When weight loss is your goal, measuring your progress is valuable and motivating. The bathroom scale is the easiest instrument of measurement, but it’s not the only one. This blog post shares four non-scale ways to know that you are making the progress you want.
Weight Loss Progress Without The Scale
- Use a Tape Measure, measuring five points: your chest, waist, hips, arm, and thigh
- Monitor your Body Fat Percentage using skin calipers or a scale that measures bioelectrical impedance
- Take Before and After Pictures, snapping a new shot every two weeks
- Notice drops in Clothing Size, hanging on to a couple of items that no longer fit as a reminder of how far you’ve come!
Weight Loss Progress Without The Scale – 4 Non-Scale Ways to Know You’re Losing Weight [Video]
The Problem with the Scale
The bathroom scale is a quick and convenient way to track your body weight. However, we tend to overlook the fact that the human body holds a lot of water, and water is heavy. How much water your body decides to hold on to on any given day depends on a host of factors, from the foods you ate last night to the amount of repair and growth needed by your cells to hormonal fluctuations.
As your body’s water content naturally increases and decreases, so does the number on the bathroom scale, which can leave you scratching your head, wondering if you are truly making progress or not. To keep from getting discouraged, it is important to have other ways to tell if you are losing fat.
#1 Body Measurements Using a Tape Measure
An inexpensive way to show that your body is changing is to use a tape measure. You can argue that body measurements have an advantage over the bathroom scale because they can help determine fat loss, not just weight loss.
As your weight on the scale drops, you will also notice a drop in your body measurements. However, your body measurements can change without seeing a weight change on the scale. For instance, resistance-style exercises like lifting weights can increase muscle mass. Muscle is denser than fat, so pound-for-pound does not take up as much space as fat.
The challenge with taking your body measurements is that you can ask ten people how to measure and get ten different answers. So, don’t get too caught up in perfection. The things to remember are to keep it simple and consistent.
Here are the general rules to follow:
- Hold the tape measure against your skin, not over clothing, which can vary in thickness.
- Allow the tape measure to lay flat without indenting your skin.
- Measure at the same places on your body each time.
You can choose to measure any area of your body, but the common practice is to measure around the fullest area at five points: your chest, waist, hips, arm, and thigh. The one exception I would make to this is geared toward women who are prone to bloating. Because bloating often happens in the midsection, taking your waist measurement one inch above your belly button will be more dependable than around the fullest area.
#2 Body Fat Percentage
Another way to monitor your progress is by measuring body composition to determine your body fat percentage. Body composition is a metric that distinguishes between the amount of fat mass and lean mass that you carry. To keep it simple, remember that if it is not fat, it is lean tissue. So, your lean mass is comprised of muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and organs.
There are many ways to determine your body fat percentage. The method you choose will depend on the tools you have access to.
Research teams may opt to use Hydrostatic Weighing, which measures the water displacement that occurs when you are completely submerged in water. This is an accurate way to assess body fat percentage but is not really an option for the general public.
There are innovations, like BOD Pods, starting to find their way into the marketplace. These scanning devices use air displacement rather than water displacement, making for a more comfortable experience.
A DEXA scan is a test that you may be familiar with as a way to diagnose bone-density issues like osteoporosis. However, it can also evaluate your body composition. A few years ago, I had a DEXA scan for body composition performed by a local college research department. At the time, the university was the only option available. Using this technology for measuring body composition is becoming more accessible. However, it is not everywhere and requires a follow-up visit to be helpful as a weight loss progress tool.
Fortunately, there are two at-home ways for you to measure body fat.
Some digital bathroom scales measure your weight and use bioelectrical impedance to calculate body fat percentage. By simply stepping on the scale with bare feet, very small electrical impulses are sent through the body, recording how fast the impulses return.
The current flows through fat at a different speed than it flows through lean tissue, which is how the technology figures out your body fat percentage. The nice thing about scales with a bioelectrical impedance feature is that they are reasonably priced and can be found in stores or online. However, if this is the method you use to evaluate your weight loss progress, you want to aim to be at the same hydration level for each test. Water inside your body will also conduct the electrical current, so picking a set time in the morning to test works best.
The pinch test using skin calipers is another option for measuring your body fat percentage. You can pick up a set of skin calipers online, and they come with instructions on where to measure skin folds and the formula for estimating your body fat percentage. There is a bit of a learning curve to get accurate readings, but calipers are inexpensive and can be used at home.
#3 Before and After Photos
Another inexpensive and easy way to monitor your weight loss progress is with pictures. What before and after pictures give up in precision, they more than make up for in motivation. The hurdle to get past is snapping that before picture. It may not feel good at the moment, but you will cherish that photo in the months to come. Ideally, you want to snap a picture every couple of weeks wearing the same type of clothing and take pictures from the front, back, and side.
#4 Clothing Size
Even if you avoid the camera at the beginning of your weight loss journey, clothing size is another way to measure your progress. Like taking pictures, going down in a clothing size does not give you a precise measurement but does provide a lot of motivation to keep going. By all means, clean out your closet and donate clothing that no longer fits, but hang on to a couple of items. When you have a moment of doubt that your efforts are paying off, there is nothing better for getting your head back in the game than seeing and feeling how far you’ve come.
The bathroom scale is an easy way to monitor your weight loss, but it is not the only way. Regardless of how much weight you want to lose, reaching your goal takes time. The more ways you find to record your progress, the more motivated you’ll stay.