Tracking Progress with Weight Loss

As a trainer, it drives me CRAZY how much people put value on how much they weigh. The numbers on the scale tell only a small part of the story when it comes to someone’s fitness level. We always consider body composition to be the most important number when it comes to body change and fitness increases. This number is presented as a “percentage” of total body weight. Simply losing pounds does not always convey success if the pounds lost are lean tissue. Nobody wants to be lighter and fatter at the same time. Having said this, it seems like EVERYONE wants to be lighter!

At  All Canadian Fitness, we have had a couple of memorable clients that achieved great results. One of them was my Spect Fit Cadet, Diane Ledonne. At the 5 week mark or her training, she had lost just under 3″ from her waist (in 5 weeks!). She had also lost about 7% of her bodyfat. Her blood pressure came down from 140/90 to 126/86. Very impressive results all around. BUT, from weeks 3 to 5, her weight stayed exactly the same!!! During that time, all of her body composition measurements went down, her strength went up, her blood pressure went from hypertensive to normal…AND her energy was waaaaaay up. If we had been evaluating her progress solely by the scale (like they do on that awful Biggest Loser show), then she would have felt like a failure.

Check out these awesome pictures of Allie from…

The other client experienced frustration at the numbers on the scale that appeared to her to be stuck. Every single day, however, she was getting compliments from people about “how great she looks”. She also lost 4 dress sizes in 4 months. Again… impressive results that simply would not have been recognized if the scale were the only measure of progress.

Here are some measures that really, really matter when you are trying to get into great shape:

Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR)-  Measure your waist at the navel and your hips at the point where your buttocks protrude the furthest.  Divide the waist number by the hip number.  Besides watching the individual numbers go down as you get lean, try to achieve a WHR of less than .9.  .8 would be even better.

Resting Heart Rate and Resting Blood Pressure-  Both of these numbers are crucial to good health.  Resting heart rate of 72 beats per minute is about average for adults.  Getting into the 60’s or 50’s would be ideal and shows that your heart is getting stronger and more efficient.  Resting blood pressure of 120/80 is ideal.  140/90 is considered borderline hypertensive.

Skinfold Measures-  Get someone to help you with this one!  Pinch a fold of skin on the back of your arm (tricep) and measure the width of the fold in millimetres with a tape measure or ruler (if you do not have a body fat caliper).  Do the same diagonally at the hip bone.  You can also measure a vertical fold beside your belly button.  As you get leaner, the measures (which are measuring fat near the surface) will get smaller.

The “skinny jeans” Test-  Take a piece of clothing that just barely fits.  As you progress in your exercise and nutrition program, put them on weekly and make note of how easy it is to close them, how comfortable they feel, if they start to get baggy etc…  This is MUCH more significant then how much you weigh.

Strength and Endurance-  Measure your upper body muscle strength and endurance with a max set of pushups.  If you can do more than 30, then choose a harder pushup version (from the toes, feet on a chair, clap pushups etc…).  Keep track of how many more you can do over time.  Perform an abdominal plank for max time.  If you can do more than 3 minutes, then choose a more challenging version (one arm, one leg etc…).  Pick a distance to run (or walk or run/ walk).  Record how long it takes you to go the distance and re-test yourself over time.

The Bottom line– We are human beings with LOTS and LOTS of things to consider about ourselves other than simply a number on a scale. Do yourself a favour and throw yours away (or give it to someone you really dislike!).

2 responses to “Tracking Progress with Weight Loss

  1. Thank you Ernie for re-stating what should be obvious to anyone who values personal fitness: body weight is a poor indicator of health and fitness. When I first started to work out regularily two years ago, it took me awhile to re-train my thinking and not focus on my weight, but focus instead on the other aspects of fitness that you mention. I was especially happy when all my pants were too big and I had to go shopping for pants! (because I love shopping!!)
    Still today I continue to lose fat and gain muscle as my body continues to re-shape. My only question is how do we know when we have reached our optimal fitness? My progress is slower than it was, but as it continues I’m reluctant to spend too much on new clothes because I seem to have to replace them every few months.

  2. Hey Cheryl, congratulations on your success… and on shifting your mindset! It’s tough when there are multi-million dollar industries working to convince you that you “should” be obsessing on the scale.
    So… optimal fitness is a moving target. As you change and your fitness levels increase, your possibilities also increase. When it was a challenge to simply walk, going for a job might have seemed like a huge accomplishment. When you went for a jog, it probably seemed like a huge deal to imagine competing in a race. Get my point? When you reach a new high, the possibilities multiply.
    When you are happy with your body composition, size etc… and you are healthy and fit, ask yourself “What would I like to be able to do that I can’t do now?”. It gives you a new way of looking at things. Instead of looking inward, you start to look outside of yourself for new challenges or adventures. If “the thing you can’t do now” involves wearing something daring that you can’t wear now, then you’ve got some more body work to do.
    Brainstorm and pick some dreams or goals. And then map out your course to getting there. My favourite tool is the Yearly Schedule. Write down “peaking moments” that you’d like to achieve this year and plan how to move and how to eat to get there.

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