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How To Measure Weight Loss: 5 Ways To Track Your Efforts

June 07, 2023

How to measure weight loss: article header

Weight loss journeys are by no means easy, with slips, trips, and temptations on every corner. When sticking to a diet plan and working out regularly, it’s only human we want to be able to see measurable results.

It’s therefore important to keep track of your weight loss to ensure your efforts don’t go to waste. Tracking weight loss not only helps you stay motivated to prevent you from falling off the wagon, but it’s also a great method to make sure we’re constantly progressing. 

But what is the best way to measure weight loss? This article sums up the 5 best ways to track your weight loss efforts, we’ll identify the pros and cons of each method so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. Let’s get to it.


Best methods to measure weight loss

Using scales is not the only way to measure weight loss. In fact, using scales for weight loss isn’t even the best method. There are several other ways to track progress, motivating you to continue on your weight loss quest. 

Here are the 5 best ways to measure weight loss: 

1.   Body Measurements

Body measurements to track weight loss

Body measurements are one of the oldest and simplest methods to track your body weight. Using a tape measure you simply measure different areas of your body to see whether they have reduced in size or not.

You can then record the measurements in a log so that as you progress, you can look back and see how far you’ve come.

The common areas to measure are:

  • Bust: At the level of nipples, and around the back
  • Chest: Measure under the bust
  • Hips: Measure around the widest part of your hip
  • Waist: At the level above the umbilicus (or the belly button)
  • Arm Circumference: It is taken at the level 15cm above the elbow
  • Thigh: At the thickest part of your Quad muscles. Measure both thighs at the same point.

Apart from these body parts, you can also take body measurements at the forearm, shoulders, and calves if you wish.

This method is simple, cheap, and gives a good understanding of which part of the body is losing weight (unfortunately we don’t get to determine this!).


Advantages of body measurements

  • Cheap – You can do it yourself and doesn’t cost a dime
  • Readily available – You can do it yourself and most people have a tape measure at home
  • Concise – You get a clear understanding of what areas are dropping fat


Disadvantages of body measurements

  • Human error - We need to make sure we take the measurements exactly the same each time. Measuring a slighting different location or pulling the tape measure too tight may skew the readings.
  • Time Consuming - Taking body measurements is probably the most time consuming of any of the methods we mention
  • Doesn’t account for muscle - If you lose fat but build muscle then you may not see a difference in measurements. This may become disheartening but unfortunately, this method does not account for muscle size.


2.   Skin fold Calipers

Skin fold calipers to measure weight loss

Similarly, to body measurements, skin fold calipers are another method that involves manually taking measurements from your body.

They are used to measure the amount of fat you have underneath the skin, and again, this method is great for understanding where abouts you’re dropping the fat from.  

You can also plug the readings into certain formulas to give you an overall of your total body fat %.

To use skin fold calipers, you pinch the fat from a particular area, place the calipers on the fat and read the scale on the side of the calipers.

The common areas to measure are:

  • Abdominals: 2cm to the side of the belly button
  • Suprailliac region: Above the hip bone
  • Thigh: Middle of the thigh
  • Triceps: Back of the upper arm
  • Subscapular: Just below the shoulder blade


Advantages of skin fold calipers

  • Cheap – Skin fold calipers are not expensive, and they last
  • Concise – You can see which areas of the body are dropping fat


Disadvantages of skin fold calipers

  • Human error – It’s hard to measure the same location each time, plus it’s difficult to gauge how much skin to pinch
  • Time Consuming – Just like with body measurements, it’s more time consuming than the other methods
  • Need a partner – You will need a partner to take the measurements as it’s difficult to see the readings if you do it yourself (and you’ll need a partner to take the subscapular measurement if you want the complete readings!).


3.   Scales

Scales to measure weight

The good old scales are the oldest and most common method of measuring weight loss. The only thing that’s changed is that we’ve moved away from the manual scales and we’re now using digital ones (well most of us have anyway).

Simply step on the scales and hey presto, we’re told how much we weigh – there’s no faffing around with tape measures etc, within 30 seconds we’re told how much we weigh, and 20 seconds of that is walking to the bathroom to fetch the scales!

Scales are great for those who are motivated by seeing quick results, as you can see results within the first week of a fat loss campaign.

But the biggest drawback is that you’re measuring ‘weight loss’ rather than fat loss. The scales don’t take into account muscle mass, and if we work out (which we should be), the scales don’t take into account that we could be building muscle whilst losing fat.

With muscle weighing more than fat, this could result in the number on the scales not dropping.

With the number on the scales remaining the same week after week, we can quickly become de-motivated to continue on our fat loss quest.

