For most of us, weighing scales are a dusty, petulant presence in the back of the bathroom cupboard. And a new study confirms another reason we should leave them to stew.
We all know we shouldn't judge our sense of wellbeing or fitness in pounds and ounces - muscle is more dense than fat, after all. But according to research from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior the scales might not just be to blame for crushing our sense of achievement in terms of our workouts, but can affect our mental health too.
The 10-year-long study of 1,861 secondary school age participants in the US tracked the correlation between how often we weigh ourselves and the effect on our feelings, including depression and self-esteem.
Unsurprisingly, those who worried most about their weight used their scales the most often. But notably, for the female participants, the increase in weighing came with considerably lower body satisfaction and self-esteem, as well as increased symptoms of depression. This isn’t to say that the increase in weighing caused these feelings directly, but it could definitely encourage and perpetuate them.
However - it wasn’t all bad news, the correlation did lead the author of the study to note that asking young people about their weighing habits could be a good way to uncover deeper rooted issues they may feel less open to discussing directly. “Adolescents or young adults may feel more comfortable reporting to their primary care provider information about how often they weigh themselves compared with discussing how depressed they feel or responding to questions about self-esteem,” the author explained.
This is interesting news for adults too - over-using the scales could be a sign it's time to reassess how we measure our self-confidence and a cue to make tangible fitness goals for ourselves, like working towards lifting a certian weight or running X amount of miles.