Quantified Body: Weighing Yourself

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quantified self personal analytics quantified health fitness tips by measured me blogYou are probably thinking “why even bother writing about how to weight yourself?” Is not the body weight the easiest metric of all? Anyone can get it in less than 10 seconds! Just step on the scales and voila! You can certainly do that, if you want to do a one-time quick weight check. But if you are trying to lose or gain weight, and would like to have more reliable estimates in your tracking log, keep reading this (very short) post.

In my previous post I discussed errors that occur in every measurement procedure, and how to minimize them. The weighing is not an exception. Your body weight may vary across different times and locations of weighing, due to hydration levels, time after the last meals, temperature in the room (most of digital scales are temperature sensitive), and hundreds of other reasons. As a result, if you weigh yourself on Monday morning right after bed, and then weigh yourself on Tuesday after lunch, you may find that you suddenly gained several pounds in just one day. The best way to minimize the impact of those hundreds of different factors is to develop a weighing routine and stick to it. For instance, I personally weigh myself using the same scales every morning right after I got out of bed and used restroom, usually around 7:05 am. By standardizing the weighting procedure, I can be certain that whatever changes in weight I am observing over time are due to my diet and exercise, and not due to some other situational factors.

Furthermore, I weigh myself every morning on Monday through Friday, and then use the average weight across those five days as my weekly number. That allows me to avoid possible fluctuations caused by a more relaxed diet on weekends. If you track your daily body weight in Excel, you can also “stabilize” the curve by using the “moving average” feature. In the graph below, my daily weight measurements are plotted in blue, weekly averages in red, and 5-day moving average in gold:

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By the way, if you ask me, I am using regular electronic Tanita scale, so nothing really fancy. And I am recording the weight values myself every morning, then transferring them in Excel by hand. Maybe next year I will purchase Withings or other WiFi-enabled scale, provided that it offers data portability (i.e.. that I can export my data and analyze it myself, as opposed to looking at their lame charts) and is versatile (i.e., measures more than one parameter). Occasionally, I also weigh myself at the gym, using the beam scales (which are considered to be more reliable than electronic), just to validate my Tanita readings.

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