Tracking Progress

What is it about measurements that scare people so much? I used to be one of those girls; I never wanted to know how much I weighed, cut the size tags out of my jeans, and refused to even let the doctor read the scale out loud. The thing is, a lot of us have a warped relationship with measurements, specifically the scale. Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone, or said yourself, “I want to lose 30lbs” or “I’ll be happy at 160”. A lot of times that goal number is just some arbitrary thing that has been assigned too much worth. *Unless a doctor or registered dietician gave you those numbers* The scale is likely not an indicator of your overall health or fitness levels.

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There is less than a 10lb difference between these photos. The scale doesn't tell the whole picture!

So why measure at all? Well measurements are extremely important indicators of your hard work,because you’re working hard on your health and fitness goals, right? Measurements are tools to monitor and adjust as you progress on your health and fitness goals.

Let me repeat, measurements are a tool. You are not a tool, that # doesn’t define who you are as a person.

We use these measurements as indicators to see what may need changing. It opens up a dialogue with your coach, or maybe gives you a chance to be honest with yourself, about what is or isn’t working.

soooo what should I be measuring?

INCHES are a great place to track results. Often when the scale doesn’t move while you’re dieting and strength training, that can be attributed to muscle gain and that will be reflected in inches. I cringe when I see/hear people say “muscle weighs more than fat”... well kinda. 5lbs of muscle weighs EXACTLY the same as 5lbs of fat. Duh, 5lbs. But muscle is more dense, which means it takes up less space. So where the scale doesn't move, but your jeans are fitting better, girl you have lost inches. I’d take a loss of 2 inches in my waist over 2lbs down on the scale. The scale doesn’t tell us where we’re shrinking or if we’re progressing in losing fat and creating lean muscle. Also, I really encourage using a tape measure vs. jeans or dress sizing. Unfortunately ladies all know too well that sizes vary store to store. Luckily with a tape measure you get accuracy. 8 inches is 8 inches.

BODY FAT is another great indicator of your progress. The term “skinny fat” is most often what I picture when I think of not monitoring my body fat percentage. Someone at 130lbs with 18% body fat would look a lot different than that same woman weighing 130lbs with 30% body fat. Your body fat percentage tells us more about your body composition, how much of your body is composed of lean muscle vs. fat. If your goal is fat loss then you should absolutely be measuring body fat. Most gyms have skin calipers or a hand-held device. The most important thing there is consistency. Use the same device, not switching from calipers to a hand-held, and measuring a consistent time of day to track the difference. The device may not be 100% accurate but it will be able to tell you your progress, like if you’ve lost 4%.

PHOTOS are great indicators as well.  In January I started a weight loss challenge, yes I let myself go over a stressful time in my life last year and gained a lot of weight. I took pictures every Monday. At first it was really difficult to see those photos. But it was awesome to compare them back and see these big changes. Sometimes the scale moved less than 3lbs and I would be so discouraged. Then I’d compare photos and see how my hips and legs were shrinking. Once a week was probably (definitely) overkill, but I am so happy I had those beginning photos to see how far I’d progressed. Numbers are great but there’s something extra special about visual confirmation of your progress.

"That which gets measured, gets improved" is true, but measure consistently and with a purpose.