So you’ve decided to embark on a weight loss journey. Welcome, and congrats! Mentally deciding to make a change to your diet and lifestyle is half the battle.
Next you need to pick what kind of diet you’d like to follow. Low carb? Keto? Vegan? Intermittent fasting?
There is no right answer, but it’s wise to pick a diet you’d be likely to stick to long term. Something you can mostly enjoy. Personally, I enjoy ‘flexible dieting,’ because it means no foods are off limits. The downside is I have to track quite accurately, everyday, rather than eating ‘intuitively.’
Ok, perfect. So now that you’ve chosen which ‘diet’ you’d like to follow, we next need to decide how you will measure progress.
This is important, because we need to figure out if the changes you’ve made are working or not. What’s the point of changing your diet, suffering through that lovely process, to see zero progress?!
There are many tools of measuring progress, so it’s up to you to decide which ones you’d like best. Whatever you choose, though, make sure you pick at least 2 different measures. One measuring tool is not enough to give us a full picture. For example, it’s very common to see body recomposition when someone changes their diet, which just means they simultaneously lose body fat and increase muscle mass. If you only use the scale as a means of measuring progress, you’d think you’ve made no progress, when in fact, you’re doing very well!
So what are common measuring tools?
Skinfold callipers, scale, pictures, measuring tape, and dexa scans are my personal favourites, but there are more.
If you’re using a scale, make sure you weigh yourself first thing in the morning, right after using the washroom. Weighing yourself at different times of day creates too many variables. Food volume, training, stress, water intake, salt, fibre… the list goes on.
If you’re using pictures, take 3 photos: front, side, and back. Also wear the same clothes every time, and in similar lighting.
Measuring tape is fairly straightforward. You can routinely take measurements of your thighs, butt, waist, bust, shoulders, back, biceps and calves. I prefer, however, just to take waist measurements.
Dexa scans should be done at the same time of day, preferable first thing in the morning before eating anything. This will reduce the amount of variables influencing the scan.
Keep in mind, with EVERY measurement tool, there’s drawbacks. No single method is perfect. This is why I suggest you pick 2-3 methods.
How often should you measure progress?
I prefer to measure progress of the cheaper methods (scale, measurements, pictures), either weekly or bimonthly. If you see no change in your progress for 2-3 weeks using at least 2 different methods of tracking progress, you can safely make changes to your program correspondingly.
In fact, expect this to happen. Your diet only works for so long before we need to adjust it accordingly.
When you inevitably plateau, you have two options: increase calories out, or decrease calories in. This means either reduce food or increase activity. Again, there is no right answer.
What would you more prefer to do?
and remember, your weight is the least interesting thing about you.