How do you measure progress?

I measure what's in my food dish. And the number of times my owners make me wear human things. Like football jerseys and glasses...

I measure what's in my food dish. And the number of times my owners make me wear human things. Like football jerseys and glasses...

Given that Monday's post was anti-scale, it’s only proper to make some suggestions for measuring progress that are more concrete.

If there’s an adjective that will never be used to describe me, it's concrete. I made a very good English major in college and would have made an equally good Philosophy major, sitting around in coffee shops, drinking latte’s and talking about society’s version of the other.

But I digress.

If you're on a mission to lose fat (and if you are it's important to remember that you ARE NOT FAT. You HAVE fat, but you are not fat), then consider these ways of measuring your progress.

Calculating body fat

Hydrostatic weighing (like a dunking machine at a carnival but different) is considered the gold standard, but is neither convenient nor cost effective for any of us.

For my own fat loss process, I picked up an Omron body fat monitor, which uses bioelectrical impedance (wha wha?) to measure body fat. The device works by sending tiny electrical impulses through the body and measuring how quickly those impulses return. Since lean tissue conducts electrical impulses quicker than fatty tissue, a faster response time is correlated to a leaner physique.

The scales that measure bodyfat use the same technique. These devices are less accurate than the hydrostatic testing or the calipers, but they’re convenient and affordable.

You can also use skin calipers, which are the least expensive and can be the most accurate, though I haven’t tried a pair myself yet. Calipers accuracy depend largely on knowing how to use the device correctly.

 *It’s important to remember when using body fat to measure progress, that it takes time for body recomposition to occur. You’re not going to lose five percent body fat in a week. Or a month. We'll talk about expectations in another post. 


The last thing most of us want to do when starting a fat loss program is take before photos. If we’re not loving the way we look in pictures to begin with, then putting on a bathing suit or going shirtless is akin to dry shaving your armpits. But it’s important. And you'll be glad you did. 

When you’re striving for fat loss, you’re striving for body transformation. Have you ever seen photos of a woman who weighs 155 pounds before and after a three month program but looks like she dropped thirty pounds? MUSCLE IS DENSER THAN FAT AND DENSE THINGS WEIGH MORE. You've heard it a million times, but let me make it a million and one. 

Got it? Ok, good. That's also why the scale isn't helpful. 


Last time I talked to my niece and nephew on FaceTime, they were enjoying not wearing pants while dancing around the living room. (They are 3 and 4 and my brother was in charge :-). Sadly, there comes a point when we have to wear pants in everyday life, and if you're working on fat loss, pick a pair of pants that used to fit or fit better and use that as your gauge for fat loss. 

Now about the scale. 

If you’ve undertaken a new training or nutrition program with the emphasis on losing fat and I haven't talked you out of it, it’s only natural that you’ll be getting on the scale to check out your progress. I get that. So, if you're using the scale there are a few things to remember:

Don't use it everyday

As  I mentioned briefly Monday, weight can fluctuate by several pounds on a day to day basis, so weighing daily provides you with little more than a mood change.

If you do choose to use a scale, use it bi-weekly and do it at the same day and time, preferably first thing in the morning before you’ve had anything to eat or drink.  Or not at all. Just sayin’.