to Weigh Yourself Accurately
Here's how to ensure you get the most accurate measurements every time you weigh yourself:
- Calibrate the scale. Make sure it's set to proper 0, especially on analog scales. If it's not properly calibrated, you could up with inaccurate readings. You'll need to calibrate it every time you move it.
- Weigh yourself first thing in the morning. You may end up with varying results if you measure yourself throughout the day, depending on your eating and drinking habits. But first thing in the morning, you've had a whole night to digest and eliminate wastes. After you've had your morning pee, hit the scale to get an accurate measurement.
- Weigh yourself naked. Or, as close to naked as possible. Clothes may not weigh much, but they can tip the scales against you. Weighing yourself naked gives you the most accurate results.
- Weigh yourself daily. At least once a day, if you want to keep up with your fitness efforts. A daily weigh-in is enough to keep you conscious of the things you eat and drink throughout the day, as well as your exercise and activity habits.
- Weigh yourself on a solid, balanced, even surface. If the scale is on an uneven floor, it could provide inaccurate readings from the digital sensors. Try to set it on a single large bathroom tile, or a section of floor you know is as flat as possible. Avoid carpets, as the soft surface can fool the sensors. Hardwood or tile floors are the best for accurate weigh-ins.
- Weigh yourself hands-free. Don't lean on the wall, the sink, or a cupboard for support. Step onto the scale and let your hands hang down by your side. Leaning or holding onto something could reduce the weight on the scale, leading to an inaccurate measurement.
- Wait until the reading is delivered. On analog scales, wait until the dial stops moving and the needle is pointing to one number. On digital scales, wait until the LCD screen displays the number. DO NOT MOVE while waiting for the display!
If you follow these tips, you'll get the most accurate reading possible every time you step on that scale.