How often do you weigh yourself? Some people do it every day. Others, once a week. But the ubiquitous bathroom scale may not be the best tool for tracking your fitness goals, and you might even be selling yourself short by only setting weight-based goals like “I want to lose 20 pounds”.
While it goes against conventional wisdom, bodyweight and B.M.I (Body Mass Index) can be misleading indicators of your overall health & fitness. A recent New York Times article covered this with a few helpful graphs:
“As you can see in the graphics here, there was a strong relationship between B.M.I. and body fat percentage, but for almost one in five adults, the two measurements disagreed. Eleven percent who were overweight according to B.M.I. had normal body fat. They are potentially some of the “healthy obese.” More troubling, 31 percent who were of normal weight according to B.M.I. had excess body fat. They could be called “skinny fat.”
These graphs may validate what you’ve been suspicious of for a while. Muscle is more dense than fat so simply relying on bodyweight, like the B.M.I does, to measure your fitness may not be doing you any favors.
Muscle being more dense than fat is why it’s possible to lose fat but gain weight at the same time. If you are doing a stellar job with your workout program, you could be building muscle faster than you are losing fat. It seems like you are gaining weight, even though you are shrinking in size!
Now that we know all of this, what are some alternative ways to track fitness progress and goals?
3 Ways to Track Fitness Progress:
- Progress Photos: If your goal is appearance-based (“I want to look awesome for my wedding”) then the before & after photoset is common, but why not document every step of the way? Setting up a check-in photo every two weeks helps hold you accountable in the short-term. And one of the main reasons people struggle to stick to their goals is because they “don’t see any difference” – and what’s better than photo evidence?
- Movement Goals: Stepping away from appearance-based goals may be a good idea for you to try this year! Pick a movement goal such as, “I want to learn how to handstand” or “I want to improve my back squat”. This will help structure your workouts, and encourages you to think “what can I do?” or “how do I feel?” instead of “how do I look?”
- Clothing Fit: Got a favorite pair of jeans that have become a little too snug? We all have some articles of clothing that used to be a wardrobe staple… until it stopped fitting. But measuring your fitness progress based on clothing fit can be a great way to pick a goal that’s attainable and realistic – because you used to be that size before! Dive deep into your closet, find some old but beloved threads, and get to work!