Once you have established your desired goal for weight loss, taking accurate measurements is essential for success. These measurements can bring encouragement when you feel you are not making progress and when the scale or jean tightness appears to be going in the wrong direction you have something to look back on to identify where things went wrong.
Here are some specific measurements I used during my weight loss journey:
- Your actual physical weight, yes two points for captain obvious but having a scale with accuracy of .1 to .2 lbs. can provide you feedback of success a few times a week to even daily. One thing to remember here is your weight can fluctuate as much as 5 lbs. over a given day depending on your level of dehydration or if you simply have not spent some time reading magazines in your bathroom for a few days. So keep this in mind when taking your measurements and store this info on a simple piece of paper or if you are like me opt for a cool Excel spreadsheet.
- Many times you may not see your weight come off on the scale but can still be measureable. Take measurements of your problem areas (waste line, abdomen, hips, arms, etc.) You can even do this without any measuring tools at all…”hey those jeans are not as tight anymore” or “down one more loop on the belt” These are the best indicators that you are moving in the right direction and for measurements like the belt loop tests can easily be done with no additional effort during your morning routine. It is also recommended to write these numbers down so you can track progress over time as well.
- Give yourself a weekly strength test. You want to make sure when your weight goes down that it fat and not muscle. An easy way to test this is to do a simple weekly strength test to see where your strength is at. I would choose the following exercises and count the number of reps I could complete for one set. If I could easily do 15 reps I moved the weight up one level (so I was actually getting stronger as I lost weight) If you do not have access to a gym to do this test you also use exercises such as pushups, situps, lunges, etc. to measure your strength though given you will be getting lighter they should become easier as you lose weight.
- Chest Press
- Row Press
- Lateral Pull
- Leg Press
- Bicep Curl
- Measure what you eat. Yes this is the one you probably do not want to hear, but if you find yourself following your diet and your measurements above do not seem to be going in the right direction this is almost always the reason why. Given the technology out there counting calories is much easier that in the past. I use MyFitnessPal which includes an online website but also smartphone applications to add what you are eating and check on your progress anywhere. During you first few weeks of measuring what you eat you should also physically measure what you eat. You should be able to pick up a digital scale for $15-20 which can save you a lot of time. This will make sure you are not writing that 5 ounce doughnut down as a 1 ounce but possibly even more importantly not writing that 6 ounce steak incorrectly as an 9 ounce steak (I normally grossly over estimate my proteins and underestimate my carbohydrates)
With this measurements in hand you should have all the information you need to track your success and if unexpected results show up on your scale or your waistline you have all the data to do analysis of what the true underlying problem actually is.