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While every body is beautiful, occasionally, say, after the holidays most of us might need to cut back a little bit. After all, who can resist the parade of Christmas butter cookies, gingerbread cheesecake, cranberry trifles, and peppermint hot chocolate? When the sugar rush is over, though, and the Christmas decorations are packed away, you just might need to step on a scale and assess the damage. Before you do, though, you might want to check the clock. Turns out that your weight can fluctuate depending on what time of day you step on the scale.

According to the National Weight Control Registry, 75 percent of people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off weigh themselves at least once a week. If you want the most accurate assessment of your body’s weight, weigh yourself in the morning after you use the bathroom.

The morning is ideal because that’s when your body won’t have the extra weight from a hearty meal. “During the day, when you're eating and drinking, those foods (and fluids) add weight—at least until they're digested and excreted,” a licensed nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told Self. “Just a cup of water adds half a pound, for example—and 20 percent of most meals are water, which adds up to a lot of extra weight.”

To ensure that you’re weighing your body and not the pot of coffee you drank or the smoothie bowl you had for lunch, diet experts recommend stepping on the scale first thing in the morning, after you use the bathroom, before breakfast or they gym. Then be sure to stick with that schedule, as you will not get an accurate depiction of your weight if you’re stepping on the scale at various times of day as weight fluctuates throughout the day. You’ll also want to make sure that your scale is on a hard, flat surface (no carpets) and that you stand tall with your weight evenly distributed over both feet.

 

While stepping on a scale sounds like a nightmare, there is some scientific evidence that regularly weighing yourself can motivate people to keep the weight off. A 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people are less likely to gain back lost weight if they regularly weigh themselves. According to Shape’s diet guru, Dr. Mike Roussell, researchers have also found that people who hop on the scale daily—or at the very least weekly—manage to keep off 6.6-pounds more than people who did not frequently weigh themselves. The reason that daily check-ins work is because stepping on a scale is a once-a-day reminder of your goals and serve as a progress report that can motivate you to keep at it.

 

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Stepping on a scale may fill you with dread now, but knowing your weight and monitoring it on a consistent basis can help you not only manage your weight, but make better decisions about your health overall.