Did you know that weighing yourself on a scale doesn’t always reveal whether or not you’ve lost fat? When fat is replaced with muscle, your body may become slimmer and tighter, but your weight could stay the same or actually increase since muscle is denser than fat.
One of the most accurate ways to track fat loss is to take body measurements. This allows you to determine how your body composition is changing. Plus, taking body measurements helps you stay motivated as you start seeing positive results from month to month!
Here’s how to properly take measurements to track your weight-loss progress.
Use a flexible, non-stretchable measuring tape to obtain the most accurate body measurements. When taking measurements, always make sure the tape is level around your body and parallel to the floor, and that the tape is not depressing your skin. Write your measurements in a notebook or track them in a spreadsheet so you can easily compare your results from month to month.
Wear as little clothing as possible to prevent it from getting in the way and throwing off your measurements. Also, aim to take measurements first thing in the morning following a bowel movement, if possible. This is often when you’re lightest.
Ask your partner, friend, or fitness trainer for help with taking measurements that are difficult to do on your own, such as your shoulders. When taking measurements around limbs, stick to using the same side every time. For instance, if measuring your right forearm, you should also measure your right upper arm, right calf, right quad, etc.
- Weight. Use a scale to determine your current weight, which can be used in a formula to determine your body fat percentage after taking measurements.
- Neck. Keep your head straight, and measure the circumference of your neck.
- Upper arm. Relax your arm, and measure around the fullest part of your upper arm above your elbows.
- Forearm. Measure around the fullest part of your lower arm below your elbows.
- Chest. Measure under your breasts, as high up as possible.
- Bust. Position the measuring tape directly above your nipples, and measure all the way around your bust and back.
- Shoulders. Rest your arms at your sides, and measure around your shoulders.
- Waist. Measure above your navel at the narrowest point around your waist.
- Hip. Measure around the widest part of your hip bones.
- Quad. Stand up straight and rest your weight on the leg you’re not measuring. The leg you’re measuring should be relaxed. Then, measure the fullest part of your upper leg.
- Calf. Rest your weight on the leg you’re not measuring so the other leg is relaxed, and measure around the fullest part of your calf.
- Wrist. Measure the circumference of your wrist.
Tracking your weight loss
Compare your measurements against the previous month to review your progress. Next, enter your measurements into an online body fat calculator so you can determine your body fat percentage. The average body fat percentage is between 25 and 31 percent for women, and between 18 and 24 percent for men.
After finding out your body fat percentage, use this number to calculate your pounds of muscle versus pounds of fat. This is how you can truly measure your weight-loss progress. If you’re losing pounds of fat, you’re on the right track!
- To determine pounds of fat: Multiply your weight by your body fat percentage to find the number of pounds of fat on your body.
- To determine muscle mass: Subtract your pounds of fat from your weight in pounds to determine your lean muscle mass.
Example: A person who weighs 160 pounds with a body fat percentage of 26 will have 42 pounds of fat and 118 pounds of lean muscle.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on October 11, 2017