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Open Access Review

The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management: A Systematic Literature Review

Jeffrey J VanWormer1*, Simone A French2, Mark A Pereira2 and Ericka M Welsh2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Education, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 920 East 28th St, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA

2 Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota, Room 300 WBOB, 1300 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008, 5:54  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-5-54

Published: 4 November 2008

Abstract

Background

Regular self-weighing has been a focus of attention recently in the obesity literature. It has received conflicting endorsement in that some researchers and practitioners recommend it as a key behavioral strategy for weight management, while others caution against its use due to its potential to cause negative psychological consequences associated with weight management failure. The evidence on frequent self-weighing, however, has not yet been synthesized. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the evidence regarding the use of regular self-weighing for both weight loss and weight maintenance.

Methods

A systematic literature review was conducted using the MEDLINE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO online databases. Reviewed studies were broken down by sample characteristics, predictors/conditions, dependent measures, findings, and evidence grade.

Results

Twelve studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, but nearly half received low evidence grades in terms of methodological quality. Findings from 11 of the 12 reviewed studies indicated that more frequent self-weighing was associated with greater weight loss or weight gain prevention. Specifically, individuals who reported self-weighing weekly or daily, typically over a period of several months, held a 1 to 3 kg/m2 (current) advantage over individuals who did not self-weigh frequently. The effects of self-weighing in experimental studies, especially those where self-weighing behaviors could be isolated, were less clear.

Conclusion

Based on the consistency of the evidence reviewed, frequent self-weighing, at the very least, seems to be a good predictor of moderate weight loss, less weight regain, or the avoidance of initial weight gain in adults. More targeted research is needed in this area to determine the causal role of frequent self-weighing in weight loss/weight gain prevention programs. Other open questions to be pursued include the optimal dose of self-weighing, as well as the risks posed for negative psychological consequences.