Today I want to talk about the value of recording your body measurements. We’ve talked about weighing ourselves in this blog (To Weigh or Not to Weigh) and I think that’s a useful measurement to track. It’s certainly useful to know that your weight jumped five pounds in the past month.
I gained some weight on my super-duper exciting summer of travel and now I’m trying to take it off. I went to the beach twice and on a ten-day visit to Italy and had a great time. There always comes that moment when you come home and jump on the scale. Sigh. Putting weight on is so much easier than taking it off. It doesn’t seem fair, but I guess it’s also a lot more fun to put the weight on than to take it off.
I’m back to working out and I’m training to run the half marathon at the end of September. That actually made me start thinking about the weight because I figured the running will be a bit harder if I weight more. It’s hard enough running 13 miles without adding extra weight.
I keep a log of my weight. It’s just a paper journal that I use to write the date, my weight and the body fat number that my scale gives me. I flipped back to last year and found that last year in September I weighed 5 pounds less. OK, so I felt a bit better because it feels like I gained more than that. It made me feel a bit more confident about running the half marathon.
Tracking Body Measurements
Besides recording my weight and body fat percentage, I also measure myself about once a month. I weigh my waist, at my navel, the widest part of my hips, and around my right thigh. Once in a great while I measure my neck but it’s difficult and I don’t think that number is very accurate. I don’t measure anything else because it’s hard to do on myself. These numbers work well for me. These body measurements allow me to see my progress or lack of progress.
I write these numbers down in my log too, which allows me to refer back to them when I want.
When I returned from all of my vacationing, not only had I gained weight, my measurements had all gone up by an inch or more. That was alarming to me. So this is what I checked today. I’ve only lost a couple of pounds since I gained the weight over the summer but my measurements have improved. I’m not quite where I was at the beginning of the summer but it’s going in the right direction.
Here’s the interesting thing. I went back to September 2014 in my log. (Yes, I’ve been keeping this log for a while.) My weight is about the same number as it was then BUT my measurements are still consistently less than then. So, I weigh the same but I am thinner. That’s because I obviously have more muscle now and less fat than I did then.
This is why just fixating on what the scale says can be so misleading. Weight only tells you so much. It’s a great indicator of how you’re doing but don’t count on it as the ultimate fitness number.
You can do a similar thing by using a pair of jeans or some other item of clothing and try it on periodically. I like having the actual numbers but you may not like data as much as I do.
Body Measurements at the Gym
Besides the measurements that I do monthly, I get assessments done at my gym where they weigh me, calculate my body fat, and take body measurements. They do more measurements than I can do so that’s also nice. Besides waist, hip, and thigh, they include chest, arm, and calf. I do this approximately every six months or so. It’s also a great way to keep my eye on my progress. Sometimes I’m delighted by the results. Sometimes I’m not so happy and I work on a plan to improve what I’m doing.
I’ll do a separate post about body fat some time because I’ve had this measured in different ways. It’s interesting how those results can vary.
For my own personal log, I just use the number on my Fitbit Aria scale. I know it’s not the most accurate body fat measurement but it’s consistent. I can see how I’m doing on a daily basis. So right now my scale tells me that I have more body fat than I did six months ago. It goes along with tracking my weight.
I don’t know that it’s the most important data in all of this but I track it just because the number is there in front of me.
Recording Body Measurements
Here’s my advice on tracking weight and such. Include measuring some parts of your body. Just grab a measuring tape and weigh what you can. Record it somewhere. If you use a food tracking app, you can usually add it there. I just write it down in my trusty journal because it’s quick and easy. Plus, I use food tracking apps inconsistently so I hesitate to rely on one for this.
I use a Fitbit Aria scale. That means it uses the WiFi in my house to access my Fitbit account and logs my weight and bodyfat percentage whenever I use the scale. Therefore, that data is also available online. I don’t log my body measurements there so that’s not included. I bet I could find a way to include that information if I wanted.
Fitbit probably knows more about my body than my doctor but that’s a discussion for a different day.
I find it helpful in my journey to be fit and strong to keep track of how I’m doing. When I start to feel negative about myself, I go back and see how far I’ve come. If I see that my numbers are backsliding, I can begin to focus a bit more on how I’m eating and making sure that I’m getting in my exercise.