During my fat loss journey over the last few years I’ve tried a number of different ways to track my progress. If you Google ‘how to measure body fat’ you’ll find links to body fat monitors, references to caliper measurements and perhaps even to BodPod body composition analysis – hailed as the ‘Gold Standard’ in body fat measurement.
I’ve had my body fat measured by all of these options over the years but haven’t really stuck with any of them, for a variety of reasons. Body composition analysis may be accurate, but it’s expensive and not something I can afford to do on a regular basis. Caliper measurements again, can be a good measure of progress but who wants to have someone else pinching your fat at various points on your body on a regular basis? Unless you’ve got a good friend that knows what they’re doing this is a pretty unpleasant way to get measured.
I do have the Tanita BC543 Body Composition Monitor Scale body fat analyser at home and use it on a regular basis as a guide. But these analysers are notoriously inaccurate and can be affected by all sorts of things such as time of day, hydration levels and how recently you exercised. I always take the numbers they show me with a pinch of salt.
The 3 ways that I have found to be the best for measuring fat loss actually cost very little, don’t require any fancy equipment and done at regular intervals can give a great view of how your body fat levels are changing.
1 The tape measure
Nothing high tech here – just taking measurements at different parts of your body. I measure around my chest, tummy, hips, thighs and upper arms. It’s important to take the measurements in the same place each time so I use marks on my body – moles, scars etc to remind me where to measure. I take my measurements about once a month using this nifty little Accu Measure MyoTape Body Tape Measurethat I bought from Amazon.
This is a no brainer when you think about it. When we gain or lose fat what’s one of the first things that we tend to notice? That our clothes feel tighter or looser, right? So what better way to measure fat loss?
I generally have an item of clothing that is too tight that I’m working on getting into. This pair of shorts was my target before our holiday earlier this year and I’ve now got my sights set on getting into a pair of too tight jeans by Christmas.
The camera never lies! The absolute best way, in my opinion, to track fat loss and changes in your body is by taking progress photos.
What’s important here is taking the photo in the same light, from the same distance away and if possible in the same clothes. It’s a really great way to see subtle changes in your body and if you’re brave enough to show the photos to other people I can guarantee that they’ll spot changes that you don’t see yourself.
So that’s my top 3 best ways to measure fat loss. You’ll notice that the scales don’t get a mention at all. That’s because, on their own they are a completely rubbish measure of fat loss. I’ve talked about this before but when you’re weight training for fat loss then you’ll hopefully be building muscle as well as losing fat. A pound of fat takes up more space on the body than a pound of muscle so it’s completely possible to get smaller without your overall weight changing at all.
To illustrate my point here are two pictures of me. The photo on the left was taken at the start of 2013 when I’d just started training with Julia. The one on the right taken a few months ago. There’s a pretty big difference between the two photos – a couple of dress sizes and multiple inches. Take a guess at the difference in weight?
Most people think that there’s one or even two stone difference between those two photos.
The truth is there’s only 5 lb difference. Just over 2kg.
Just imagine how disheartened I’d be if I’d only taken notice of my scales!
Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing it. 😊 I used the scales for a while and it’s disheartening sometimes. The best thing is tape measure and I’ll have to give the progress pics a go!
The scales just really don’t tell the whole story. Progress pics are my favourite – looking back and comparing them is really motivating.
This is a really thought provoking post. I tend to judge how heavy I am by looking at photos so not very scientific or accurate. I was thinking about having a BodPod assessment done at my university, I’ll have a read through your post.
The BodPod was interesting to have done to know the true number but not something I would have done on a regular basis due to the expense. Comparison photos for me are a great way to judge progress.