Women Who Weigh Selves Daily Cause Higher Rates of Depression, Anxiety
The alarm clock rings, a mad dash to the bathroom ensues, and after a hurried and mandatory tooth brushing, out comes the scale. Not even a sip of water is allowed to pass down the throat because even a tiny drop might up the number and ruin everything. Stripped down to skivvies, armies of young women weigh themselves, first thing every morning. This hardly-innocuous ritual, as reliable as the alarm clock, will set the tone for the entire day, sometimes for better but often, for worse.
The Tyranny of the Scale
Daily weighing, particularly for young women but also for young men, can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. According to a large study, reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, daily weighing can have serious, even harmful consequences and may even be categorized as obsessive compulsive behavior, in some individuals.
The longitudinal study, Self-Weighing Throughout Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Implications for Well-Being, assessed daily weighing behavior and its effect on 1,868 adolescents and young adults, three times over the course of 10 years. At each assessment, daily self-weighing behavior was found to negatively impact self-esteem in young women and concerns about weight in both sexes. Women also showed less satisfaction in over-all body image and feelings of depression.
When Numbers Lie
Daily weighing can be deceiving, as weight, particularly in women during their reproductive years, fluctuates naturally. A few pounds up or down from day-to-day are normal and common. For this reason, The Mayo Clinic Diet Book recommends weighing yourself no more than two times per week and many weight loss programs, such as Weight Watchers, recommend once-a-week weighing.
When daily weighing becomes a habit, anxiety and frustration are not uncommon. For those who can’t get off the scale long term, even more severe issues may manifest.
The Effect of Daily Weighing Over Time
According to the study, there are potential, harmful consequences associated with this behavior, which should be considered, even in those who require weight loss for health reasons. These include long-term depression, negative feelings about body image and lowered feelings of self-worth.
The study’s researchers suggest exploration of the motivations behind daily weighing by a clinician as an appropriate action. It may also help to throw out the scale.
Letting Go of the Number
Knowing what you weigh is not necessarily a bad thing. Weighing yourself every single day and making decisions about yourself and your self-worth based on that number, is.
If the desire to weigh yourself every day is so great that you can’t fight it, talking to a professional can help, as can some behavior modification techniques. It may also help to spend those first waking minutes meditating or relaxing instead of running for the weighing scale.
Your weight is important, as it is one gauge of overall health, but it is important to remember that numbers can lie. If you eat well and exercise regularly, you may be more able to relax and feel good about yourself without knowing what you weigh or even, in spite of it.