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Measuring Tools for Keeping On-Track


That blasted scale seems to be the “King” of measuring progress when we’re on a weight loss program. It’s such a poor tool to indicate the progress that you’re making and it actually may sabotage your efforts.

If your body is in the process of a composition shift it usually is not expressed via the scale immediately so you may throw in the towel too soon.

When incorporating a well-rounded weight loss/fat loss program and I want to emphasize fat loss, you need to use other tools other than the scale to track your progress.

Chart your body fat.
Body Fat % Categories

Women Men
Essential Fat 10-12% Essential Fat 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% Athletes 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% Fitness 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% Acceptable 18-25%
Obese 32% + Obese 25% +

There are several ways to finding out your body fat.

Calipers – taking your skinfold at specific body sites and measuring. If you’re planning to use this method go to a personal trainer who is trained to test in this way and when you get it done again go to the same trainer.

Bioelectrical Impedance Scales – Electrical currents that flow through the body tissues — Scale or Handheld. Not that expensive. You can purchase a body scale that measures your weight and also your bodyfat. Accurate? It doesn’t matter. You’re comparing difference from start of weight loss program to completion.

Hydrostatic Weighing – It seems to be the most accurate all the body fat tests. This method checks the buoyancy of your body. The more buoyant you are the higher body fat you have. Take note that you’ll be completely submerged in water so it may be too intense for some. The 2-3% margin of error. Many universities will have this service. It costs $25 – $50.

DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) – Scanner that scans your whole body with low dose x-rays to calculate your body fat. There’s a 2-3% margin of error. You can check with you doctor and see if this is covered by your insurance. The cost is about $100.

Circumference Measurements

I believe that using a tape measure is such a great way to document progress. There’s less negative associations connected to circumference measurement numbers than with your weight. Being in a positive psychological state as often as possible when on a weight loss program I believe is crucial to a successful outcome.

Here are the areas I prefer to measure.

Width of shoulder – Widest part of the shoulder round

Above Chest – Underneath the armpits

Mid Chest – Measure around the chest right at the nipple line, but don’t pull the tape too tight.

Ribs – Underneath chest

Waist – Smallest area in the middle

Abdomen – The pooch area three inches to four inches below belly button

Hips – Widest area of the hips

Thighs – Widest area of the thighs

Calves – Widest area of the calves

Upper Arms – Widest area of the arm above the elbow

Forearms – Widest area of the arm below the elbow

Neck – Widest area

BMI (body mass index) is a screening tool used to measure weight relative to height. And some think it’s a great indicator of gauging body fat. I don’t think it is but some people are using that as body fat/fitness indicator.

It definitely isn’t for those with lots of muscle and who are bigger boned.

Formula: weight / [height (in inches)]2 x 703

· Those with a BMI below 18.5 are considered underweight.
· Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered normal weight.
· Those with a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 are considered overweight
· Those with a BMI of 30.0 and above are considered obese.

Other ways to gauge your progress is the way you look and feel in your clothing.

1How are your clothes feeling on you?

1How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?

1How are you feeling when you run up the stairs after 4 weeks of exercise?

1How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?

1Do you no longer have that 3pm slump?

1Keeping a journal will help jog memories of how far you’ve come on your path. I love the before and after images and documenting yourself on video adds another dimension to your journey.

Why do we do it to ourselves? This self-inflicted torture with the help of our stupid scale? Re-creating a new way of seeing ourselves and creating new experiences and relationships with fitness and our body don’t include the scale.

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