As I was getting off the digital scale in our bathroom the other day, my wife entered, a bemused look on her face.
“What?” I asked.
“Why do you do that every day?” She responded. “They say you should only weigh yourself once a week”
Now, I assumed when she said “they,” that she was referring to medical experts. And, while I trust my wife, my natural inclination as a former journalist is to check things out.
Since maintaining a healthy weight is something that is important to all people over 60, men and women, I wanted to share my findings with you here.
After my conversation with my wife, I got dressed, grabbed my iPad and googled the phrase “Is it better to weigh yourself daily or once a week?”
I found out my wife was right… and she was wrong.
Apparently, when it comes to the question of weigh-ins, it all depends on who the “they” is. And sometimes even the same “theys” seem to be in dispute with themselves.
For example, an article in Science Daily was headlined “Weighing yourself daily can tip the scales in your favor.” However, an article, also from Science Daily, listed immediately below and written just six months earlier, proclaimed “Weigh-in just once a week or you’ll gain weight.”
Since I was now determined to find out the correct answer to this apparent weigh-in controversy, I quickly came to realize that a good portion of my morning would be devoted to research.
But before I highlight my findings for you, let me offer some personal background.
Both my wife and I are in our mid-60s. Neither of us is excessively vain and, for the most part, we are quite content with ourselves at this point in the aging process.
However, both of us would like to lose 10-12 pounds this year for health and appearance reasons.
We are active, walk daily, and, to a certain extent watch what we eat, but don’t have a vigorous exercise program.
As we’ve aged, we’ve obviously been finding that it’s easier to put on pounds and much harder to take them off.
So I began my research there – why do we tend to put on weight as we age?
Medical experts cite the following…
First, usually there is a downward shift in the number of calories you spend in daily living or exercising as you get older.
In addition, changes in body composition are a natural part of aging. You tend to lose muscle, partly because your muscle cells just don’t repair themselves the way they used to. This means you lose muscle mass. And, since muscle tissue does a lot of the metabolic work that uses up calories, the loss of such tissue as you get older means you’ll be burning fewer calories than you used to.
Beyond this, natural dips in hormone production – such as estrogen and testosterone – also contribute to loss of muscle mass. And, it’s this loss of muscle mass that experts are referring to when they say your metabolic rate gets slower as you get older. In fact, most people find their metabolic rate drops about 10 percent every decade, meaning it is easier to put on weight.
Finally, while you lose muscle tissue, you begin picking up fat, which of course, also can lead to weight gain.
That initial research led to looking for answers to my next question – so what should we be doing if we’re in our 60s, want to lose weight, and then keep it off?
Here again most experts agree. No matter what your age, you should be following the 4 golden rules of weight loss:
- Burn more calories (with activities, exercise, etc.) than you eat or drink.
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy and keep meat and poultry lean.
- Limit empty calories like sugars and foods that offer little or no nutritional value.
- Avoid fad diets because the results obtained usually don’t last.
Experts also agreed that no matter what your age, the best method of measuring if your chosen way to maintain or lose weight is successful is to weigh yourself regularly on a scale.
Most suggested thinking of a scale not as a measuring instrument, but as a directional tool like a compass. The numbers on the scale can tell you if you are going in the right direction or need to find a new path.
So now, equipped with some real information, I was ready to circle back to our original question – is it better to weigh yourself daily or weekly?
Because I already knew one article wouldn’t provide the answer, and I didn’t have time to examine the thousands and thousands of responses from my Google query, I decided to peruse the first 12 articles listed on the topic.
I picked 12 as numerically symmetric since I wanted to lose 12 pounds. I also was fairly certain that number should provide enough details for me to make an informed decision.
And what did I decide?
For most people, you should check you weight daily, but – and here’s the important part – don’t use that number as your indicator.
Since weight can fluctuate as much as 5 to 7 pounds daily, due to factors such as food or fluid intake, sodium retention, or waste elimination, you should take 7 daily weigh-ins, add those numbers together, and then come up with an average weight for the week.
But even more importantly, I uncovered what I’m calling the 4 Golden Rules for Checking Your Weight. They are:
- Weigh yourself at the same time every day, preferably morning before you’ve had anything to drink or eat.
- Either weigh yourself naked or with the same type and amount of clothing on each time. Otherwise, your numbers are meaningless.
- Always weigh yourself on the same scale even if you know it is not accurate. You want to determine if your weight is actually going down or up. Any scale, as long as you use the same one, can tell you that.
- While you may want to make minor adjustments to your eating/exercise routine after any given week, wait for the results of at least 3 weeks before making drastic changes.
So, now that I’m informed, if my wife ever asks me again what I’m doing on the scale, I can respond with something like this: I weigh myself each day on this scale in just boxer shorts on so I can get a daily weight. After 7 days, I add those 7 numbers up and get a weekly average. Using the weekly number, I can figure out if my weight loss program is working or if I need to make some changes.
But I do have one final question on this weighty issue.
Can researching weight loss actually help you lose weight?
I’m almost certain I know the answer, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to look it up, as long as I don’t devour an order of southern fried chicken with creamy buttermilk biscuits and drink 3 glasses of sweet tea while I’m doing it.
How often do you check your weight? Do you have any special tips for people who would like to lose weight after 60? Please join the conversation.
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