The best way to measure weight

“People focus too much on weight, dress sizes, and tape measurements- and those aren’t motivating. What gets me going is: I’m 52, and because I work out, I know my fitness will improve and my immune system will stay strong, and my body will prevent injuries. I like being fit, strong, coordinated and agile.”
-Tony Horton, founder of P90X (home video workouts - go check it out for a challenge!)

It’s true- there are so many measurements when it comes to weight, and sometimes difficult to know which one is the most accurate. And per person, no less! Unfortunately numbers can also create a sense of worth around them to varying degrees depending on the person. As much as we need to find what works for us physically, it’s important to be able to measure our progress, though that may look different for everyone. However, what he’s referring to is intrinsic motivation- that gut wrenching ‘why’ you don’t have to think twice about. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, measures progress through external rewards (i.e. praise, money), and not always sustainable in the long-run.

Yet even with our intrinsic motivation, you still may want to know how you’re doing in your progress, so you can adjust your course and habits as needed to keep optimizing your body. So what is the best way to measure weight? The problem with ‘weight’, is that it’s comprised of not just fat, but bone, organs, muscle, fluids (i.e. blood). It can vary at different times of day, and for women it can really fluctuate due to a few different hormones being in flux. As we age, fat tends to replace muscle mass. Further, there’s different types of fat- fat around our organs (visceral; hard abdomen), and fat over our organs (subcutaneous; more squishy). Men are more predisposed to the former, women to the latter. The former is more dangerous, yet easier to lose, while the latter is more intended for survival, so harder to lose.

One of the most common measurements is Body Mass Index (BMI), which started developing as early as the mid 1800’s, and then a little over 100 years later finally coined this term, in what measures your weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Much of this too was driving by insurance companies to find health risks. It’s also based on a sample of about 1000 people from the early 1920’s, where the average BMI was about 25. Anything under 18 is pretty much incompatible with life, and over about 30, there’s another steep drop off. Eventually normal was 27, except in 1998 when the NIH, CDC, and WHO brought it down to 25. So what’s the real number…? Oh, and football players would be considered obese.

We also know the scale can vary even hour to hour depending on how much we’ve ate, drank, gone to the bathroom (or haven’t), exercised, or how long we were on vacation. Clothes can also be telling, with sensitivity depending on how tight they are. You can also take monthly measurements with a string and line it up against a ruler, such as around waist, hip, upper arm, and thighs. Calipers (often used by fitness trainers) can help measure body fat percentage, except it’s also based on hormones (ladies, don’t do this around your period), has to be done in a perfect, standardized way and then calculated, and it’s assuming that the parts measured are representative of everyone’s body. Bioimpedance machines are common hand held devices that also measure the percent of fat someone has, except its calculations are based on a few people measured underwater also predicting you fall somewhere along that graph. However none of these will account for visceral fat.

So what’s the best method for tracking your progress? Any or all of them! Here are some potential combinations & strategies to ensure you’re hitting your goal!:

  • Scale + calipers + pictures- Weighing yourself daily is a great way to keep up progress, with an average taken at the end of the week, and then assessing how those weekly numbers are changing over time. It didn’t take a few days to put on however much weight, so it’s certainly not going to take that much time to lose it, and then some! And that initial weight lost.. its water weight- hence gotta keep up consistency! Calipers give additional insight to measure body fat percentage, yet really need to be done correctly. Unfortunately in this day and age, not everyone can fit calipers (unlike when they were developed in the 1970’s). So if it’s just the scale for now, or even clothes, it’s still an indicator- just know that it has its benefits and downfalls. While pictures weren’t mentioned, it can really be eye opening to see monthly changes, and unlike the other methods, the mirror won’t have a margin of error.

  • Track your food daily- We went over tracking weight, but so much of it is diet! What are we eating? How often? When? Eating too much? Not enough? Recent studies have shown that tracking your food daily can beat out any fad diet. Most importantly, it helps you also really pay attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. Humans don't always have the best recall memory (do you remember your lunch 3 days ago?), so by writing down your food, you get to hold yourself accountable. Take note too if feeling more tired than usual, gassy/bloated, poor sleep, food cravings, bowel movements- all these can be telling that certain foods or food groups (even from a few days ago) don’t jive with your body. And hindering your weight loss efforts.

  • Discover your intrinsic motivation- **Consistency is key!! In whatever method, diet, exercise, you may choose, or work with someone who helps you with this, you didn’t wake up with this overnight, so it will not change overnight. Habits also challenge your life and primitive brain to freak out, so our body will literally hold onto weight before it lets go. Heh.. sound like anyone’s emotions?? I’m guilty of that too sometimes- all good :) It’s that resounding ‘why’ that ultimately puts us back on track when those pants were slightly tighter or we want to take a hammer to any of those machines. It helps you see how far you’ve come because that’s life, is also seeing how far we have yet to go, and enjoying the journey instead of solely focusing on the destination.

Losing weight, keeping weight off, and even gaining weight can be a little jolting depending on our situation of course, yet for the overall goal in wanting to lose weight, it takes time! I know.. it’s not what we want to hear. It’s what do we need to do now, what’s the plan, and when can I start living my normal life again? Except changing our weight means changing our life, which is why that intrinsic motivation is so darn important- go back to what was, and you’ll get those same ‘was’ results. Other times we can have that number in mind, not quite be at it yet, and perhaps feel better than we thought overall- that’s the journey. Realizing how far you’ve come, and how exciting it is to be able to keep changing. No seriously.. keep telling yourself that because it helps expedite the neuronal changes in our brain that would other wise tell us to hold onto weight. If you’d like to learn more tips & tricks, I encourage you to check out my Facebook page where I post articles & weekly video all about ways to hack your brain, managing your diet diary, and how to dig deeper into health to get the results you want! :)