Q. What measurements should I be doing to keep track of my journey?
A. There are a variety of ways that you can keep track of your progress on your journey! Here are a few that I do and when I do them:
- The most obvious answer is the scale. I only like the scale when I use it moderately…meaning NOT EVERY DAY and NOT EVERY WEEK. Why? Our weight is going to fluctuate and can change a lot just based on what we eat and what we drink. If we are working hard with exercising and not eating enough, drinking enough or even sleeping enough the number on the scale can be impacted by those factors. When do I use the scale? About once a month, usually around the 1st day of the month and the same time of the day. Of course…I’m not going to step on the scale during certain times of the month when I most likely have a little extra water weight going on so I just adjust the date accordingly. I’ve talked a lot about the scale in the past too and don’t like how a number can really impact a mood and it just isn’t the most accurate measurement of health. Overall…a scale will tell you how much you weigh but it doesn’t tell you how much of that weight is water, muscle, fat, etc.
- Body Fat Calculators. If you aren’t a math person this part can get a little confusing to understand. Take a moment though and do a little research about what this calculation actually means because in my opinion it is a number that is much more important to know than the number you see on a scale.
- What does the body fat percentage number tell you? The body fat calculator tells you the percentage of fat that you have on your body. As women we need a little more fat than men so don’t try to compare your percentage to a man’s percentage. An acceptable range for woman is 25% to 31% body fat. If you are over that…you need to lose weight. Plain and simple.
How do you figure this number? You can use special machines that most gyms have or calipers that are designed specifically for this calculation. If you don’t have access to those you can also do a few simple measurements at home and find out your body fat percentage. An easy one to use is available for you at this link.
- Body Mass Index (BMI). This number is determined by a chart that shows what health category you are in based on your height and weight. This number is ideal for most people. I say “most” because here is what it says for me…I am about 5 feet 11 inches tall. In order to be “ideal” or “optimal” I need to be at least 177 pounds. The lowest part of the range is about 135 pounds. In high school while playing sports and being very active I wasn’t even in the ideal category for BMI. For some people though this is a great tool. For me…it is frustrating so I don’t look at it very often but I do know my numbers and where I am at according to this chart.
How do you figure out your BMI? The CDC has a great site with a calculator that you can find here. Punch in your numbers and see where you might be at on the chart.
- Measurements. Keep track of where you are and how your progress is going by doing a few simple measurements of your body. Find a flexible tape measure, grab a notebook and pen (so you can’t change what the number said!) and either do this on your own or with some help. Take the following measurements and try to do these in the same spot each time they are taken so they can be as accurate as possible: neck, upper arm (bicep area), bust, chest (just under the bust), belly button, waist (the largest part), hips, thigh, calf. Find the biggest measurement for each area. If you need to make a note about what or where you did the measuring be sure to write that down too. Keep this in a safe spot and come back to it about once a month and record again.
- How your clothes fit. There is nothing better than finding out that you now need to wear a belt because your pants are falling down! I was packing for a trip today and realized that I have 1 pair of shorts to wear and my swimsuit top doesn’t fit and I am most likely going to have a wardrobe malfunction if I don’t go shopping tonight. It is a great feeling to know that I have gone down sizes or finally been able to wear a pair of pants I bought on clearance 2 years ago (true story…they now fit!). One of the coolest things that I saw not too long ago was a person who recorded the date and/or weight on the inside of a belt at the notch that was used at that point in their journey. With each notch down they made a new note on the belt. Genius! Maybe there is a pair of pants that are your “skinny pants” and they are shoved in the back of your drawer. Keep trying them on every couple of months and then, keep working hard at eating healthier options and exercising and one day they will fit great! If you start to feel like your clothes are a little snug…it is time to change something with your workout or diet. There is nothing greater than putting on your clothes that you have stored away for the spring (or whatever the next season is) and when it is time to wear them again they are too big! (Side note…1 size down is about 10 to 15 pounds lost)
I have taken measurements at various points in my journey but I did miss about a year right at the beginning. I really wish that I would have stopped and thought about taking out a tape measure to at least record my waist at the point. Here is what I have recorded though and how far I have come from when I started writing down all these numbers:
Amount of inches lost since August 25th, 2010 (over a year after I started physical therapy)
Waist: 10 inches Chest: 6 inches Hips: 8 inches
Thighs: 3 1/2 inches each Arms: 2 inches each
Maybe you will learn from my mistake and take some time today to write down your measurements, figure out your body fat percentage or where you are on the BMI chart.
What types of measurements do you keep track of? Are you planning on doing any of the above measurements on a routine basis to help track your progress?