Do you find it difficult to see your own results when trying to lose fat? If so, it might actually cause you to fall off of your diet plan. That is why being able to objectively measure your progress is one of the key factors to keeping motivation high while losing weight. In this article I go over the primary methods I use for my clients to measure progress.
What gets measured, gets managed...
It is extremely important to have objective measurements of success. For many, it is critical to them sticking to their plans. Of course, we should focus on the "process", but you DO want results. If you don't see the progress, it is hard to stick to the process.
I am sure you have experienced the roller coaster of your body weight on a scale. On Monday, you check your weight with horror. It is up 3 pounds since Friday! You put in so much work last week and you GAINED weight! What gives? Then, Tuesday you drop 2 pounds and Wednesday another pound to where you are where you were last week. Finally… Thursday you are excited to hop on the scale only to see you are back up a pound. The rest of the day you mope around with frustration. With one last bit of hope, you hop on the scale Friday to see your weight has dropped 2 pounds which is a new low!
This is just one example I see people go through day to day. See, it is totally natural for our bodies to fluctuate 1-3 pounds per day.
Even though bodyweight can vary, I have found it to be a valuable tool in measuring progress depending on the goal. Think about it, if you lose 15 lbs of fat, you lost 15 lbs. Sure, you might gain a few pounds of muscle, but you won’t gain 15 pounds of muscle. So, you should see some changes! If you only have 5 pounds to lose, it is likely that you could gain enough muscle to mitigate the weight loss from losing fat and this could definitely make it seem like you are not making progress.
What I am going to tell you to do next is definitely against popular opinion, but you should probably weigh daily in the morning. Studies have shown that people who weigh daily seem to have better success at losing fat. You might not be ready for this and that is okay. You can do once per week, but know that it isn’t as accurate. See, with daily weigh-ins, you can take the average of the 7 days. This is powerful! When you start comparing the week to week averages, you start removing the volatility of the scale. Now, the scale actually produces some consistent results. This weekly average method has been invaluable to my client’s success. Example below.
Week 1: 202, 201, 200, 201 201, 203, 201= 1409/7 = 201.3 lbs
Week 2: 202, 201, 200, 200, 201, 200, 201= 1405/7 = 200.7 lbs
In the example above, I might have a client upset due to the face that they didn’t get a new low. This can lower motivation. However, when I point out that they dropped weight on their average, it can help keep them on track with trusting the process. This is huge. On the flip side, if they were just weighing once per week on Sundays, you can see that both Sundays the weight would have shown 201 and they would not have seen the decrease on the average. Again, this could lower motivation and cause someone to fall off track. Doing the average makes it much easier to see the small wins each week which will increase adherence and get better results.
Many times I hear that muscle weighs more than fat. Well, that isn’t true. 1 pound of muscle weighs the same as 1 pound of fat. Shocking right? However, muscle is smaller than fat is per pound. So, this is exactly why measurements can make a huge difference.
You can actually gain muscle and lose fat at the same. Especially, if you recently started lifting weights. Normally, it is very hard to build muscle, but people can definitely gain a good amount in the first few months of training. For women, I would estimate that they might gain 2-4 lbs of muscle in the first few months and men might be closer to 3-5 lbs. This could be enough to stay on pace with your fat loss. However, that is a pretty slow rate of fat loss and generally tells me that you might be in a very small calorie deficit.
In this case, tape measurements would show you have gotten smaller. Remember, muscle is smaller per pound. So, if gain 5 pounds of muscle and lose 5 pounds of fat, you are smaller! Not bulkier. I usually recommend two spots; the hips at the largest part around your butt and your waist around your belly button. These two spots can be done on your own so you don’t require help. This is why I choose these two spots. Feel free to do more if you prefer.
In reality, you might gain 3 lbs or so of muscle and lose 15 lbs of fat. This would net 12 lbs lost. Using a tape measure will help you see the significance of your weight loss and that is important for your confidence and your adherence moving forward on the plan.
Before and after pictures
I am sure you cringe like most of us when looking at pictures of ourselves. You know the power of pictures as it really creates emotional pain when we see something we don’t like. Now, imagine if you have gotten to your goal weight. Seeing that the difference in pictures would be powerful, right?
Taking before, during, and after pictures are important in making sure you are seeing the whole picture. Just like measurements, this can help you see changes regardless of weight loss. If you are gaining a bit of muscle and losing an equal amount of fat, you might see that your arms, back, belly, and thighs become more defined. If frustrated with weight, sometimes pictures can help you get over your frustrations if you can spot the differences.
That being said, for you it might take 8 or so weeks to see the difference. Most clients cannot objectively see it themselves until they have at least lost 10 lbs and because of this, it is important to not take pictures too often and also make sure you are using objective visual measurements.
What does objective visual measurements mean? As a coach, I look for cues. I draw an imaginary line(or sometimes use an editor) from the biggest part of the chest down past the biggest part of the belly for the side shot. Sometimes it can be hard to see the difference and this can be very helpful, especially when you are in an emotional state.
From the front or back shots, I look for the gap between your arms and the sides of your body. Did the gap get bigger? Many times, people have zero gap there to start and it can be easy to spot the change.
You can see how being objective can be extremely helpful. Just make sure the pictures are in the same spot, same clothing, and the same lighting if able. These different factors can make a huge difference in how your pictures appear and can make it challenging to see changes if they are not consistent.
As you can see, if you include a few different methods of measuring progress, you will be able to accurately see what is actually going on. I encourage you to do all 3 as I have found that this has been extremely important in how I coach my clients.
If you don't objectively measure progress, you won't know if what you are doing is working. This will lead to a lack of adherence due to the fact that you don't believe it is working. Make it real by measuring it!
What method do you prefer? Comment below and feel free to join my free Private community on facebook!