My Uncensored Opinion on Daily Weigh-Ins and Calorie Counting

I’ve noticed that everything in fitness is cyclical.  One year, a habit or tactic is the hot “new” thing and the next year, the pendulum has swung and now you should never do that thing.  The latest trends are that calorie counting is the only scientific way to go and you should never weigh yourself on the scale. Here is my uncensored opinion on both:


Calorie Counting:

What I like about calorie counting is that it can be an effective way to know how much energy you are consuming.  If you’re trying to lose weight, presumably it is because you gained weight by consuming too many calories.  Because we have so many unhealthy food products and practices in this country, it is helpful to have some sort of reality check, and counting your calories can be a way to accomplish that.  


Here are 4 reasons why I have fallen out of love with calorie counting: 

  1. The same foods vary wildly in the apps.  When most people are trying to strictly count calories, they are often using the help of an app.  There are a few of them.  The funny thing about all these apps is they usually have a few different options for “chicken breast”.  Most people naturally just pick the lowest calorie version of whatever they ate when presented with multiple options.  
  2. Food labels vary by as much as 20%.  That’s right.  The official food label can have 20% more or 20% fewer calories per serving than it says.  That means the average individual’s calorie consumption could vary by 400 calories per day.
  3. Whole foods are harder to log than processed foods.  Despite the inaccuracies of food labels, something that comes in a box is easier to log than a whole food that you have to weigh or measure yourself to get an accurate calorie count on.  We don’t need to make it even harder to stick to unprocessed whole foods.
  4. The need to use a food scale and accurately measure food can lead to some unhealthy obsession.  Calorie counting is a very scientific approach but that approach can also trigger some unhealthy and obsessive behaviors around food. 

Overall, I think a food logging approach can work fine for some, but I prefer focusing on food quality like we do with the On Target Food Pyramid.  I’ve had a few clients do well with Noom, which combines food logging with behavioral coaching.  I think that works a lot better than the purely food logging, calculator like approach of My Fitness Pal.  


Daily Weigh-Ins:

The push back against the scale over the last few years has been mostly a healthy one that I agree with.  Obsessing about weight and assigning personal worth to it is a surefire way to undermine weight loss goals.  Scale weight fluctuates by 4-5lbs for all sorts of reasons like time of day, hydration level, electrolyte levels, hormonal reasons, monthly cycle, and a variety of other factors.  A normal scale is also a poor measure of body composition changes as it can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle.  


That said the trend against the scale does feel like it’s overextended a little bit.  There are some ways that daily weigh-ins can be beneficial.

  1. You can see what things cause your weight to fluctuate.  The day after you consume alcohol or a lot of sugar, you’ll likely be holding some water and the scale will tip a little bit higher.  This isn’t measuring a gain in fat but it’s helpful to see how your body reacts to certain foods.
  2. You can see your weight loss progress.  Weighing daily will give you a sense of a trend line at the end of the week, not during each day.  It can be motivating to see the number go down if that’s your goal.  Feeling good about some steady progress can help you stay on track with your goals.  
  3. It’s a helpful practice in using data without assigning self worth to it.  This is the main reason most people say screw it and don’t bother with the scale.  If you’re in a place to be able to do this, it can be beneficial to weigh in, look at the number, and remain detached from it as anything besides a data point.  You know it’s not a measure of your self worth.  It’s a measure of the Earth’s gravitational pull on the mass of your body.

To determine if daily or weekly weigh-ins are a good idea for you, I say consult with our number 1 core value: do what works.  Does weighing in have a negative impact on your mood and choices?  Then skip it and focus on the process.  If it’s giving you helpful information you feel like you can take action on in a healthy way, then go for it!


Fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page when you’re ready to talk to a personal trainer about your goals : )


Our first location serves Portsmouth, Kittery, and the broader Seacoast community.  Our new location serves Kingston and the broader southern New Hampshire community.   We help people strength train, walk daily, and eat real food.


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