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There are no two ways about it: weight loss is hard work. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a little bit fun.
Since weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, finding creative ways to track your progress can be an exciting part of your weight loss journey. Today, there are more options than ever to keep you on track.
How to track weight loss progress
Here are seven ways to track weight loss. Take a look and consider what might work for you.
1. Use a scale
This option is tried and true for a reason. When choosing a bathroom scale, read reviews to see if others found it provided an accurate reading. Studies show that digital home bathroom scales offer more precise readings than those old analog scales (Yorkin, 2013).
If you can, go to the store and weigh yourself on a scale several times in a row. If it gives you the same number each time, it’s a keeper.
Remember: fluctuations in body weight are normal and expected. If exercise is part of your routine, don’t fret if your weight plateaus or even goes up a little. As you burn fat and increase muscle mass, your weight typically increases. That’s because muscle weighs more than fat.
Also, keep in mind that weight is just a number. If you could snap your fingers and be your ideal size, would the number on the scale really matter? Probably not. That said, a scale can help you keep track of your progress when it comes to reaching your goals.
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Try to weigh yourself at the same time every day––preferably in the morning right after you pee. Wear the same thing (or nothing at all) when you do it. This will give you the most accurate reading.
Keep a log in your phone to monitor your progress, but don’t let little shifts in the other direction get you down.
2. Monitor your BMI
Your BMI, or body mass index, is a ratio of weight and height. More specifically, it’s your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. A healthy BMI for adults is typically between 18.5–24.9 kg/m2.
Yes, we know, it’s a little messy to calculate (though there are plenty of online calculators to do the math for you). While BMI seems to be a favorite among healthcare providers for tracking weight, it might not actually be the best option.
That’s because it doesn’t do a great job accounting for the variability in body composition. Take, for example, a bodybuilder. Medium height, tons of muscle, and not an ounce of fat on their body, yet their BMI will be through the roof––even looking unhealthy according to clinical standards.
Why? Because the calculation doesn’t consider the individual person or their body composition. It just looks at height and weight. By putting us all in one big bucket, it ignores important variables, like the fact that women tend to have more body fat than men, physically active people have less body fat than non-active individuals, and older people often have more body fat than those younger.
Since this measure isn’t a great one, it’s unlikely a healthcare provider will prescribe any sort of intervention based on BMI alone. That said, it can still serve as a rough estimate of weight loss––as long as you take your results with a grain of salt.
3. Bust out the tape measure
Taking body measurements can be an effective way to track weight loss, whether you’re following a particular diet, exercise regimen, or a little bit of both.
Plus, keeping track of body measurements can sometimes offer a glimpse into your overall health. Higher body weight and larger circumferences (particularly in the chest and waist) are associated with health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obstructive sleep apnea (Schwartz, 2008; Manolopoulos, 2010).
Of course, these measurements are not an exact science. To assess your risk for developing these conditions, your healthcare provider can perform tests and make recommendations based on the results.
To track your weight loss progress, take regular measurements of your chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves, upper arms, and forearms.
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4. Notice how your clothes fit
That’s right. A task as ordinary as getting dressed can help you monitor your weight. One clothing size equals roughly 10–15 pounds, so you can track your weight loss journey simply by noticing when it’s time to buy new clothes.
5. Take a selfie
Taking photos can help you see how far you’ve come, and provides evidence to keep you motivated on days when you’re feeling stuck.
It takes time to actually see weight loss, so you don’t need to take a photo every day. Instead, take one every few weeks or once a month. To make it easier to see results, take a selfie from the same angle each time and wear the same type of outfit.
6. Use a weight tracking app
You know there’s an app for that! Monitor Your Weight (available on iOS and Android) is a top-rated option.
You can also track body weight using your smartphone’s built-in health app, or buy a smart scale that automatically communicates that information to your phone.
Smart scales have the added benefit of measuring more than just bodyweight. They also estimate body fat percentage, muscle mass, and bone mass to give you a more holistic picture of your health.
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7. Be consistent in your tracking
Our body weight fluctuates throughout the day and week. There are many contributing factors to this, including when you eat, drink, exercise, get dressed, or even go to the bathroom.
To avoid skewing the numbers (and any feelings of disappointment) make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. This means taking your measurements at the same time, on the same day each week. If you dare, go bare. Otherwise, wear the same clothes each time for a consistent reading.
Don’t forget to track your feelings
Whatever your motivation, you’re tracking your weight to make a positive change. So, this should be a positive experience.
For some people, monitoring keeps them on track toward their weight loss goals. For others, it creates unnecessary stress and negatively impacts their mental health. Know what works for you so you can stay positive on your weight loss journey.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020, September). About Adult BMI. Retrieved Aug. 3, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html
- Frankenfield, D. C., Rowe, W. A., Cooney, R. N., Smith, J. S., & Becker, D. (2001). Limits of body mass index to detect obesity and predict body composition. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 17(1), 26–30. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(00)00471-8. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11165884/
- Liu, P. Y., Ilich, J. Z., Brummel-Smith, K., & Ghosh, S. (2014). New insight into fat, muscle and bone relationship in women: determining the threshold at which body fat assumes negative relationship with bone mineral density. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 5(11), 1452–1463. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25538842/
- Manolopoulos, K. N., Karpe, F., & Frayn, K. N. (2010). Gluteofemoral body fat as a determinant of metabolic health. International Journal of Obesity, 34(6), 949–959. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.286. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20065965/
- Pacanowski, C. R., Linde, J. A., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2015). Self-weighing: helpful or harmful for psychological well-being? A review of the literature. Current Obesity Reports, 4(1), 65–72. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26627092/
- Schwartz, A. R., Patil, S. P., Laffan, A. M., Polotsky, V., Schneider, H., & Smith, P. L. (2008). Obesity and obstructive sleep apnea: pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic approaches. Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society, 5(2), 185–192. doi: 10.1513/pats.200708-137MG. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18250211/
- Yorkin, M., Spaccarotella, K., Martin-Biggers, J., Quick, V., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2013). Accuracy and consistency of weights provided by home bathroom scales. BMC Public Health, 13, 1194. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-1194. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24341761/
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.