How Do You Measure Up?

by tinareale on June 25, 2013

Last week I shared a post on overcoming obstacles to fitness, health, and diet goals. I included among those obstacles the sense of not seeing “enough progress” from the effort you give to your goals. Makes sense. No one wants to do work and get nothing in return. Except maybe Mother Teresa, but I sure as heck ain’t her. I’m squarely in the “if I bust my butt I hope to see some improvements, by golly”. You feel me? Well, besides that whole “by golly” thing since I don’t know where that came from. Maybe since I just mentioned Mother Teresa? Who knows how my mind works? I stopped trying to figure it out long ago.

Okay. Now that I got a bit sidetracked, let’s get back to the topic at hand. Progress. Or what we may consider lack thereof. It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s downright maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s like that “friend” that secretly is out to sabotage you by luring you in to plopping on the couch with a box of cookies and The Bachelorette because “it doesn’t matter anyway, right?!”.

You work and work and work on your eating habits, giving up so many old favorites in the name of healthy, whole foods. Then see nothing in your progress pictures a couple weeks later.

You work out, you work out, you work out…then step on the scale and it’s UP?! Words stronger than “by golly” are certainly coming out of your mouth then, huh?


What do we do, then? Well, are you basing your progress all on ONE measure of success? If so, not good. Not good at all. Different things can skew results for different measures. The best way to get an accurate picture of your progress is to choose as many forms of measure possible that work for you. That way you can have numerous things to compare and get the big picture. Plus, you will often see positive changes reflecting your hard work in at least one of these measures to keep that motivation up and keep you pressing forward.

Below I have highlighted the various measures of progress I suggest to Best Body Bootcamp participants and to you. Pick what works for YOU, but don’t base your progress all on one thing…except maybe the last one. I give you a free pass there.


  • Pros: Easy access. Easy to use. Can be done regularly for accountability. Typically first place progress will show as others take time to be noticeable changes.
  • Cons: Fluctuates VERY easily. Doesn’t show body fat levels. Affected by smallest changes in diet, sleep, workout intensity, hormonal cycles, etc.
  • Recommendations: Use weekly under as similar conditions as possible. Consider possible things affecting the number. Don’t get set on one number overlooking everything else!

body fat percentage

  • Pros: Meant to show the level of lean mass compared to fat mass, which is a better reflection of body composition. A person may weigh more on the scale but appear leaner because of higher lean mass compared to fat mass.
  • Cons: Harder to find, but can be found at local gyms or on some scales. Not too accurate since most common accessible body fat trackers are based on bioelectrical impedance (which is also affected by water retention and other factors) or skin calipers (which results can vary based on user error).
  • Recommendations: Won’t see changes typically on a weekly basis. Measure under as similar conditions as possible every two weeks to once a month. Note that a healthy body fat percentage for an athletic woman is around 19-24%. It may sound high, but it’s not. In fact, anything lower than 18% can begin having an impact on hormonal function and other health factors.


  • Pros: Can be done easily at home. Can be done accurately if measuring exact same spots on body.
  • Cons: Generally takes at least 2 weeks to note changes. Progress may seem small when noting 1/8” to 1/4” increments.
  • Recommendations: These measures generally don’t show much change at one time, so progress seems slow. Measure once a month or every two weeks at most. Half an inch to one inch change per area per month is GREAT progress!! Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

progress pictures

  • Pros: Visible changes may be evident that other measures do not reflect. Fun to SEE the changes actually on your body versus on a tracking spreadsheet or table.
  • Cons: Changes in lighting or picture angle can alter the way your body looks. Usually takes the longest to see visible results.
  • Recommendations: Take pictures no more than once a month, in the same spot with the same picture “progress outfit”. BE KIND TO YOURSELF when viewing the image. Don’t just zoom in on problem areas, but also note other areas. We generally take longer to see changes in certain parts of the body (namely lower stomach/hips/butt for women).

clothing fit

  • Pros: You can’t argue with the fit of your clothes. No extra tracking necessary than getting dressed as normal. Motivating when you fit into something you haven’t in awhile.
  • Cons: Another measure that may take some time to see changes. Easy to get obsessive over fitting into one particular dress/pair of jeans/etc
  • Recommendations: If you have a target clothing item, try it no more than once a week or every other week even.

fitness level

  • Pros: Focus on increased fitness for greater success in goals such as racing or performing everyday tasks. Motivating for continued workouts.
  • Cons: Sometimes unsure how best to track (I plan to post the fitness test I do for BBB sometime!).
  • Recommendations: Pick a cardio measure, an upper body strength measure, and a lower body strength measure. Track every 4 weeks to 3 months.

how you feel

  • Pros: It’s all that really matters anyway!
  • Cons: Not tangible evident of results, which sometimes doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Recommendations: Remember that it IS enough. Consider how your healthy habits are improving your quality of life. Reflect on what will make you feel best and do it for the sake of loving yourself.