That’s why we suggest that if you’re using scales as your primary measurement tool, you couple them with another method mentioned on the list.

When opting for scales as your chosen measurement tool, we suggest weighing yourself at the same time at each weigh-in (normally first thing in the morning after you’ve been to the toilet), so that we can accurately compare the differences between weigh-ins.


Advantages of scales

  • Cheap – Nowadays, scales are relatively cheap
  • Quick – You can see your weight instantly, whereas other methods take longer
  • Motivating – Seeing the number of the scales fall is a great source of motivation
  • Accurate – Scales accurately show your body weight, and can reveal even the smallest increase/decrease in weight


Disadvantages of scales

Muscle mass – As mentioned, scales only show overall weight with no consideration of how much of that weight is lean body mass

Area of weight loss – Scales show an overall picture of weight loss with no indication as to which areas of the body have lost weight


4.   DEXA Scan

Dexa scan

DEXA Scan is the gold standard for measuring weight loss. This high-tech amazingly clever piece of equipment tells you exactly how much fat tissue and lean mass you have along with providing information on bone density.

Not only will it tell you how much fat you have, but the printout you receive after the scan shows you exactly where your body fat lies, and how much of it is in each area.

Dexa scan results

The Dexa scan uses low-dose X-ray beams for its processing making it an extremely accurate way of measuring.

Typically, the Dexa scan is found in hospitals, clinics, research centres, and surgeries. A Dexa scan may be required as part of a health assessment, but you can also get them done privately if you’re interested in your body composition.

As you can imagine though, a Dexa scan is not cheap. You can look to pay around the £150 mark ($180) for a single scan.

Therefore it’s not likely something you could rely on each week to measure the progress over the last 7 days!


Advantages of Dexa Scan

  • Precise – The Dexa scan is the most accurate way to measure body fat, muscle mass, and bone density
  • Informative – You get to see which areas have the most fat and which areas have the most muscle. This can help make informed decisions in regard to your training.


Disadvantages of Dexa Scan

  • Expensive – The Dexa scan is expensive, meaning you’re unlikely to be able to rely on this method each week to measure progress
  • Location – You will need to visit a clinic for the scan, meaning unlike the other options mentioned, you can’t do it from the comfort of your own home.


5.   Taking Pictures

Pictures to measure weight loss

“A Picture paints a thousand words”.

Taking pictures is a great way to measure progress. All things considered, taking pictures is our favourite method to measure weight loss (more specifically, fat loss).

As we mentioned before, it’s likely the reason we’re working out is to improve our body composition and look better. So, it therefore makes sense to measure the thing we’re trying to improve – our looks! And what’s the best way to do this? Pictures of course.

Scales accurately show weight loss but can’t show how much of this weight is fat.

There’s room for human error with body measurements and skin fold calipers.

Dexa scans are too expensive to do each week.

But pictures… Pictures can be done by yourself, in the comfort of your own home, and can show areas where you’ve lost fat. Exactly what we’re after!

As you go through your weight loss journey you will notice your muscles start to look more toned as you strip away the fat. This will provide heaps of motivation to keep you striving towards your fat loss target.

You won’t have to transfer any measurements to another medium as your pictures are automatically stored on your phone and you can look back through the weekly pictures to see how far you’ve come.

As you can probably tell, this is our firm favourite!


Advantages of taking pictures

  • Quick – Taking pictures is quick and easy
  • Visual Feedback – Not only can you see which areas of the body are dropping fat, but you get to see which muscles are becoming more toned
  • Independent – Taking pictures does not require a helping hand
  • Motivating – As you look back on the previous week’s pictures, you can see how far you’ve come which can be a great motivation booster
  • Free – Taking pictures doesn’t cost a dime!


Disadvantages of taking pictures

  • Slower feedback – In the first few weeks you may not be able to notice any changes in the pictures. This isn’t a problem because noticeable changes take around 4-8 weeks. If you’re someone who’s motivated by seeing quick progress, then it’s advisable to combine pictures with another method mentioned in the list.


Final Thoughts

When embarking on a weight loss program, we’re going to want to track our progress to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.

It’s advisable that not only do we measure our progress, but that we have a means of recording the results so that over the weeks we can look back to see how far we’ve come.

Each of the methods listed in this article are recommended methods to track your weight loss. Which one you decide to go with is a matter of personal preference. Pick a method that you’re most likely to stick with, provides you with the most motivation and one that suits your circumstances.

Remember, weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. Stay dedicated to your training and nutrition for at least a couple of months and you’ll be rewarded.


Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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