2 formerly obese economists who lost a combined 120 pounds in 18 months relied on a controversial weight-loss strategy

Rob Barnett, an author of

Rob Barnett, an author of “The Economists’ Diet,” before and after losing 75 pounds in 18 months.
Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

  • In “The Economists’ Diet,” Christopher Payne and Rob Barnett argue that if you’re trying to lose weight, you should step on the scale every day.
  • Their argument is supported by some recent research.
  • But some experts say daily weighing can be confusing and demotivating.

The way Christopher Payne sees it, when you’re trying to lose weight, “you’re basically a scientist of your own body.”

Payne and Rob Barnett wrote the book “The Economists’ Diet: The Surprising Formula for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off,” in which they explain how to use fundamental economic principles to shed pounds the way they did.

At different points in their lives, Payne and Barnett were overweight, and they got themselves to a healthier place. Payne lost 45 pounds in 18 months, while Barnett lost 75 pounds in the same amount of time.

Payne has defended one of the more controversial weight-loss strategies in the book: daily weighing. The idea is to weigh yourself in the morning, see whether the number has gone up or down, reflect on what you ate the day before, and tweak as necessary.

In the book, the authors cite research that links this with losing weight.

In one study published in 2015 in the Journal of Obesity, researchers tracked 162 overweight adults over two years and found that participants who weighed themselves daily and received visual feedback about their weight trajectories lost more weight than those who didn’t weight themselves as frequently.

The first group was also better able to maintain the weight loss, regardless of how the participants went about trying to lose weight. Interestingly, men in the study lost also significantly more weight than women did, though the researchers couldn’t explain why.

The Washington Post pointed out that participants may have felt greater pressure to keep the weight off knowing the researchers would be keeping tabs on them – meaning not everyone will see the same success.

Another study, published in 2016 in the International Journal of Obesity, yielded similar findings in women who weighed themselves frequently.

It’s unclear why daily weighing appears to help with weight loss. In a statement, one of the authors of the 2015 study said, “We think the scale also acts as a priming mechanism, making you conscious of food and enabling you to make choices that are consistent with your weight.”

Some experts take issue with the idea of weighing yourself so often

Other experts advise against weighing yourself every day.

Moran Cerf, a professor of business and neuroscience at Northwestern University who has been studying decision-making for over a decade, told Business Insider’s Chris Weller that people should weigh themselves just once a week. Your weight can fluctuate by a few pounds every day, Cerf said, and stepping on the scale so often can cause confusion.

One dietitian told USA Today in 2016 that she didn’t recommend daily weighing for most clients.

“You can get lost in those numbers and start to identify your self-worth with what’s on the scale,” she said.

I mentioned to Payne and Barnett that weighing yourself daily sounded like a version of the so-called Quantified Self movement, which focuses partly on learning more about your body through self-tracking.

Payne said it was similar but “much more simplistic.” In this case, all you’re tracking is your weight, not how many steps you take, how many calories you ingest, or anything else.

Barnett argued that if your weight is what you’re trying to control, that’s the only thing you should keep tabs on.

He also addressed the emotional component of frequent weighing. He said that when he was at his heaviest, about 250 pounds, he “didn’t want to know the number.”

Ultimately, Barnett put it in very frank terms.

“Your obesity or lack thereof – it’s not a secret to anyone,” he said. “You should get acquainted with that number.”

He added: “It really is a life-changing thing to add this to your daily routine.”