Conflicting views as to the helpfulness or harmfulness of self-weighing for the control of body weight have been presented in the fields of obesity and eating disorders. Because self-weighing is increasingly being considered as an intervention to promote weight loss or prevent weight gain, it is timely to consider unintended psychological outcomes and behavioral correlates of this behavior. Twenty articles from the published literature examining self-weighing and psychological outcomes or weight control behaviors were reviewed. In evaluating self-weighing and affect (ten studies), self-esteem (four studies) and body evaluation (ten studies), and eating behaviors/cognitions (13 studies), in total, most studies found a negative relationship between self-weighing and outcomes (affect: 4/10, self-esteem: 3/4, body evaluation: 4/10, eating behaviors/cognitions: 6/13). Themes that emerged included relationships between self-weighing and negative outcomes for women and younger individuals, and lack of a relationship or positive outcomes for overweight, treatment seeking individuals. Though self-weighing has shown promise in aiding weight control, the degree to which weight loss, and not self-weighing, affects psychological outcomes is not clear. Further assessment of psychological outcomes in self-weighing research may be warranted, as this review suggests the potential for adverse effects of self-weighing in some individuals.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance
Burke LE, Wang J, Sevick MA. Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:92–102.
Levitsky DA, Pacanowski CR. Free will and the obesity epidemic. Public Health Nutr. 2012;15:126–41.
Gokee-Larose J, Gorin A, Wing R. Behavioral self-regulation for weight loss in young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2009;6.
Linde JA. A randomized pilot and feasibility study examining body weight tracking frequency and psychosocial health indicators. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2014. doi:10.1016/j.orcp.2014.06.003. This study's design, a randomized controlled trial, allowed for evaluation of the effect of daily versus weekly self-weighing on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and body image. No significant differences were found in the change in these psychological factors over 6 months according to weighing group (see Appendix).
Steinberg DM, Tate DF, Bennett GG, Ennett S, Samuel-Hodge C, Ward DS. Daily self-weighing and adverse psychological outcomes: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Prev Med. 2014;46:24–9. This study's design, a randomized controlled trial, allowed for evaluation of the effect of daily self-weighing versus a delayed control group on psychological factors such as depressive symptoms, disordered eating, binge eating, and other eating behaviors over 6 months. Results indicated no effect or beneficial effect of weighing (see Appendix).
Welsh EM, Sherwood NE, VanWormer JJ, Hotop AM, Jeffery RW. Is frequent self-weighing associated with poorer body satisfaction? Findings from a phone-based weight loss trial. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009;41:425–8.
Neumark-Sztainer D, van den Berg P, Hannan PJ, Story M. Self-weighing in adolescents: helpful or harmful? Longitudinal associations with body weight changes and disordered eating. J Adolesc Health. 2006;39:811–8.
Strimas R, Dionne MM. Differential effects of self-weighing in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Personal Individ Differ. 2010;49:1011–4.
Dionne MM, Yeudall F. Monitoring of weight in weight loss programs: a double-edged sword? J Nutr Educ Behav. 2005;37:315–8.
Ogden J, Whyman C. The effect of repeated weighing on psychological state. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 1997;5:121–30.
Quick V, Larson N, Eisenberg ME, Hannan PJ, Neumark-Sztainer D. Self-weighing behaviors in young adults: tipping the scale toward unhealthy eating behaviors? J Adolesc Health. 2012;51:468–74.
Quick V, Loth K, MacLehose R, Linde JA, Neumark-Sztainer D. Prevalence of adolescents’ self-weighing behaviors and associations with weight-related behaviors and psychological well-being. J Adolesc Health. 2013;52:738–44.
O’Neil PM, Brown JD. Weighing the evidence: benefits of regular weight monitoring for weight control. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2005;37:319–22.
Steinberg DM, Tate DF, Bennett GG, Ennett S, Samuel-Hodge C, Ward DS. The efficacy of a daily self-weighing weight loss intervention using smart scales and e-mail. Obesity. 2013;21:1789–97.
Gow RW, Trace SE, Mazzeo SE. Preventing weight gain in first year college students: an online intervention to prevent the “freshman fifteen.”. Eat Behav. 2010;11:33–9.
Shadish WR, Cook TD, Campbell DT. Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. 2nd ed. Boston: Cengage Learning; 2001.
Engel SG, Wonderlich SA, Crosby RD, Mitchell JE, Crow S, Peterson CB, et al. The role of affect in the maintenance of anorexia nervosa: evidence from a naturalistic assessment of momentary behaviors and emotion. J Abnorm Psychol. 2013;122:709–19. This study uses an approach that could be of use to obesity researchers, ecological momentary assessment, to study affect before and after behaviors engaged in by individuals with eating disorders. Additionally, this study shows that multiple affect measurements before and after behavior can lead to different findings than using one measurement of affect pre- and post- behavior.
Linde JA, Jeffery RW, Finch EA, Simon GE, Ludman EJ, Operskalski BH, et al. Relation of body mass index to depression and weighing frequency in overweight women. Prev Med. 2007;45:75–9.
Mintz LB, Awad GH, Stinson RD, Bledman RA, Coker AD, Kashubeck-West S, et al. Weighing and body monitoring among college women: the scale number as an emotional barometer. J Coll Stud Psychother. 2013;27:78–91.
Wing RR, Tate DF, Gorin AA, Raynor HA, Fava JL, Machan J. “ STOP regain”: are there negative effects of daily weighing? J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007;75:652.
Klos LA, Esser VE, Kessler MM. To weigh or not to weigh: the relationship between self-weighing behavior and body image among adults. Body Image. 2012;9:551–4.
Mercurio A, Rima B. Watching my weight: self-weighing, body surveillance, and body dissatisfaction. Sex Roles. 2011;65:47–55.
Walsh DJ, Charlton BG. The association between the development of weighing technology, possession and use of weighing scales, and self-reported severity of disordered eating. Ir J Med Sci. 2014;183(3):1–5.
Shafran R, Fairburn CG, Robinson P, Lask B. Body checking and its avoidance in eating disorders. Int J Eat Disord. 2004;35:93–101.
LaRose JG, Fava JL, Steeves EA, Hecht J, Wing RR, Raynor HA. Daily self-weighing within a lifestyle intervention: impact on disordered eating symptoms. Health Psychol. 2014;33:297.
Butryn ML, Phelan S, Hill JO, Wing RR. Consistent self-monitoring of weight: a key component of successful weight loss maintenance. Obesity. 2007;15:3091–6.
Koff E, Rierdan J, Stubbs ML. Gender, body image, and self-concept in early adolescence. J Early Adolesc. 1990;10:56–68.
Lerner RM, Karabenick SA. Physical attractiveness, body attitudes, and self-concept in late adolescents. J Youth Adolesc. 1974;3:307–16.
Compliance with Ethics Guidelines
Conflict of Interest
CR Pacanowski and D Neumark-Sztainer declare that they have no conflict of interest.
JA Linde is a consultant for empowris, LLC.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Psychological Issues
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
(DOCX 29 kb)
About this article
Cite this article
Pacanowski, C.R., Linde, J.A. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. Self-Weighing: Helpful or Harmful for Psychological Well-Being? A Review of the Literature. Curr Obes Rep 4, 65–72 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0142-2