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Study: Do daily weigh-ins help you lose weight?

August 26, 2019
UAB News, by Holly Gainer

Gareth Dutton, PhD, and Kevin Fontaine, PhD
Gareth Dutton, PhD, and Kevin Fontaine, PhD

Will weighing yourself every day help you lose weight? Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham received a $2.7 million R01 grant to study middle-aged adults to see if daily self-weighing will help them lose or manage their weight.

Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior in the School of Public Health, and Gareth Dutton, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine, received the five-year grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“Many, if not most, middle-aged people with obesity continue to gain weight as they age. This increases their risk of developing several diseases, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, which compromise health and quality of life,” Fontaine said. “A simple intervention, shown to be effective in college students, is to provide a digital scale and ask them to weigh themselves every day.”

Fontaine says, when people have daily feedback on their weight, it may make them more conscious of their diet and activity regimens, which may help them manage their weight.

Researchers will study 400 middle-aged adults with obesity over a 24-month period. All of the participants will be UAB primary care patients. The patients will be randomized into two groups. One group will receive printed weight loss materials, a digital scale and access to an app that allows them to track the trajectory of their weight. They will be asked to weigh themselves every day. Their weight will then be sent directly from the scale to a database. The second group, which will be the control group, will only be given the printed weight loss materials.

“We will test whether daily self-weighing promotes greater weight control compared to the control group. We will also look at the association between frequency of weighing and weight, to see whether those who weigh most often do better controlling their weight,” Fontaine explained.

The cost-effectiveness of daily self-weighing will also be estimated from the perspective of participants, third-party payers and society.

If daily self-weighing is shown to be effective, Fontaine says, it could be a useful public health intervention that could be implemented in primary care.