The Scale Isn’t Everything

Does your body image revolve around the number on the scale? Or is your ultimate success in healthy living only determined by how much you weigh?

If so, I would encourage you to broaden your thinking a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I think weighing yourself is an effective means of keeping tabs on your progress, or in some cases, the slipping back into old habits. But there are a number of other things that you can actively monitor to help you gauge the changes happening in your body.

A great way to see progress is by taking before and after pics. And in the age of digital cameras you don’t even have to worry about printing them or anyone else seeing them (well except the photographer unless you use a tripod). I recommend taking three shots wearing fitting clothing.

  • Head shot: this is the best way to see weight lost in and around your face
  • Straight-on shot: this angle allows you to get a perspective on your arms and legs
  • Profile shot: taking a look at this angle will give you the best perspective on your abdomen and butt

Another way to measure progress is by taking your body fat. There are a number of methods and scales available for this type of measurement.

  • Water submersion: this is the most accurate but also the most expensive and difficult to locate testing facilities
  • Skin fold test: there are 3 and 7 point skin-fold tests (you may remember these from elementary school) that can be performed by most personal trainers and doctor’s offices; keep in mind the margin for human error
  • Hand-held devices and scales: these devices take into consideration your age, weight, height, activity level and gender, when you grip the device or stand on the scale it sends a small, painless current of electricity through your body to measure the subcutaneous fluid (or body fat) under the skin; these types of measurements can have a +/- 2 percentage error depending on the factors surrounding the test

The last type of measurements I will suggest is to get out an old fashioned tape measure and record your results for the following areas:

  • Neck: measure mid-way between chin and clavicle
  • Chest/Bust: measure the area of the largest circumference
  • Biceps: measure mid-way between elbow and shoulder
  • Waist: measure 1 inch above belly button, or at the lowest circumference area near waist
  • Hips: measure the largest circumference area near buttocks
  • Thigh: measure mid-way between knee and bend of hip
  • Calf: measure mid-way between knee and top of ankle

Note: as a rule of thumb when doing measurements, the only area that you want to measure the “smallest” circumference is the waist, every other area you want to measure the largest – this will help you to identify the “mid-way” point

Keep in mind with these types of measurements you aren’t going to see progress on a daily basis. I would recommend taking photographs every couple months, measuring body fat one to two times a month, and taking measurements on a monthly basis.

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