Whether you’ve embarked on a healthier eating plan, started a regular exercise routine or a combination of both, it is informative for you to track your progress regularly.
There are many ways to track your progress and they range from being very simple to implement to moderately more work and costly.
A simple example might be to set a target goal of dropping one size in clothing within 8 weeks. So say you want to go from a Size 6 dress to Size 4. Or go from a pair of size 36 waist pant to a 32 waist in 10 weeks. At the end of whatever time frame you establish, if your old clothes are baggy you know you made progress. If you can get into that new smaller size, then even more success! This method is great for those who don’t like to step on the scale.
A second simple way to track is by taking photographs. Take a selfie at the start of your new plan and compare it to photos taken at different time intervals into your plan. Every 2-3 weeks is usually enough time to start visualizing changes to your body. The best thing to do is to take your photos in a consistent manner. Stand in front of a plain blank wall. Take front, side and back shots. Go shirtless or wear a sports bra, shorts or spandex. Set up your camera at the same distance away that you took it previously. Keep lighting conditions the same. If you can keep these things consistent, the before and after photo comparisons will be more easily seen. For motivation, you can post your photos on the fridge. Or you can choose to keep them to yourself. Whatever works for you!
Third method: step on the weight scale. Regularly track how much weight you have lost/gained but don’t get on the scale every day. Day to day fluctuations will just stress you out and cause frustration. At most, do it once a week. Again, be consistent. Same time of day is important. Usually first thing in the morning is best. The drawback of simple weight loss measurements on the scale is that it doesn’t tell you what your body composition is. How much of your weight loss was FAT loss? How much of your weight loss was MUSCLE loss? These are good things to know. But if you are losing weight overall, your clothing size has changed and you look and feel better…you’ve already succeeded!
Breaking out the measuring tape is another possible tracking method. Do pre and post measurements of key areas such as shoulder girth, chest, waist, hips, upper arm and thighs. This gives you an idea of where your weight loss is happening. Some people lose weight quickly in some body areas and slowly in others (aka problem areas). It is a bit tricky to do these measurements yourself so enlisting your significant other, a great friend or a health professional is usually the best idea. Accuracy of the measurement can be an issue in terms of consistent measurement locations and amount of tape pull. So an experienced person is also important. Often times the areas where we want to lose weight the most like abdomen and hips are the slowest to see change. Don’t be discouraged. Keep at it!
For the greatest amount of info and accuracy, you will want to look at body composition tests. There are a variety of methods/devices out there that provide insight into the amount of lean muscle mass vs. body fat mass and in some cases visceral fat which is an indicator of obesity related diseases. Good tests to consider include DEXA scan, BodPod and InBody devices. These vary in price, availability and convenience. Each of these may report slightly different values so it’s best to stick to just one method of tracking for the long haul.
At Meridian Spine + Sport we are now using the InBody 570 made by GE Healthcare which is used in hospitals, gyms and professional sports teams. It is also Health Canada approved. The InBody uses patented technology and can perform segmental (limbs and trunk) measurements and provide vital information on visceral fat (that surrounds your abdominal organs) which relates to heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. The test is harmless and painless, and scan and consultation only takes 15 minutes.
Whichever method you decide to use, be consistent both with your nutrition/exercise plan and tracking protocol. Set realistic goals and expect some ups and downs along the way but don’t be discouraged. Make yourself accountable to someone else and enjoy learning more about yourself and your body!
Disclaimer: I am a doctor, but I may not be your doctor. The information in my blog posts are meant to give you different perspectives at looking at your health and I hope you find it educational. However, you should always see a Naturopathic Doctor or a health professional who can assess what is best and safe for you before taking any supplements or making dietary changes. Keep on learning!
Dr. Misa Kawasaki has been practicing for over 15 years as a Naturopathic Doctor at Meridian Spine and Sport in Oak Ridges and is also a Nutrition Coach at CrossFit Ark in Aurora. Check out her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dr.MisaND/ for more health tips!