Best Tools to Measure Weight Loss
I hear from people all the time who say they cannot weigh themselves on a scale. The anxiety they experience – anticipating, stepping on, seeing the number, the resulting disappointment (or even elation) – is all just too much for them to bear.
Okay, I get that. But I believe that if you’re trying to lose weight, you must have an accurate way to regularly measure it.
There’s a reason why knowing and owning the number is important, but let’s take a look at some of the ways to measure body weight first.
Body Mass Index (BMI): It’s a weight-to-height ratio, calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters. Online calculators are numerous and free. Click here for the Centers for Disease Control’s calculator. The BMI calculator will give you a number which corresponds to the BMI chart. That chart deems an individual’s weight as either “normal,” “underweight,” “overweight,” “obese” or even “morbidly obese.” However, there are those who consider it a flawed method of gauging an individual’s health because it fails to take into consideration how muscular you are, how active you are, your body type, your age, or even your gender.
Bottom line: BMI may be useful for a health practitioner as a quick screening tool, but it’s not an accurate gauge of body composition or even overall health.
Tape measure: A decidedly low-tech tool, I have a friend who is in the camp I described above with regard to her scale. “It messes with my head,” she says. But she’s determined to “get real” about her body and now takes her measurements with a tape measure once a week, recording those numbers in a journal. Measure: bust, waist, hips, upper arm, thigh, calf, and even ankle. It’s so exciting to see those numbers go down, but also to see the cumulative effect of weight loss over your entire body.
Bottom line: This is a great idea, even if you use other methods, because it reveals how your body changes shape, and takes emphasis off the number on the scale.
Scale: A bathroom scale is the standard body weight measuring tool, and for most of us the preferred method. Oh, I know. My weight goes up and down too, and I’ve been known to take off my earrings before stepping on. The newest ones will give you a body fat % reading using Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) technology. BIA relies on a low-level electrical impulse sent through the body (don’t worry, you can’t feel it); muscle has more water content than fat, so that’s what it’s measuring. Problem is, these measurements are far from accurate because they’re based more on a prediction of what your body fat might be as compared to an average that’s been programmed into the scale’s algorithm.
Bottom line: No need to go fancy here when a basic bathroom scale will do the job.
The “my pants feel a little tight” method: I dunno about you, but by the time my pants are too tight I could be up by ten pounds. I just spent the entire summer taking off ten pounds because I let it creep up. Better to keep closer tabs on things and nip those first few pounds in the bud before they take on a life of their own.
Bottom line: See everything I’ve written previously about denial.
Having said all of that, the point of weight loss is not achieving a number on the scale.
The point of weight loss is improving your health and the quality of your life. To that end, being honest with yourself and owning your numbers – whether on the scale, with a tape measure, or via body composition analysis (stay tuned for that tomorrow!) – is how you stay true to those goals.
Losing weight is hard, and sometimes the scale doesn’t feel like your friend. But it gets easier when you find the right tool for measuring your success. And you’re so damn worth it!
Let’s go get it!