Daily Weighing May Promote More Weight Loss

Elina Helander, PhD Personal Health Informatics Department of Signal Processing Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, FinlandMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Elina Helander, PhD
Personal Health Informatics
Department of Signal Processing
Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Helander: Frequent or at least regular self-weighing is a part of behavioral therapy in many weight programs. However, self-weighing frequency typically varies over time. We analyzed almost 3,000 weight observations from 40 overweight individuals that participated in a 1-year health promotion program. These individuals were instructed to weigh themselves daily but eventually had varying self-weighing frequencies. We examined how different self-weighing frequencies of the same individual were linked with weight changes.

We found that weight loss generally occurred during daily weighing. When there were longer breaks in self-weighing such as one month or more, there was a risk of weight gain.  We also computed a theoretical minimum self-weighing frequency for having no weight gain that was 5.8 days in our study. That corresponds approximately weekly weighing.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Helander: Our study suggests that people attempting to lose weight should weigh themselves daily. Or if they attempt to maintain their weight it would be important to self-weigh weekly and based on our previous study, at the same weekday.

When people know that they have gained weight, they do not want to step in the scale. However, it is not clear whether the changes in weight or changes in self-weighing frequency occur first. Missing self-weighing data in studies with self-monitoring component may indicate weight gain. Detecting risky periods when weight might start to increase would be important in preventing significant weight gain.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Helander: Different people might benefit from different self-weighing strategies. Many people already use weight scales that automatically upload measurements to a web server. This would be an interesting resource to discover especially in the context of weight loss maintenance.

Citation:
Are Breaks in Daily Self-Weighing Associated with Weight Gain?

Elina E. Helander, Anna-Leena Vuorinen, Brian Wansink, Ilkka K. J. Korhonen

Published: November 14, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113164