Updated: May 1, 2022
When measuring for weight loss, the first thing to remember is that we’re actually most likely trying to target body fat loss. Weight covers body fat, muscle, water, stored carbohydrate for energy and more. Some of those will vary day to day and some we will want to maintain or possibly even increase. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of some different accessible weight loss measurements.
Remember what gets measured, gets managed!
Probably the most common weight loss measuring tool, but due to potential fluctuations we need to consider the mindset surrounding body weight.
Easy to use
Satisfying results, can be a good motivator
Measures not just body fat but also muscle, water, glycogen and more
Short term fluctuations can be demotivating (e.g. could fluctuate just by having a salty meal)
Easy to get hung up on a particular number rather than seeing the actual changes
Frequency - From twice a week up to daily depending on your preference. If you feel you might become obsessive with the scales either aim for the lower end, twice a week, or focus on a different measurement method.
Top Tips - The reason I say to measure at least twice a week is so we can take averages, this will help smooth out the variability of things like water weight and stored glycogen. Weigh yourself after you have been to the toilet after waking up, to keep the conditions as similar as possible. Refer back to your start point periodically as there will be plateaus, looking at the overall progress will help keep you motivated.
There is a lot of research around how well you look linking to how healthy you are (minus any major cosmetic interventions of course!).
Easy to take pictures
Goal often linked to aesthetics so a useful measure
Can take longer to see the difference
Angles/lighting can cause inconsistency
Frequency - Monthly. Noticing aesthetic changes can take a bit longer, e.g. you may lose a pound of body fat in a week which is great but you're probably not going to notice that change physically.
Top Tips - Consistency is key, you want to take photos at the same angle with similar lighting. Taking photos at the same time of day can help with keeping sunlight levels similar. Take photos of front, side and back views in just your underwear so you can see changes in more detail. You might want to share your progress in the future so if you aren't happy to share these photos then also take photos wearing a level of clothing that you would feel comfortable to show other people.
Say for example you want to lose belly fat, then lets measure it directly using a tape measure.
Really dials in on the areas you want to work on
Some professionals argue that hip to waist ratio is a better health measure than BMI
The number changes may not feel as satisfying compared to the scales, e.g. 1 inch vs 5 lbs
You need to learn how to take measurements accurately
Frequency - Every 2 weeks. Only measure the areas you're interested in to make the process more efficient.
Top Tips - Say you want to measure the belly, use landmarks such as the belly button for consistency. Try and measure at the same time of day, first thing after waking up if possible.
Have you got a piece of clothing you used to wear at your target weight or something you want to wear for a specific occasion?
Really easy to do
Tends to be a good milestone marker rather than showing weekly progress
Frequency - This depends on the goal but we’re looking at between every 2 weeks or monthly.
Top Tip - Don’t put the chosen piece of clothing in the tumble dryer in between measurements in case it shrinks!
As you can see, each method has its pros and cons, so I recommend you pick 2 methods. This will help give you the whole picture.