Stepping on the scales at home can be frustrating for many people. Body weight can fluctuate throughout the day, and the scales may show higher or lower numbers depending on the time of day when a person uses them.
Scales can serve as a guide to weight loss. One study showed that people who weighed themselves six to seven times a week instead of only once a week showed an increase in weekly weight loss.
However, weight is not the only indicator of health. The American Heart Association (AHA) say that a person should not get “too hung up on the number.” A person’s fluid intake, activity level, and hormones can all influence the number on the scales even if they weigh themselves at the same time each day.
Keep reading for more information on the best and worst time to measure weight and tips on getting an accurate weight.
The exact time that a person weighs themselves each day is less important than the consistency. To track weight loss or weight gain, people should always weigh themselves at roughly the same time of the day.
Weight can fluctuate throughout the day. A person will get a less accurate measurement of progress if they use the scale at different times on different days.
One of the best times for people to weigh themselves is in the morning, following urination. The reasons for this include:
- exercise or other physical activity will not affect the number
- it has likely been many hours since the last meal or snack
- it can become a part of a person’s morning routine
Consistency is key. If first thing in the morning does not work for a person, they should pick a more suitable time of the day and stick to it.
Although first thing in the morning, after urination, may be the best time to measure weight, there is no single worst time. However, a person may wish to avoid stepping on the scales after certain activities that can throw off the measured weight. Examples include:
- immediately or closely after a large meal
- after drinking a large amount of liquid
- following a workout or physical activity
A person should also avoid weighing themselves on the days before their period. During the week leading up to menstruation, hormones cause fluctuations in weight. These fluctuations can temporarily affect weight measurements.
Consistency in measuring weight applies not only to time but also to many other factors.
For example, some scales will be more accurate than others. People can research the scales for good reviews and consider asking for recommendations from a healthcare professional, a personal trainer, or a knowledgeable friend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), digital scales are more accurate, and people should avoid using spring-loaded bathroom scales.
The CDC recommend placing the scales on firm, level flooring, such as tile or wood. A person should avoid placing the scales on carpet or uneven flooring, as this will not provide an accurate measurement.
A person should stand with both feet in the center of the scales and remain as still as possible when measuring weight. They should record their weight to the nearest decimal point.
People should then follow the manufacturer’s instructions to calibrate the scales. Doing this means that the scales will show zero when they turn on and no one is standing on them.
For the most accurate results, it is important to use only one set of scales.
Even if the calibration is inaccurate, by consistently using the same scales, a person will be able to track changes in their weight accurately. If they were to use another set of scales, any changes in the measurement may not be a true representation of weight change.
A person should avoid weighing themselves at gyms, health clubs, and other fitness facilities. Although the scales may be accurate, there are more variables that are hard to control, such as the time of the day, activity level, and clothing choices.
Even if a person calibrates equipment, it may not always be accurate in presenting weight measurement. A 2017 study involving scales at 27 child health clinics showed that only 16 of 152 scales were 100% correct.
However, by using the same scales, a person should still be able to track weight changes over time.
When measuring weight, a person wants to know their own weight, without the weight of their clothing. Therefore, for an accurate weight measurement, a person should stand on the scales naked.
If that is not possible, a person should try to be consistent in their clothing. For example, they can wear the same shoes each time they weigh themselves.
It is important to note that the scales will also measure any recently consumed food or liquid. A person will typically weigh more after eating and less after exercise due to water loss through sweating.
This factor is another reason why the best time for a person to weigh themselves is first thing in the morning, as this will be before they have eaten or exercised. For many people, measuring their weight in the morning also makes it convenient to strip down and step onto the scales.
For accurate weight measurement, consistency is key.
Morning is usually the best and most accurate time to measure weight. If this timing is not possible, a person should weigh themselves at the same time each day.
A person should also control as many factors as possible, including the shoes and clothes that they are wearing and the scales that they are using.
People should only use weight loss or gain as a guide and avoid becoming fixated on the number on the scales. Some natural fluctuation in weight is normal. However, if weight gain or loss is causing concern, a person should talk to their doctor.