Anyone who has successfully lost a significant amount of weight knows that measuring weight loss progress isn’t a straight line from top-left to bottom-right. How you measure your progress, weight loss or overall fitness in general, is a lot more complicated. It’s hard to keep your sanity. You can do everything right, stay on track, never eat a single sweet and your weight loss journey will still suffer the attack of the dreaded scale.
The first thing I did when I got serious about losing weight was purchase a scale. Luckily I ended up buying one that had additional features to measure body fat, water weight and lean body mass percentage. If I had gone with the cheaper version I might be telling you a very different story today. I weigh myself almost every day and have since I bought it. Within the first 2 weeks of ownership I experienced how devastatingly cruel measuring weight loss progress is. You think you’re on track and then Bam! You’re 4 pounds up. What?! There is no way I ate 14,000 calories since yesterday morning! That’s when I learned the cold, hard truth. That scale will lie to you.
What you may not know is the number on a scale is variable. It can sway by as much as 6 pounds from your actual body weight. Factors such as hormone fluctuations, inflammation and water-retention can all wreak havoc on the numbers you eagerly, sometimes nervously, anticipate each morning. They look so innocent all perfect and digital. The traitors.
Why Measuring Weight Loss Progress is Complicated
Let’s say you consumed 3500 calories fewer than your body used for the week. That would mean you lost one pound. Unbeknownst to you when you roll out of bed all chipper and ready to start the day and you hop on that scale you are retaining 1.1 pounds of water due to a hormone fluctuation. You are about to get hit with a big fat (not literally) whammy. The scale says you that you have gained .1 pounds.
All of the sacrifices you made this week! You skipped the brownie for desert! You counted every calorie consumed and every calorie burned and you know for a fact that you are at least in a 3500 calorie deficit. Why bother?! It doesn’t make any difference. You stomp off the scale, angrily get dressed, refuse to eat breakfast, snap at your husband as though he had some hand in this abomination of a morning and spend the rest of the day grumpy.
It is this exact mental breakdown that can cause so many to give up on achieving a weight loss or fitness goal before they even really get started. The taxing mental effort of riding the storm of measuring weight loss progress induces enormous amounts of stress and frustration. Why continue working so hard on something when you aren’t making any progress?
Put these non-scale victory opportunities in your weight loss measurement bag of tracks and keep your sanity. If 7 factors say you are winning and only one is in dispute you have enough ammunition to calm your self-doubt, grab a banana and be hop-skipping-with-joy out the door each morning.
When you start eating real food and moving your body you can see a rapid decrease in your waist size before you will see a sharp turn in your weight. If your diet was heavy in processed foods and you have now replaced them with whole foods you may see an even sharper drop.
Your waist measurement is a key factor when evaluating overall health. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute carrying fat at your waist rather than your hips could put you at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you are measuring weight loss progress through the scale it may move slowly, or even go up, but if your waist size is decreasing you are making great strides to improving your overall health.
For tips on how to take a proper waist measurement and calculating Hip-Waist ratio check out this article at superskinnyme.com.
Body fat percentage
Those with higher body fat percentages run a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, joint issues, type 2 diabetes, stroke and a range of other health related issues. For women it indicates a higher risk for breast cancer. If your percentage is outside of the healthy range it’s a good indication that it’s time to get it in check.
The Washington Post published an article citing a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that individuals with a higher body fat percentage face an increased mortality risk even if their weight is within normal range.
There are multiple ways to measure your body fat percentage. You can use a skin fold caliper, body measurements, hydrostatic weighing and bioelectric impedance to name a few. There are pros and cons to each method. To offset in inaccuracy just make sure you compare apples to apples by picking one method and sticking to it. For more detailed information on measuring body fat percentage check out this article on Built Lean.
Strength and Endurance Increase
Set a goal for a physical activity so that you can measure increase in strength and endurance. Goals like running a mile without stopping or doing ten or twenty consecutive push-ups will help to increase your lean muscle mass and cardio-vascular endurance
If you are looking for help on how to perform strength training exercises I recommend bodybuilding.com. You can look up work out plans for different muscle groups and watch videos on how to properly perform different exercises.
How Your Clothes Fit
Measuring weight loss progress doesn’t always require that you have as scale on hand. Let your closet be your guide. If you are buying smaller sizes because your current clothes are getting looser something is changing.
How You Feel
If you feel great and you can do the things you want to do you can have the extraordinarily life of your dreams. You don’t need keep measuring weight loss progress when you true goal is living a better life. Even if the scale never moves. If you feel better you are getting your life back! That feeling will do more to build lifelong happiness than spending money on a smaller jean size could ever do.