How to Evaluate Weight Loss

The scale can be misleading when you're trying to lose weight.
The scale can be misleading when you're trying to lose weight. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Tracking progress is a critical component of any long term goal -- especially weight loss. If you're on the quest to shed some unwanted weight, evaluating your weight loss along the way can help keep you encouraged and motivated. However, there is more involved in evaluating all the dimensions of weight loss than just stepping on the scale. Relying solely on the scale doesn't provide the full picture, so keep other measurements in your weight-loss arsenal to keep you on track to your goals.

Weigh yourself. Yes, you should weigh yourself regularly if you're trying to lose weight, as long as you're using the scale in conjunction with other methods of measurement. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, the scale can be a good baseline. However, if you're trying shed the last 5 pounds, it won't reflect fluctuations in body composition and hydration that can affect your weight by a couple of pounds. Step on the scale once a week at the same time of day and record your weight.

Take circumference measurements. Use measuring tape to measure your waist, hip, thigh, calf, arm and forearm circumferences, and record the results. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends repeating each measurement two or three times and recording the average. Circumference measurements should be taken less frequently than weight -- once a month will provide you with a good look at how your body shape is changing. According to research presented at the European Congress on Obesity, waist measurements provide a good indication of health threats such as high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, abnormal body fat levels and metabolic syndrome.

Test your body-fat percentage. Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to measure body fat, but it is expensive and may not be available to everyone. Instead, enlist a trained professional to measure your body fat using fat calipers. Have the same person perform the measurements each month and record your results.

Take progress photos once a month while wearing clothes that clearly show your shape, such as a bathing suit. Progress photos are another way to gauge body composition changes, especially if your main focus is fat loss and muscle gain. Since you probably look at yourself in the mirror every day, you're not likely to detect changes that monthly progress photos can reflect.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be patient with your weight-loss goals. Remember that you didn't put on weight overnight, so you can't expect to lose it that quickly either. Instead, focus on steady, long-term weight loss at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week. Use a combination of exercise and calorie restriction to meet your goals. If you're dieting, don't drop your food intake under 1,200 calories per day to avoid creating a sluggish metabolism.
  • Talk with your doctor to evaluate your weight-loss goals before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimen.

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