Today has been another lazy Sunday, as all Sundays should be, and it’s also one week since I started “Project 8”. It got me thinking about what changed in my body composition in the last 7 days and if, indeed, anything changed… the answer is a big yes, I lost a lot of excess water but also some fat. My tummy is visibly smaller and my legs better defined.
Whenever you embark on a fitness makeover journey of any scale it’s important to measure your progress for a number of reasons: first of all how much you have changed tells you that you are doing it right and just how right it is. If the changes are little to none then you have to adjust your approach. How much time and effort would you be wasting if you didn’t measure your progress?
Second, seeing progress no matter how tiny boosts your morale and keeps you inspired to carry on pursuing your fitness and weight loss goals. You just know where to look for it.
Third, by measuring the right parameters we can actually learn a great deal about our bodies and how our own unique metabolism works. The thing is there is no need to do anything too complicated as at the end of the day you are not a walking and talking science lab, you are a person with a life to live. Spending too much time focusing on all the tiny details distracts you from keeping an eye on the big picture, which is what matters the most.
This last part, to me, is the most important and was a big eye opener not long ago. When I get bored (it happens often) I inadvertently start looking for trouble. In my case it’s usually something to do with movement or exercise or crazy travel. So a couple of years ago I started to research online weight loss programs, joined a couple of weight loss contests just to see how it all works. The first program was straight forward and very similar to anything you would find in a gym and it worked to a certain extent. The second program was more about learning how to unlock my own unique fat loss formula and it yielded interesting results.
I must say in both instances I didn’t have much weight to lose to begin with, just a little bit of winter flab and I was after the learning experience more than anything else. I was part of a large group of people, both men and women of all ages and sizes. After the first month of the programme most people lost ridiculous amounts of inches of body fat whereas I might have only lost 1 or maybe 1.5″ around my waist. However what I didn’t expect was the amount of strength that I gained: it was like turning the clock back 10 years or more. Eventually I too lost all the inches I wanted to lose but unlike a lot of other people in the contest it took me a bit longer to get there and had I not been measuring my strength I might have believed that nothing was happening.
Regardless of what programme you follow these are my top tips for measuring progress:
1. The scientific method to measure your progress
This system is repeatable and, if done right, will give you a clear indication of how you are progressing through your journey. The trick is in doing it right, or rather in a way that allows you to take accurate measurements every time.
To do this you will need a few bits of equipment: at the most basic level you will need a scale (one of those that measures fat% levels) and a measuring tape. The weight reading is the least important piece of information but what you are interested in is the % of lean body mass and fat. Unless you go for the supa dupa equipment that places electrodes on your body you won’t get a very accurate reading of your body fat % but you will get a figure and you can work with it. Reductions in this figure may be very small in % terms (which is depressing) but a 0.5% decrease in body fat can translate to 0.5Kg or more depending on your initial weight (which is rather exciting).
The next step is to measure circumferences and most specifically waist, hips and boobs as a minimum. Thighs, arms and neck can also be measured but in my experience is hard to get consistent measurements on your own and changes in these areas can be insignificant.
This is the really tricky part because in order to get meaningful information you must always measure around the same spot. This is usually referred to as the “widest part of” or the “narrowest part of” – the problem being that as your body changes shape, size and composition those parts might move and so you end up comparing measurements taken in different spots. So my advice would be to choose spots that are easy references: belly button, hip bones and nipples. The most important figure is the difference between previous measurements. If it’s constantly going down awesome, if it’s going up and down it’s normal, if it goes up all the time and you are getting flabby something’s not right and it’s time to review your routines.
The SMART Fitness Planner is a great tool to help you record your measurements and see how you are progressing over time. It’s inexpensive and available for immediate download 👉 here 👈.
P.S. Ladies, whenever you can, take your measurements on the same day of your cycle to eliminate distortion in your readings due to the natural fluctuations in water retention.
2. The clothes test
If like me you hate measuring stuff because the truth hurts too much, you can measure your progress by checking how your clothes fit. It’s by far the preferred method of the majority of my clients because it’s more discreet and they don’t have to tell me about their results even if I have 24/20 vision.
When using this method you can go two ways: check how baggy your existing clothes become or how much more comfortable the tighter ones become until they eventually fit. Both systems are inaccurate but will perhaps give you the most meaningful info i.e. whether you are going to rock that wedding dress or not. And most of the time this is all people are interested in.
One word of caution: don’t use denim as your measuring stick as it’s known to “relax” and will make you believe that you have shrunk more than you actually did. This is especially important to remember if you only wear those jeans 5 minutes to see if they go past your knees. The fabric will still relax.
3. The selfie test
This way to measure your progress can be used in conjunction with number 2.
Choose an outfit, take a selfie.
28 days later wear the same outfit, take a selfie.
Repeat every 28 days so you are more or less at the same point in your cycle.
You can also do this in a bikini and it will give you visual proof of your progress and how your body shape is changing over time. You can find some tips on how to take the perfect selfie 👉 here. 👈
This method is great for the most skeptical people that don’t believe it when people tell them how much they have changed, which brings me to…
4. The family, friends and strangers test
This is the point where your ability to accept a compliment is being tested.
As you make progress in your body makeover journey the changes will become visible and outsiders will notice and pay you random compliments. The greener your friends are when they do that the bigger your change 😉
Seriously now, this is social proof that your efforts have been worthwhile and that you are on the right way. I know that seeking validation outside of ourselves is never a very smart idea but I also know that it feels good to get the occasional serotonin rush from a compliment and there is nothing wrong with being nice to each other just for the hell of it. It’s not as if it’s expensive.
So why not be open to compliments? They will come, inevitably, and sometimes from the most unexpected sources.
5. The strength test to measure your progress
What to do if you can’t get any positive signs from any of the methods above?
You can measure your progress by measuring your strength: is it getting easier to do push-ups, squats, climb stairs or walk around the block? If the answer is yes then changes are happening “behind the scenes” and may not be visible for a while longer. If the answer is no then you need to do a reality check and if you are sure that you have followed your programme to the letter, it’s time to tweak it. This is something that needs to be done by everyone on a regular basis so don’t feel bad if you don’t see any results straight away as you have at least learned what doesn’t work for you.
As you can see there are many options available and they will all give you an idea of whether your chosen program is working or not.
If you are under the guidance of a fitness coach you can discuss your results (or lack of) with them so that you can take corrective action and boost your chances of success.
The SMART Fitness Planner is a great tool to help you stay on track: it shows you which parameters are the most important and then gives you regular reminders on when it’s time to check and record your figures.
You can download the digital version here and get started right away! 👉 👉 👉 👉
What’s your favourite method to measure your progress?