There is a Wrong Way to Weigh Yourself. How to Avoid Self Sabotage

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While indeed not everyone’s favorite pastime, monitoring your weight is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. How then does one get the best results from this admittedly unpleasant task, particularly when working a non-traditional schedule such as night shift?

The ideal time to weigh yourself is immediately after waking up. For night shift workers, this may be late afternoon. The goal here is for your food to be adequately digested and low-stress levels. Consider your clothing, the location of scales, frequency, and normal weight fluctuations.

When weighing yourself, what variables affect your readings? Is there a wrong way to weigh yourself? What is the optimal time and manner to get accurate results? Well, if these questions haunt you at night, read on to learn the answers to all of them and more. 

What is the Best Time to Weigh Yourself?

According to almost all sources, the ideal time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning (well, not FIRST thing, but more on that later.) Does this mean that you, on the night shift, must weigh yourself after work, with a gut full of coffee and a cranky disposition? 

No. The actual time on the clock is not what is important, it is the act of doing so immediately upon waking up. So, your morning can be seven o’clock at night. The goal of this is that your body has had adequate time to digest all food from the previous day and your stress levels are (hopefully) the lowest they will be. 

So, the task at hand your first time is to wake up, visit the restroom and start your day by seeing just how much damage you’ve done to yourself. Now that you’ve got your first reading (and you’ve successfully not leaped out the window to your doom,) you can start a routine of health.

For those working 12-hour shifts and want to be healthier, we wrote a post about weight loss and working these long hours. It’s got plenty of realistic tips you can try which have worked for me and my nursing mates. You can find it here.

What Impacts the Scales?

Once you’ve established the time, consistency in all matters is the name of the game. Seemingly small factors like your clothes, the placement of the scale, and last night’s dinner all affect your readings.

So here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your efforts.

ClothingNow, unless you are wearing a flak jacket from a World War 2 bomber crew, your clothing really shouldn’t matter that much.

Some purists maintain you should weigh yourself naked, but the reality is, your boxer shorts or nightshirt are hardly going to count against you. If you truly are concerned, just make sure you wear the same thing daily when you weigh yourself.
PlacementThis may sound odd, but your floor is probably not level. Not entirely. It’s more than likely made up of wood. Now, besides the fact that tree corpses are spooky and haunted, they do tend to warp and change shape with humidity and time (like in a bathroom, where you are probably weighing yourself.)

To be fair, the likelihood of your placement really affecting your readings is pretty low, it still could throw you off just enough to frustrate you. Or just keep the scale in one place every time. 
FrequencyNow comes an interesting one, is it best to weigh yourself once a week (the normal, human way,) or daily (the obsessive/compulsive approach?) Well, the reviews are mixed on this one, but I’ll break it down for you so you can make your own choice.

Daily weighing does seem to edge out less frequent readings in results. Those individuals who monitor their weight consistently tended to get better results every day. This is a tad oversimplified though, as it stands to reason that a person who is dedicated enough to weigh every day is probably dedicated in other ways too (diet, exercise, healthy habits, etc.) Weighing daily also can be disheartening as the body weight fluctuates. Still, if you are in the beginning phase of your health kick, weighing every day may be the most effective route.

Moving to a once-a-week scenario may be beneficial once you’re in the maintenance phase. 
FluctuationsSo there you are, in all your awful, undressed glory, awaiting the readings that you’re down a pound or two (after all, you burned all those calories taking the stairs and chasing that squirrel, for reasons you still don’t quite understand.) For all your efforts, you are rewarded with a reading that you gained three!

As a shift worker have you considered if your job and working lifestyle are making you gain weight? I know I have thought this many, many times particularly when faced with yet another bag of candy bought into work by a friend. I was intrigued so I wrote a post about it which you can find here.

Why Does My Weight Fluctuate So Much?

A variety of factors can make weight increase or decrease slightly without being the result of added fat.

