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How to Measure Your Body for Weight Loss

When we talk about losing weight, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.

Updated: December 6, 2020
how to measure yourself for weight loss
By MBL Featured Blogger: Karen Eisenbraun
Originally Posted: August 19, 2020

Unfortunately, most of the language we use for the concept of weight loss focuses too much on that one idea: weight. Meaning, the number we see on the scale.

However, what we really should be focusing on is fat loss. Two different people can weigh the same, and yet have very different body compositions and wear different clothing sizes. The same can be true for you at different times in your weight-loss journey: your actual weight could stay the same, while other important numbers are changing. 

The truth is, how much we weigh is only one part of the story — and not even the most important part. It won’t tell you if you’ve lost fat, if you’ve replaced fat with muscle, or whether your health is actually improving. 

Since so much emphasis is placed on body weight, it’s easy to get fixated on that one number. Many people get frustrated and give up when they don’t see the number on scale going down. That’s why it’s important to track other metrics during your weight-loss journey. One of the best and most accurate ways to track your progress is by taking your body measurements. 

Let’s take a look at which measurements you should track during your weight-loss journey, and how to do it. 

Why track body measurements

We tend to think of weight loss as a straight line. When we step on the scale, we want that number to go down every time. But it rarely works that way. 

As you work toward achieving your ideal body weight, your weight will likely fluctuate greatly over time. You’ll lose some, and gain some back. This can be extremely frustrating and make it hard to stay motivated. 

But if you’re also taking body measurements, it will be easy to see the bigger picture. Even if your weight creeps back up a few pounds, you’ll likely see that you’re continuing to lose fat in different parts of your body. Your weight may not change as quickly as you’d like, but your clothes may fit better. And if you’re doing strength-training exercises, you’re also building muscle. All of this means that your body composition is changing, even if your weight isn’t. 

How to measure yourself for weight loss

Decide how often you will measure yourself, and stick to a consistent schedule so that you can get an accurate picture of your progress. Once a month is usually enough, as you may not see significant changes if you measure yourself every week. Write your measurements in a designated notebook or track them in a spreadsheet so that you can easily compare your numbers from one month to the next. 

  • When you take your measurements, wear as little clothing as possible so that it doesn’t get in the way. Wearing a sports bra is better than wearing a baggy t-shirt. 
  • Try to take your measurements at the same time of day — ideally, first thing in the morning when you’re at your lightest. 
  • Use a flexible measuring tape. Always make sure the tape is level around your body, not twisted anywhere, and not pressing into your skin. 
  • For some measurements, you may want to enlist a friend or spouse to help you with hard-to-reach areas. 

According to the WHO, nearly 3 million people die yearly worldwide due to being overweight or obese.  In addition, independent of any particular disease, people with high BMIs often report feeling better, both physically and psychologically, once they lose excess weight.

Measurements to take

  • Your weight. You’ll need this for calculating your body fat percentage. 
  • Neck circumference. Keeping your head straight, measure around your neck. 
  • Upper arm. With your arm down at your side, measure the fullest part of your arm above your elbow. 
  • Forearm. Measure around the fullest part of your forearm. 
  • Wrist. Measure around your wrist. 
  • Bust. Measure around the fullest part of your breasts. 
  • Chest. Measure around your chest, just under your breasts. 
  • Shoulders. Relax your arms at your side, and measure around your shoulders. 
  • Waist. Measure the narrowest part of your waist, above your navel. 
  • Hips. Measure around the widest part of your hips. 
  • Thigh. Stand up straight and rest your weight on one leg. Measure around the fullest part of your thigh on your other leg. Your leg should be relaxed while you measure it. 
  • Calf. Measure the fullest part of your calf muscle on your relaxed leg. 

 

Determining your body fat percentage

Once you have all your measurements, enter them into an online body fat calculator. It will ask you for your weight as well as a few key body measurements. 

The average body fat for women is between 25 and 31 percent, while the average body fat for men is between 18 and 24 percent. 

Once you have this number, you can also determine how many pounds of fat you have. 

Simply multiply your weight by your body fat percentage. For example, a person who weighs 200 pounds and has a body fat percentage of 26 will have 52 pounds of fat. It certainly helps to have a tape measure to help you get accurate calculations.

This is how to measure yourself for weight loss success! If you’re losing pounds of fat, you know you’re on the right track!

Taking photos for measuring weight loss

Photos are another great way to track your progress from month to month. If you see yourself in the mirror every day, it will be hard to notice gradual changes in your appearance. But photos make it easy to see how much your body has changed over time. 

As with taking your measurements, wear as little clothing as possible when you take photos. This may be uncomfortable at first, but months from now, you’ll be glad to have your photos to look back on. 

Use good lighting, and try to avoid standing in front of clutter or a busy background that can make it hard to see your shape. If you don’t have someone to help you, taking photos in the mirror often works well. If possible, wear the same clothing every time so you can see how it fits differently on your body. 

 

Don’t forget the non-scale victories

Keeping track of non-scale victories is also a great way to monitor your progress towards learning how to measure your weight loss. Your non-scale victories may be unique to you, depending on what your personal goals are.

Some common examples of non-scale victories include: 

  •  You have more energy 
  • Your clothes fit better
  • You can fit into your favorite clothes from years again
  • You can wear your wedding ring again
  • You’re able to play with kids or grandkids without getting easily tired
  • You can ride on an airplane without a seatbelt extender
  • You sleep better
  • Your skin is clearer
  • You can walk longer or faster
  • You feel more confident
  • Certain health metrics have improved, like your blood pressure or blood sugar
  • You no longer need to take certain medications (always check with your doctor before discontinuing any prescription medications)
  • Your head feels clearer
  • You feel motivated to eat healthier foods and work out

If you’re having difficulty meeting your weight-loss goals, request a consultation with a weight-loss specialist that offers therapeutic interventions for addressing the underlying health conditions that can make weight loss difficult. A weight-loss clinic specializing in medically managed weight-loss programs can help you develop a plan that addresses your individual needs. Click here to view our weight loss doctor directory.  

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Karen Eisenbraun is a certified holistic nutrition consultant and writer with a background in digital marketing. She has written extensively on the topics of nutrition and holistic health for many leading websites.

Karen received her nutrition certification from the American College of Healthcare Sciences in 2012. She follows a ketogenic diet and practices intermittent fasting. Karen advocates a whole foods approach to nutrition and believes in empowering yourself with information that allows you to make smarter decisions about your health.

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