If you're trying to lose weight, self-monitoring your progress is key. After all, who doesn't want to see results, right?
As the Journal of the American Dietetic Association put it, self-monitoring should be the "centerpiece" of any weight loss program.
Yes, your fitness and diet plan would be incomplete without a self-monitoring component. This helps measure and illustrate your progress, helps you pay more than the usual attention to your actions and goals, and can help reinforce the changes you're making for weight loss.
How can you really tell if there is any progress being made?
The most common (and often only) method used is weighing oneself on a scale.
While we don't want to be fixated on this number or habit, it is worthy to note that frequent self-weighing is linked to weight loss and a lower risk of weight regain. Some may avoid the scale at the beginning of a program so as not to be deceived by excess water loss that causes a dramatic change in "scale weight".
Although the scale does not tell you the whole story (such as body fat loss or lean mass accumulation), it is still a useful tool. Of course, scale weight is not the only number to be measuring. In order to get a more well-rounded idea of your progress, there are other measures that can help.
Beyond the Scale
This first one is not a "number" to measure but it can be useful. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Some of those "words" can be regarding your progress. Have you ever thought of keeping picture records of your progress. Although it is not a precise measure, it can be very telling.
Try taking a picture every few weeks. They may be able to tell you if you're going in the right direction.
How your Clothes Fit
Pick a pair of jeans or pants and a shirt. Put on the same pair of pants and shirt weekly or monthly to see how you fit in them as time passes.
As mentioned in the EnergyFirst program, one of the most accurate and convenient ways to measure body composition is using skinfold calipers. Testing the amount of subcutaneous fat stored under the skin at 7 different sites on your body can help you easily calculate your total body fat percentage. You can leave the math to the American Council on Exercise. They have a useful online tool where you put your skinfold measures in and they calculate the body fat percentage for you.
Tracking these measurements once a month can easily be done by yourself. After doing it once, you can quickly get the hang of it. This will give you important clues as to your progress.
Here's a number worth measuring alongside your scale weight. Take a weekly or monthly measure of your upper and lower arms, calves, thighs, hips, waist, bust or chest.
Other measures worth looking out for can help indicate the status of your cardiovascular or metabolic health, such as blood pressure , cholesterol and trigylceride levels. Tracking our progress in these measures is also useful as they are crucial to overall health.
Use A Combo of Methods
Many of these methods work together to offer you a more complete picture of your progress.
The scale can be used in conjunction with other measures. For example, if you are keeping track of your skinfold measures or body fat percentages, the scale can help you see if you are building up lean muscle mass. In this example, if the body fat remains constant, then some weight gain seen on the scale can indicate an accumulation of lean muscle mass (though some may be water weight).
Regardless of the methods you use, make sure your goals are realistic. Healthy weight loss is typically 1 to 2 pounds lost per week.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jan; 111(1): 92–102.
McClusky, J. (2017, May 23). Ways to Track Weight Loss Success. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/misc-weight-news-704/ways-to-track-weight-loss-success-722245.html