Being able to quantify your success in weight loss is an important factor in maintaining your momentum. However, sometimes trying to find a tangible way to measure your success can be difficult. Body circumference measurements and skinfold measurements are simple ways to gauge the progress you've made.
Establish a Baseline
When beginning a weight loss program, it is important to record your body measurements from the start. These measurements act as your baseline and provide you with a starting point to compare with your subsequent measurements. Without recording this information it is difficult to quantify just how far you've come.
Body circumference measurements are best performed with an extra set of hands present. This ensures accurate measurements. Record measurements for your arms, neck, chest/bust, waist, hips and thighs. For your arms, measure at the center of your biceps muscle, which is generally the “meatiest” part of your upper arm. Measure your neck halfway between the base of your jaw and top of your collarbone. For your chest measurement, measure the fullest part of your chest/bust line. The narrowest part of your stomach, often slightly above your belly button, is where you should measure for your waist. The fullest part of your buttocks is where you should measure for your hips. To measure your quadriceps, find the halfway point between your knee and hip. Avoid pulling the tape measure too tight, as this can result in inaccurate results.
Skinfold measurements involve the use of calipers. Calipers measure the thickness of the fat below your skin. These measurements are taken in very specific locations on your chest, abdomen, thigh and arm. Your trainer or other health professional will assess the amount of subcutaneous fat in these locations by pinching a section of your skin. These measurements are taken three times in each location. Since these measurements are more difficult to collect and record accurately, it is best to enlist the aid of a health professional or to use circumference measurements.
Step Off the Scale
It isn’t uncommon to get hung up on the number that you see on the scale, or to weigh yourself frequently throughout the week. While weight loss does entail an actual drop in your body weight, your scale will not alert you to changes in your body composition. Muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue, and, therefore, muscle weighs more. Focus on changes in your measurements rather than on the number on the scale.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Measuring and Evaluation Body Composition
- Journal of Athletic Training: National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Safe Weight Loss and Maintenance Practices in Sport and Exercise
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: Assessing Change – Beyond the Number on the Scale