Salty food the night before? Well, you probably are retaining water. Lack of sleep or increased stress? Hormones certainly affect how the body reacts. Alcohol the night before (perhaps a celebratory beer or ten from catching that squirrel?) Alcohol most definitely causes bloating the next morning. 

So keep this in mind when weighing yourself. Expect fluctuations in your readings, and just try to limit the behavior that leads to them.

Fancy a beer after night shift or any shift for that matter? You can read more in this blog post or watch this video by clicking on each hyperlink respectively. Whilst we also talk about bloating above, probiotics are one tool we have utilized to overcome this uncomfortable issue. We didn’t know a whole lot about them so we investigated and wrote about it here if you’re keen to learn more.

Are There More Reliable Ways Than a Bathroom Scale?

You bet your ever-decreasing butt there are. While bathroom scales are easy, available, relatively inexpensive and fairly reliable, we aren’t in 1917 anymore (when the bathroom scale was invented, I checked.) So, leave the gears and springs behind with the Kaiser and update to the 21st century. 

Web-Based approaches can really step up your game. Everything from apps that monitor your weight, activity, calorie intake, and all other aspects of your “Battle of the Bulge” (yes, it’s a hack pun, but one that all writers are legally required to make in weight loss articles.)

Besides monitoring, the Internet can assist you by offering support groups and community pages that allow you to talk to everyone from fitness and dietary experts to amateurs just starting out themselves. In many cases, simply knowing you aren’t alone can make the difference between success and failure.

The video below is one Em produced titled, Night Shift Weight Gain: Stop a Blow-Out Tonight. She gives a variety of ways we have both tried to keep our weight at bay when working rotating shifts. She is pretty entertaining and I think you’ll get a bit out of it. Enjoy.

Our Favorite Way to “Weigh” Ourselves

While scales, smart devices, and all manner of electronic assistants can be invaluable, sometimes the simplest metric is the most effective: a good old-fashioned pair of jeans and a shirt.

How does this work exactly? Just keep a pair of jeans and t-shirt available. The same ones. Unwashed (not for self-punishment reasons, just because you don’t want to tighten the fabric,) and try it once a week. You see, sometimes you may be burning fat but adding muscle.

You might be doing great, but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Well, if you have to tighten your belt while your biceps are tightening, you can be fairly confident you are on the right path. 

How your clothes fit can sometimes be all the reassurance you need. This is particularly true for those who are required to wear a strict uniform to work such as police officers, flight attendants and potentially call center staff not working from home. You can learn more about each of these specific professions by clicking on the links.

How Much is Too Much?

As said above, weighing yourself is generally a great way to keep your health in check. There can be too much of a great thing, however. If you are fixated on your weight, health, or appearance to the point where you are experiencing stress, then you are defeating the purpose.

Stress and anxiety can cause just as much damage to your efforts as any cheeseburger with fries (but without the heartburn, or the awesomeness.) It is known that stress affects weight gain, for sure, but it also contributes to heart disease, insomnia, depression, and all manner of horrors you’re trying to avoid. Monitoring your weight should be a positive experience, when it stops being such, then take a break. 

If you’re interested to read more about stress, anxiety and mental health as a shift worker, click on each of these links respectively. Inside these posts we dive deep into these issues commonly affecting our community; highlighting the issue, what it feels like, and offering solutions and advice to improve your life.

We also talk here about the dangers of working night shift, such as obesity, which is very relevant to this post. We list the 10 impacts that overnight shifts may have on you and how you can dodge them.

As this post comes to a close, I wanted to give you some tools on where to start and for me, meal prepping seems to make the most sense. Below is a video Em recorded which is full of her favorite tips for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet without fuss.

So, if your efforts at health monitoring become an obsession, take a break. Relax and remember there is no finish line to the journey of health (well, there IS that one with the graveyard and flowers, but let’s not dwell on that quite yet.) You will have difficulties along the way, but that’s the point. The struggle will make you stronger, provided you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. A break now and then is fine.

Besides, that scale isn’t going anywhere, they don’t have legs (yet…)


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

scales with text over the top

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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