Weight loss is an important goal for many people, but the language we use to discuss body weight is often flawed. Weight loss isn’t really the goal. What people truly want is to lose body fat – while at the same time maintaining or increasing muscle mass.
Reducing body fat percentage and improving overall body composition is what really matters – and your bathroom scale can’t tell you much about that. In fact, if you’re adding muscle while losing fat, you’ll look better and your clothes will fit better, but you may weigh more. So forget the scale, and start using body measurements to track your progress.
Using body measurements to track weight-loss progress
A more accurate and less subjective way to track your body fat loss involves taking measurements of your body. This will allow you keep track of the changes in your body composition and stay motivated, even if the number on the scale isn’t going down as quickly as you may like.
What you need to get started
Your primary tool here will be a flexible measuring tape, one you can easily read so as to get accurate measurements. You will also need someone to help you take the measurements — a friend, partner, or trainer. Some of the measurements are difficult to get accurately by yourself, and they should be taken in the same way and in the same spot each time.
You also have to ensure consistency of measurement. So, for example, if you start off measuring your right forearm, you should take the rest of the measurements on that same side of your body – right upper arm, right calf, right thigh, and so on. Also, measurements should be taken at the same time every time for consistency’s sake – first thing in the morning after a bowel movement is usually best. And make sure the tape is not pulled so tight that it depresses the skin.
Wear as little clothing as possible so as not to skew the measurements. Record your measurements right away, ideally in a designated notebook, so that you can keep track of your results over time. Some people use a spreadsheet to make this job a little more manageable.
The body measurements you’ll take
Here are the measurements you’ll take at your regularly scheduled time:
- Neck – Circumference with head straight
- Shoulders – Around the shoulders at the widest point with arms hanging relaxed at your sides
- Bust – Taken directly above the nipples and completely around your bust and back
- Chest – As high up under the breasts as possible and all the way around, with the tape parallel to the floor
- Waist – Taken above the navel at the point of least circumference
- Hips – All the way around at the widest point of the hip bones
- Thigh – Taken while standing straight with weight resting on the leg not being measured and at the fullest part of the upper leg
- Calf – Again with weight on leg not being measured and at the fullest part of your calf
- Upper arm – Around the fullest part of the upper arm above your elbow, with arm relaxed
- Forearm – Around the fullest part of your arm below the elbow
- Wrist – Around the bony part of your wrist
- Weight – Record of weight is kept to use in calculating body fat percentage
Keeping track of weight loss and change in body composition
After you’re at least two months in, compare one month’s measurements against those of the previous month to track your weight-loss progress. Then, plug your measurements into an online body fat calculator. This will reveal your body fat percentage – the true measure of fat loss. The average for men is 18% to 24%, and the average for women is 25% to 31%.
After calculating your body fat percentage, you can figure out from your weight exactly how many pounds of muscle and pounds of fat you have.
To figure out your fat pounds, simply multiply your weight by the body fat percentage you just calculated. And to find pounds of muscle, just subtract those pounds of fat from your total weight, which yields your lean muscle mass. So, for example, if you weigh 160 pounds and have a body fat percentage of 26, your body is made up of 42 pounds of fat and 118 pounds of muscle.
Here’s the important part. If, after running through these calculations, you find that your pounds of fat are decreasing – even if you happen to weigh more – you are making progress. And this should also show you that your goal really is attainable.
Using photos to gauge weight-loss progress
Photos are another great way to track your progress. It can be hard to notice changes over time in the mirror, but photos provide concrete evidence that your body composition is changing. And since most people own smartphones these days, it’s easy to take your own photos and save them for future reference.
For the best results, take your photos while wearing form-fitting clothing that reveals your body shape. Make sure the lighting is good and there are no distracting elements in the background. Take both front-view and side-view photos. You may also want to take photos from the back.
A comparison of your photos after a few months can often reveal surprising results. Are your thighs thinner, your stomach flatter, your arms firmer? When you begin to shed the fat and get fitter and healthier, you can see it in the photos. No matter what the scale says, photos don’t lie. Your clothes may be looser, you may have more muscle tone, and your skin may have a healthier color – even if you haven’t lost that much weight.
Getting results – weight-loss progress you can measure
For weight-loss progress you can measure, we’ve got you covered at Quest Weight Loss. Our personalized plans focus first on safety, efficacy, and health benefits, backed by comprehensive testing that allows us to get to the root of your weight-loss challenges. Your custom-tailored plan will address hormonal imbalances, metabolic disturbances, or other health issues that may be interfering with your body’s ability to shed excess weight.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards achieving lasting weight loss and better health, contact us today for a free consultation!