#337 Should You Weigh Yourself Daily to Beat AFib?
Dr. John Day
Dr. Day is a cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm abnormalities at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Should You Weigh Yourself Daily?
Should you weigh yourself daily? The simple answer is it depends on what you are optimizing for. If your goal is normal sinus rhythm and longevity then for most of my patients the answer is a resounding “yes.”
However, for my rare patient that has achieved a very high level of mindfulness, a daily weight check could be counterproductive. So, unless you have years of optimal weight management under your belt using a mindfulness approach, you’re probably better off doing the same thing I do every morning which is checking the scale.
Why should you weigh yourself daily?
Although the benefits of daily weight monitoring are backed by research, it doesn’t take a scientific study to understand why this habit tends to work. People who weigh themselves on a daily basis are getting a steady stream of data—and a reminder to take manageable corrective action when the numbers aren’t moving in the right direction. Indeed, I’ve rarely seen an AFib patient in my 30-year career who hasn’t successfully lost or maintained their weight loss by simply weighing themselves regularly.
Why do daily weight checks work?
Why does this work so well? After seeing a bit of weight gain, “maybe they exercise a little bit more the next day, or they watch what they are eating more carefully,” explained University of Georgia exercise and nutrition researcher Jamie Cooper, who led a study showing that people who weigh themselves every day during the holidays either maintain or drop weight during a time that most people pack on a few extra pounds. “The subjects self-select how they are going to modify their behavior, which can be effective because we know that interventions are not one-size-fits-all.” Just the simple act of weighing yourself daily almost subconsciously sets off a chain reaction of behaviors that makes maintaining a healthy weight a lot easier.
What should you do if you hate the scale?
For some, the thought of stepping on the scale each day is nauseating. There are other options. For example, we have many AFib patients who have successfully maintained their weight loss through the use of a food journal, often in the form of a notebook or an app on their smartphone. Still others have achieved desired results from commercial weight loss programs or fitness coaches. Whatever you do, the key is daily accountability—a regular time in which you must reckon with the choices you’ve made and those you intend to make moving forward. For most, stepping on a scale is the easiest way to do that.
How much do you need to lose for normal sinus rhythm?
So, how much do you need to lose? Well, everyone’s healthy body weight is different. But let’s not sugarcoat this: the vast majority of people we see with atrial fibrillation are significantly above the recommended body mass index. And while BMI isn’t a perfect indicator of what a healthy body weight looks like for everyone, it’s generally a good target. What’s more, most of these individuals have been overweight for many years, and quite often many decades. As such, the amount of weight most people need to lose is usually quite a bit more than most people think they can lose.
Can even a 5-pound weight loss help AFib?
Rather than be discouraged about how much you need to lose, know this: anything helps. For example, in one study we showed that even patients who lose just 3 percent of their body weight, which could be as little as five pounds, increased their long-term chances of putting AFib into remission. If you are going to take the necessary steps to get your weight in check, however, you have to be 100 percent committed. “Yo-yo dieting,” in which your weight constantly goes up and down, is really bad for AFib, with our research and that of other physicians showing that back-and-forth weight changes could be an additional AFib risk factor. You cannot let that keep you from trying, though, because the data is very clear on this point: if you want to end your affair with AFib, losing weight isn’t optional.
Knowing that even a few pounds could help improve her life, when Eileen was diagnosed with AFib, she set a goal of losing one pound every month. That’s a very conservative and reasonable goal, and one that we suggest for many of our AFib patients. Even that, however, can be hard, especially since weight gain is a side effect of some medications and because AFib can make it hard to exercise, which is why it is okay to celebrate an initial month in which you simply don’t gain any weight.
If your scale currently tells you that you are 220 pounds, for instance, then that is the number you need to maintain for this month. Do everything possible to keep things from tipping over that point. Next month your goal is 219. After that, it’s 218. Is that slow? Sure it is. Will some people need to lose more, and more quickly? Absolutely. But slow and constant progress in one direction is far preferable to erratic shifts this way and that. Moving in the right direction is key to a life without AFib.
Eileen didn’t meet her one-pound-less-per-month goal within the time frame she was planning, but her weight loss was nonetheless commendable. On average, she shed a little more than half a pound each month. And while a half a pound might not seem like a lot, over time it adds up. In the first three and a half years after she began her journey toward putting AFib into remission, she dropped twenty-four pounds—mostly by making the sorts of day-to-day adjustments that come with increased daily awareness of “the biggest biomarker of them all.” That resulted in some very big improvements to her condition, “but I didn’t want to settle for ‘less bad,’” she said.
Optimizing your body weight may be the key to optimizing for normal sinus rhythm. And to achieve this goal, daily weight checks can be very beneficial. If your goal is to beat AFib and you would like to meet with me, or one of my colleagues, in Salt Lake City please call my team at 801-266-3418 to set up an in-person appointment (sorry, telemedicine visits are not available for initial consultations).
Did you like the photo attached to this article? It is a photo of my favorite place in the world to run, Desolation Lake. Desolation Lake can be reached from trails originating in Park City, Millcreek Canyon, or Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.
Three years ago I had my first two afib episodes in a month. Dr. Day shared crucial information online that motivated me to address my weight. I implemented intermittent fasting and doubled exercise. I lost 30 pounds. I eat 95 percent plant based. I haven’t had any afib in past year. I weigh myself daily and keep my weight at 140 which was my high school weight. My BMI is 21.9 now down from 26.6 when I started. I am 76 and feel great. Thanks Dr Day!