How to measure your weight loss progress
It’s that time of year once again where people start to consider setting some health and wellbeing goals and working on them in the new year.
One of the common things I get asked is what is the best way to measure progress.
Here is an example:
Can I please ask your opinion on something? I’d really like to get rid of some weight – hiking would be so much easier & I’m feeling uncomfortable. In the past when I’ve tried, the scales aren’t always a true indication of what’s happening – ie my clothes feel looser but the scales don’t move much. This usually makes me feel like I should just give up. Do you think it’s important to weigh yourself, use a tape measure or a combo of both? Hope you don’t mind me asking? I know you understand the struggle. I haven’t weighed myself in probably a year or 2, and avoiding it (because I know I won’t like what I see) isn’t helping as I can fool myself into thinking it’s not that bad – when I know something needs to happen.
For the purpose of this blog, I will just address the question around measuring or tracking progress but I would suggest that there are some mindset activities that should be taken when setting goals around health and wellbeing and if you aim to achieve your goals you should work with someone specialised to help you achieve them otherwise you are really trying to get to a destination without a road map.
Why scales aren’t accurate
Scales can be deceiving because you need to take in various factors such as:
ensuring you weigh at exactly the same time of day (as soon as you rise is best)
you might be retaining water
you need to factor in where you are in your menstrual cycle
if you have lost fat but gained some muscle mass it may not be reflected
whether the scales are calibrated correctly
you’ll get so caught up by the number that it can cause unnecessary anxiety and
many other uncontrollable things.
Already confusing, yeah?
Tape measures are easiest for at home
If you are managing your own journey then a really easy way to keep track of your progress is by using a tape measure. You still want to try and measure at the same time of day each time you measure (say every Monday morning at 7am after you've been to the toilet) but it provides more reliable results than scales.
If you decide to measure then there are a few points on the body that are best to measure (if you are left handed then measure your left side, right handed measure your right side):
Chest – in line with the nipples and straight across your back
Waist – measure around the waist at the same height as your belly button
Hips – at the widest part of your hips and butt
Thigh – standing tall, hold your arms by your side with your hand and fingers flat on your thigh. At the longest point of your middle finger, measure around your thigh ensuring the tape measure is level all the way around.
Bicep – (you might need a helper for this one) find the half way point (by measuring) from your shoulder joint, you’ll be able to feel the bone, down the outside of your arm to the “funny” bone. At the halfway point measure around the arm. Be sure to note if you measure above or below the point so that you measure at exactly the same spot each time.
There are other points you can measure but the ones I have listed are the main ones that will give you enough information.
Using clothes to measure
Certainly use your favourite jeans or a dress to measure your progress but also remember that there are various factors such as if you just ate or if you have worn the jeans a few times and they have stretched (you know the type, you wash them and they are suddenly tight again!).
Clothes can also be used as a great incentive so keep trying on that gorgeous dress or that swimsuit knowing that with action you will be able to wear it for years to come (not just for the summer!).
Calipers are a good way to measure points on the body for progress although they are very difficult to measure yourself with so you will need a personal trainer. The various points on the body can be measured more accurately and if you undertake Biosignature testing the 12 points on the body can provide information about inflammation, sleep, stress and hormones.
A Dexa Scan is one of the best ways to track your progress although can be a little expensive if you are aiming to track every fortnight. (personal suggestion: go for a scan every 12 weeks or every 4 weeks, depending on your budget and commitment to action).
A Dexa Scan is an excellent method to measure and monitor body composition. After your scan you will receive a report outlining your body’s muscle mass, fat mass and bone mass. You can also receive specific nutritional information to help you change your body composition, enabling you to achieve your goal with some structured guidance.
What you focus on is what you get
One word of personal advice – please, please, please do not stress about the numbers or the results. When you continually focus on your “lack” of results, you will continue to see the same – even if the results do change. Your mind will be focused on the “lack” even if you are making progress. The stress will raise your cortisol levels and actually make it harder for you to lose weight.
In the beginning results may seem slow, and that is ok. Your body is adapting to the new standards you are setting, adapting to the different nutrition you are consuming, adapting to needing more sleep if you are are exercising more and adapting to getting your metabolism and all cylinders firing.
Worry about controlling that which you can control – the food in your mouth and the exercise you do, and let the body worry about the rest.
Patience and action will be our two best friends - for life!