1 Tara June 25, 2013 at 8:37 am

Great post!
I am done with my scale. It continually tells me I weigh the same, it doenst matter if I am in great shape with min fat, or out of shape with muffin tops.
I know I need to FEEL it-feeling strong and confident, SEE my clothes fitting better, seeing my muscles progress and my rolls disappear.
I do need to get my measurements, that is one thing I havent tracked that I feel would be a great motivator!

2 Erica { } June 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

I quit weighing myself months ago as the fluctuation would make me go crazy! Now I just use my clothes as a guide – if they get to tight I clean up my eating for a while. My fitness goals are now based on running times and strength!

3 Danica @ It's Progression June 25, 2013 at 9:02 am

love this post!
I quit using the scale months ago and am so glad I did – that one number had too much control over my self-esteem, unfortunately.
I’ve had my body fat percentage taken at our wellness center (they have a bod pod machine there)…according to the results I got, they said the range for “athletic” women is from about 14-18%, “average” is from 18-24%…I was in the “athletic” range….what are your thoughts on that?

4 tinareale June 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Well, I guess by saying “athletic” I meant in terms of general fitness, healthy overall physique (so how they would determine “average”). The 14-18% is “athletic” as in a professional or competitive in some nature athlete. For example, fitness competitors and elite runners (women) will generally be around that range (the lower end) and those who train more rigorously than most may be in the upper end of that athlete section. But general heath and fitness would be in my mind what they called “average”.

5 Danica @ It's Progression June 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Okay…My body fat came in at the lower end of that range, and it actually kind of startled me (I didn’t expect to see a number quite that low). After talking about my day-to-day exercise routine, diet, etc. the woman/trainer assured me that I was just fine and in a healthy range for my body. I left there a little uneasy about that, but I do feel good (have good energy, etc.) so I don’t know that I should worry?

6 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries June 25, 2013 at 9:27 am

Love this, Tina! It is easy to get discouraged when you’re only measuring progress in one way. It’s important to consider each of these when figuring out if you’re making progress!

7 Rachel June 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

Fantastic post! I shared on my fb page. :) I measure success by using all of those. Although the scale is one that doesn’t give me much love lately. ;)

8 tinareale June 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for sharing! And the scale. I tossed mine awhile ago because it just drove me batty.

9 Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona June 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

This is a great reminder to not base everything on the number you see on the scale!

10 kristina June 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

I love this post, Tina! Thank you for writing it! :)

11 Nelsy Holmen June 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

I like this post, Tina. It gave me new perspectives on how I can measure my progress. Usually, I use the scale and observe the clothes that I wear if it’s fit or not. I would love to try other ways you’ve mentioned. Thanks a ton! ;-)

12 Davida June 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

Great post Tina! I ditched the scale years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s all about how you feel and if you feel confident you will look confident!

13 tinareale June 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

LOVE that! If you feel confident you will look confident. SO TRUE!

14 [email protected] June 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Great post Tina! I wrote a post on ditching the scale a couple of weeks back…agree on all counts! :)

15 Pamela Hernandez June 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Pics and clothes are my favorite. I love having clients pic out “temperature jeans” to measure their progress.

16 Kimberly {Manifest Yourself} June 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Tracking progress is so hard sometimes…and defeating if you are not seeing the results that you would like to see. Clothes & pictures are definitely the best.

17 Melanie @ Nutritious Eats June 25, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I love knowing body fat. Wish it were easier to track that info (and I don’t really want to buy a new scale) :)

18 purelytwins June 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm

we have no scale in our house, really we never weight ourselves, we have no idea how much we weight. we focus on how we are feeling, how our energy is, how our skin is doing, etc. and progress pics is one thing we like to do :)

19 Brittany @ Delights and Delectables June 26, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Measuring progress is and can be so frustrating! I never weigh myself, because like you said, it doesn’t take in account muscle and everything. I usually go by how my clothes fit and how I feel.

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