Have you slimmed down during the past year, or have you put on a few extra pounds?

Unless you keep a close eye on your scale, odds are that you just answered that question incorrectly…and that you actually have no idea how your weight has changed.

A new report that measured weight changes between 2008 and 2009 found that most people had gained weight but were in denial about it.

The problem with this seemingly innocent self-deception is that “just a few” extra pounds really can accumulate over the years, which increases your risk for dangerous weight-related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

But there are easy ways to keep yourself honest…


Just how badly do we lie to ourselves? Check out these findings…

In an ambitious statistical analysis, number-crunching scientists compared the overall average weight change in the US with the results of a massive, randomized health survey of about 400,000 Americans across the country.

In the survey, men reported weight losses that would have translated to a 2% decline in the overall prevalence of obesity over a one-year period, but the US statistics tell a different story. The prevalence of obesity among men actually increased by 0.3% that year. The same sort of gap was seen among women. Female survey respondents reported weight losses that would have translated to a 0.9% decline in the overall prevalence of obesity over a one-year period. But, according to the US stats, the prevalence of obesity actually increased by 0.5% among women. So subjects thought they had lost weight when they had most likely gained weight—and men were even more guilty of this than women!

When researchers broke down the numbers by age, they discovered that older participants were more likely to be farther off from the truth in their estimations. On average, participants between the ages of 18 and 50 underestimated their weight gain by about one pound, but those over the age of 50, specifically, underestimated their weight gain by about two pounds.


Catherine Wetmore, PhD, lead study author, provided an interesting reason as to why we might be in collective denial about weight gain. We’re now surrounded by very large people, so it’s more socially acceptable to be big—it’s “the new normal.” Even if you look in the mirror and your gut is hanging over your pants, you may not think much of it if the same thing is happening to your friends and neighbors.

So how do we stop lying to ourselves, either intentionally or accidentally? To learn more, I put in a call to Stephen Gullo, PhD, founder of the Center for Health and Weight Sciences in New York City.


The key is weighing yourself—but you don’t want to do it too often, or you may drive yourself crazy and become obsessed with your weight, which isn’t healthy.

Dr. Gullo’s suggestion: Weigh yourself weekly—no more, no less.

Do it in the morning on the same day every week, after you’ve gone to the bathroom but before you eat breakfast, to keep the measurement standard. Choose a morning early in the work week, such as Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Otherwise, you may fall victim to what Gullo calls Friday Syndrome: “I’m down two pounds, so I can eat whatever I want this weekend!”

Each week you’ll get a reality check on your weight—and this knowledge really is the power you need to keep it healthy.