Wait! Don’t get frustrated because the scale is not moving and you have been working hard. You might be making progress even if the numbers are not budging. When starting a fitness program it can be disheartening when you are eating healthier and working out on a regular basis but do not seem to be losing any weight. Do not get fixated on the numbers on the scale because they are not always the best indication of your improving health. Tests that measure circumference, density and body fat can be a much better marker of your progress. Avenues to track your body composition changes besides the scale include: the clothes test, body measurements, skin fold testing, and hydrostatic weighing.
The Clothes Test
One pound of fat weighs the same as one pound of muscle, but the amount of space they occupy is very different. One reason the scale might not be moving is because you might be losing body fat and gaining muscle at the same time. Muscle burns more calories than fat so keep the muscle coming! A good indicator of your progress is to gage how your clothes feel. If you have a pair of pants or a shirt that has always been a bit tight, use that garment as your barometer to how your body is changing.
An easy way to track your progress is with a standard cloth measuring tape. On a monthly basis, track your measurements in a journal and include the date and time they were taken. Great measuring sites include: biceps, chest, waist, butt and thighs. Every time you measure, make sure it is at the same time of day to try to decrease the amount of error in your readings. Place the measuring tape at the largest portion of the bicep, chest, butt and thigh. When measuring the waist, measure where your natural hips are located which should be the smallest portion of your waist. Remember to measure the same thigh and bicep when performing the measurements. Alternating between the right and left side of your body can provide inaccurate results.
Skin Fold Testing
The idea of someone else pinching your skin with calipers can make anyone cringe, but body fat testing through the skin fold method can give great information to your actual progress. Any certified Personal Trainer can perform this test for you. Seven and three site tests can be performed, but primarily most trainers use the three site method. For women, the sites tested are triceps, suprailiac and your thigh of your dominant leg. Men’s testing sites include bicep, chest and thigh of your dominant leg. The accuracy of this test is reliant on the caliper that is used and the technique that is performed. Track your results every four to six weeks.
If you are a fan of water, then this might be the test for you. Hydrostatic Weighing, or underwater weighing, is considered to be the most accurate test for measuring body fat and density. Rather than the other methods that merely estimate the body’s density, this is the only method that gives an accurate calculation. The participant is completely submerged during this test and the weight of the displaced water is measured to help calculate the body’s density. Proctors of this exam take into consideration the amount of oxygen and other gases that are in the body to give accurate readings. This method is usually not costly due to the simplicity of the test and the minimal amount of equipment needed.
Everyday that you put on your running shoes or make a healthy food decision you are making progress. Even if your weight does not reflect the changes that you are making in your life now it will, but you need to stay motivated. The scale will not have a choice but to go down as you adopt a healthier lifestyle. Success is based on how you feel not just the numbers on the scale. Take pride in the changes you have made for a happier, healthier you.