It is very easy for us to become obsessed with our weight as a number and start to weigh ourselves every day. Stepping on a scale isn’t the only way to judge whether you are making progress or not. In fact, it isn’t even the best way to know how much fat you’re losing and how much muscle you’re gaining.
Obsession with the scale can become a serious problem and lead to depression, eating disorders or giving up due to disappointment. The reason for this is because even the healthiest individual’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis. Instead of relying solely on the scale to judge how well you are doing, try some of these methods instead.
Photo Track Visual Progress
One of the best ways to track your weight loss progress is to take photos biweekly or monthly. There are a couple reasons why tracking with pictures is a good idea. Most women tend to want to lose weight or workout for their appearance. It isn’t the only reason but generally it’s up there in the top 3.
Taking pictures enables you to see how your body changes from an outside perspective. Often, women don’t realize how much their body has changed because they see it every day in the mirror. Seeing a photo from a month ago can really give insight into how well you are doing.
Photos taken in the same positions and angles every time will also show much fat you’re losing and from where, as well as how much muscle you’re gaining. How visible your abdominal muscles are is another great indicator of body fat percentage as your abs will only become visible when you reach a low body fat percentage, generally.
These photo don’t need to be fancy and you don’t have to show them to anyone- just take them for yourself. If you plan to keep your progress photos private anyways, try to wear clothing that really let’s you see your body vs bulky clothing. A bathing suit is a great choice. As mentioned earlier, try to take your pictures from the same angles every time. You may also want to take 2 sets of pictures, one where you are totally relaxed (don’t hold anything in!) and another where you tighten/flex your muscles. Even if you still rely on a scale, taking pictures should still be done as it is truly eye-opening and motivational.
Track Body Measurements
A second excellent way of tracking your progress without a scale is to take body measurements. Just like tracking with pictures, measuring your body will tell you a lot more about how your body is changing than a number on a scale. It is also extremely easy to do, so there really is no excuse to not track these numbers.
You can measure whatever parts of your body you feel you need to, but overall you’ll want to track you:
- Legs (thighs & calves)
- Arms (bicep area)
- Chest (under and over bust)
Some women also choose to track their wrists, ankles, neck, etc. It’s really up to you. As you take your waist and hip measurements, calculate the ratio between them as this can be an important way of measuring health. Typically women should have 0.08 ratio. You can find more about waist-to-hip (WTH) ratios here.
To make measuring easy, it is best to use a cloth tape measure or a special body measurement flexible tape measure. You can probably find one at your local $.99 or $1 store.
Use a Body Fat Caliper
A lot of women can get so hung up on weight that they don’t realize the more important number is body fat percentage. A super fit woman who has a lot of muscle could actually be considered “overweight” just based on her weight alone, even if she is really healthy with a low body fat %. There are so many different body types out there and people who are bigger boned may not be as unhealthy as they believe if they have their body fat tracked.
You can see a professional to get a body fat analysis but this isn’t necessary to do on a regular basis. There are body fat calipers and monitors you can buy online from websites like Amazon and in health stores so you can measure yourself at home. It is important to thoroughly read the instructions that come with the calipers and even do some research online to ensure you measure yourself properly.
Body fat is the best way to judge your health and you should never just rely on the automatic body fat calculator on some digital scales as they are not perfectly accurate. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy some calipers and then visit a doctor or personal trainer to get help with measuring body fat. Most will be happy to show you how to use calipers at home. Here is some additional info on ideal body fat percentages.
Get Weighed by a Professional
Finally, you can get “weighed” by a professional. There are two techniques which will measure your weight but more importantly, they will show you far more about your actual body composition. These two methods are:
- DEXA Scanning: Judged by some fitness professionals to be the absolute best method of body measurement. DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry which measures fat and lean mass as well as bone mass. Many universities offer DEXA scanning and it’s well worth the $75-$100 price tag to gain so much insight into your body. It would be best to get a scan done before starting your weight loss journey and every 3-6 months during your journey is this is something in your budget.
- Hydrostatic Weighing: Hydrostatic weighing is done in water and tends to also be offered by universities and high end, retreat-style weight loss programs. Some very high end gyms may do this as well. Even though technology like the DEXA scan is more accurate, hydrostatic weighing is still an excellent alternative to a scale. It tends to be much less expensive than a DEXA scan as well.
A scale still has its place in everyone’s weight loss journey but should be a tool saved for biweekly or monthly tracking to avoid obsession. Remember that muscle is more dense than fat, so if you find your weight isn’t dropping off despite hard work, you could be gaining muscle. Don’t convince yourself that you’re not making progress just because the needle is not moving. Weight is just a number, so don’t become fixated on it. Focus on how you look, how you feel and your body fat percentage.