It only takes a few seconds, but the act of stepping on a bathroom scale can be enough to make or break your entire day—especially if you’re actively trying to lose weight.
But the thing about the simple act of standing on a scale is that there’s actually nothing simple about it. It turns out there is most definitely a right way and wrong way to weigh yourself, and doing it the right way is essential to weight loss.
First and foremost is consistency. “Make it part of your morning ritual," Holly Wyatt, M.D., associate director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, told Consumer Reports. “You need to know that number on a consistent basis to help you manage your weight and make better decisions about your health."
There’s plenty of science to back her up too. In a 2015 Journal of Obesity study, Cornell University researchers who tracked 162 overweight women and men over two years found that those who weighed themselves every day and tracked their results were more successful in losing weight and keeping it off.
Next is placement. It’s essential that you place your scale on a hard, even surface. Carpeting and bath mats are a huge no-no. A wobbly or tilted scale can result in an inaccurate reading.
And then there’s timing. Experts agree: the best time to step on a scale is in the morning before you’ve eaten and after you’ve gone to the bathroom. You should also plan to shower after you’ve weighed yourself.
“Your skin is the largest organ in the body and absorbs fluid easily,” Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program, told Good Housekeeping. “After a swim or a shower, your body can absorb one to three cups of water, increasing your true weight by a few pounds.”