Last week we spoke about BMI and how quite frankly i find it an utter useless tool in measuring your body composition, this week we are going to look at what we should be measuring and how…


So just a quick recap…...

When you strength train and eat properly, your body tends to only shed fat while keeping the muscle you already have. Compare that to crash dieting and hours of cardio where your “weight loss” will be greater…but you’ll be losing both muscle and fat (and leave you looking and feeling like a weakling).

By tracking your body composition in more than one way, you’ll have a more accurate view of what’s working and what’s not working with your training. If after a few weeks you’re not losing the right kind of weight, you’ll know that you need to make some adjustments.

Before we get into metrics, let’s set one ground rule: Don’t track everything on a day-to-day basis.  Our bodies are incredibly complex pieces of machinery where all kinds of crazy stuff happens all day and all night.

Our weight can fluctuate by many pounds over the course of a day.  Measuring EVERY day will promote an unhealthy OCD behavior where every tiny little change will be scrutinized and blown out of proportion.

So, measure yourself once a week at the same time, I advices after you wake up and before you eat breakfast. Depending on your schedule, I’d either pick Friday or Monday mornings to track all of your measurements – if you tend to let yourself go on the weekends, I’d advise doing your measurements on Friday morning so that you’ll have a whole week to get back on track and see long-term changes.

Here are the best ways to track yourself OTHER than a scale:

Take a picture – My favorite method.  Stand in front of a mirror in a bathing suit or your underwear with your cell phone camera and take a picture.  Then turn to the side and take another picture of your profile view.  You might not like what you see.  You might not want to look at it again, and you probably won’t want to show it to anybody.  THAT’S FINE.  Just take the picture, hide it in a folder on your computer, and add to it once a week.  You live with yourself , so it’s tough to notice changes on a day-to-day basis.  However, if you have two months of week-to-week photos to look back on, you’ll be able to tell if your body is transitioning in the right way.

It's easy to get discouraged when you work so hard to lose weight and your efforts don't reflect on the scale. Seeing the same number week after week can make you want to drown your sorrows in a pint of Haagen-Daz. But wait! Before you pick up that spoon, take your measurements.

Body measurements can be a useful way to track your progress. Many times you'll see a loss of inches even if the scale isn't moving. To ensure accuracy, measure in exactly the same place and under the same conditions each time. Here are some instructions and tips to help you.

Common Body Measurements

Bust: Place the measuring tape across your nipples and measure around the largest part of your chest. Be sure to keep the tape parallel to the floor.

Chest: Place the measuring tape just under your breasts/pecs and measure around the torso while keeping the tape parallel to the floor.

Waist: Place the measuring tape about a 1/2 inch above your bellybutton (at the narrowest part of your waist) to measure around your torso. When measuring your waist, exhale and measure before inhaling again.

Hips: Place the measuring tape across the widest part of your hips/buttocks and measure all the way around while keeping the tape parallel to the floor. You can use your waist and hip measurements to calculate your Waist-to-Hip ratio, an assessment that can help determine your health risk. Use SparkPeople's Waist-to-Hip Ratio Calculator to determine your ratio.

Thigh: Measure around the largest part of each thigh.

Calves: Measure around the largest part of each calf.

Upper arm: Measure around the largest part of each arm (above the elbow).

Forearm: Measure around the largest part of each arm (below the elbow).

Neck: Measure around the largest part of the neck

The other benefit of tracking progress is that it gives you a goldmine of information about specifically how your body responds to different exercise, nutrition and supplementation stimuli.       You can read all the books and articles that you want about those topics, but nothing will give you as much insight into your own body as your own logs. W

Whenever you take measurements, you should write them down, and next to your measurements, you should actually write down what you did since your last measurements. This way, if you want to come back to the same kind of program a few years later, you’ll already have the best blueprint in the world on what works for your body.

When you measure on a regular basis, you tend to get results much faster than when you don’t measure.

Why? Because whatever program you’re on will stop working eventually. You’ll reach a plateau. But how do you know when you’ve reached that plateau? If you just rely on your eyes, it can take 2-4 months to visibly see that progress has stopped. 

When I tell clients that we’ll measure their body fat every  few weeks, they frequently ask “will I see results that quickly?” The answer is that with their eyes, they won’t see it. But with our tools (calipers and measuring tape), they will. Remember Body fat losses are not really visible with the eyes until 1-3 months down the line (depending on a person’s height, where they store fat, etc.). If you want to stay motivated Keep Tracking your progress regularly.