How to Properly Take Body Measurements During Weight Loss
When it comes to exercise and weight loss, there are plenty of ways to track your progress.
There’s the scale, of course, which is probably the easiest and most accessible, but there’s a big problem with the scale. Unfortunately, it will regularly lie to you about your progress.
The scale measures everything every sip of water, every bite of food, your bones, muscles, organs, fat. There’s no way to distinguish between what you’re gaining (which could just be water) or losing (which, again, could be water).
That’s where body measurements come in. Taking your measurements is a better way to track progress because you get an idea of what’s really happening with your body.
You may be focused on, say, your abs or arms but if you have multiple areas to look at, then you can find out exactly where your body is losing fat.
This is important information since we all lose fat in different areas and in a different order.
Taking your measurements will reassure you that the fat is coming off, even if you’re not losing fat exactly where you want just yet. It does take time for your body to get around to those stubborn areas, so patience is also an important ingredient.
What to Know Before You Take Your Measurements
- Wear fitted clothing or no clothing at all if you can.
- Stand with feet together and body relaxed for all the measurements.
- Use a flexible, inelastic tape measure. A cloth measuring tape is a good option or you could use one specifically made for taking body measurements, such as the MyoTape Body Tape Measure.
- Take your measurements at least twice and take the average of both measurements to get your final numbers.
- Don’t worry if you lose inches without losing weight. That’s actually a sign you’re losing fat and gaining muscle, which is great progress.
How to Take Your Measurements
For all measurements, pull the tape measure so that it sits on the surface of the skin, but doesn’t compress the skin. You can record your measurements in this Progress Chart every 4 weeks to see if you’re losing fat.
It’s a great idea to take your measurements first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Every time you retake your measurements, take them at the same time, under the same circumstances so you can trust the results.
Measuring Your Body
- Waist – Find your natural waist or the narrowest part of the torso.
- Hips – This is the widest part of your glutes. Try looking in a mirror while standing sideways. Make sure the tape is parallel to the floor.
- Chest – Stand with feet together and the torso straight and find the widest part around your bust.
- Abs – Stand with feet together and torso straight but relaxed and find the widest part of your torso, often around your bellybutton.
- Arms – Stand up straight with the arm relaxed and find the midpoint between the shoulder bone and the elbow of one arm.
- Thighs – The midpoint between the lower part of the glutes and the back of the knee, or the widest part of the thigh.
- Calves – Halfway between the knee and the ankle.
Many of us may wonder whether our measurements are normal for our weight and height.
The short answer to this is yes, whatever your measurements are, they are normal for you. Look around and you’ll find that everyone has a different body shape and size. It helps to know the general body types, which determine where we store extra fat.
For women, we tend to use body shapes:
- Apple – An apple-shaped person has broader shoulders and narrower hips.
- Straight or rectangular – This shape usually has a waist measurement that is less than 9 inches than the hips or chest.
- Pear – This person has hips that are larger than the chest.
- Hourglass – In this shape, the hips and chest are almost the same with a narrower waist.
Some women also wonder what a ‘normal’ shoulder width is. Again, like all other measurements, the width of your shoulders is normal for you, but maybe not for someone else.
On average, shoulder width for women hovers around 17 inches. That’s measuring along your back from the top of one armpit to the other. Keep in mind that, for women, the hip line is usually the broadest part of the body and in men the broadest part of the shoulder line.
For men we generally categorize body types rather than shapes:
- Endomorph – This body type tends to have a higher body fat, big bones, and a slower metabolism, making it hard to lose weight.
- Mesomorph – With this type, a person is more muscular and may have an easier time losing fat and gaining muscle.
- Ectomorph – People with this body type tend to be lean and may even have trouble gaining weight due to a faster metabolism.
Most of us fall somewhere on this continuum, but what does this information mean to you?
Knowing your body type or shape tells you where your body stores excess fat. Knowing that can lower your frustration level if you don’t lose fat in those stubborn areas right away.
As long as you’re losing fat somewhere, you’re on the right track.
Why Don’t Waist Size and Pant Size Match?
One of the more frustrating aspects of weight loss is buying clothes. You can measure your waist all day long, but go to any department store and pick up five different brands of pants in the same size and they’re all going to fit differently.
When we’re trying to lose weight, many of us equate weight loss with a certain clothing size. For example, there’s a rumor that if you lose 10 pounds, you typically go down about a pant size.
The truth is, these two measurements just don’t correlate, so there’s no way to know how much weight any person might need to lose for smaller clothes.
Why? There are a couple of good reasons:
- No standard for sizes exists among clothing manufacturers – We’ve all experienced that situation where we’re one size in one store and an entirely different size in another store. That’s because of what we call Vanity Sizing – which comes down to putting a more attractive size on clothes without changing the measurements.
- Our bodies are different – You could take five people who are the same weight but find that some have bigger waists while others have bigger thighs or calves. This makes it impossible to predict just how much any one person needs to lose to fit into smaller clothes.
To deal with this, keep these measurements as separate entities since they don’t correlate. It’s perfectly normal to lose weight without experiencing much of a change in how your clothes fit.