Today we have the penultimate article in this series – The Best Way to Measure Your Progress!
An important topic which loses a lot of focus in the dieting world! However, if we haven’t got our eyes on the right metrics that dictate progress, or at the very least the best metrics for us to track for our own goal and behaviours, then we risk derailing progress or losing confidence in our chosen dietary strategy!
Let’s go in! 🙂 Don’t get that tape measure out unless you really need it though!!
There’s MANY ways to measure progress. you name it!
- Body-weight on the scale
- Body-fat % readings on the scale
- Skin caliper readings
- Progress Pictures
- General sense of feeling
- Biofeedback markers. (Sleep, energy, stress levels, workout performance, hunger)
- Performance increases (the numbers you can lift are going up)
- The list can honestly go on….
There’s a tonne of ways we can measure progress, but by no means is each and every one relevant to our goal.
When you start out new in your fitness or nutrition journey it’s damn easy to become overwhelmed by the plethora of methods and tactics to drive our goal. However you need to choose the right way to measure you’re progress for your goal!
If you know you get obsessed by weighing yourself on the scale, for instance, then actually using the sole approach of scale readings is probably going to be our slip up. If you have bad connotations to bodyweight fluctuations then it could lead us down a slippery slope to somewhere detrimental to our goal or even risk producing eating disorders if they get out of hand. Instead, you could use progress pictures and biofeedback markers (general sense of wellbeing and performance) in order to measure our progress. By removing the scale from the situation we actually focus on the things more important to us, but with less risk.
Likewise for someone experienced in the industry. If I’m adamant I want to lose bodyfat and I’m instead measuring how I’m feeling (biofeedback markers) then I’m probably going to find I’m reacting to bad data. When you’re in a calorie deficit you’re naturally going to be feeling a bit shit, low energy, higher stress and lower workout performance. Using these as a main indicator to fat loss makes no sense. It can, however, indicate if we’re on the right path towards being in a calorie deficit but probably the main ones we’d want to keep an eye on here instead would be bodyfat-% readings and potentially bodyweight on the scale.
If you choose the wrong metrics to measure you’re progress you can risk setting yourself up for fail, purely by not focusing on the right indicator that you’re actually making progress.
Of course, it actually goes a bit deeper than choosing the right ways to measure progress – you definitely need to choose the right goal, but it definitely helps when we’ve got the eye on the prize we want!
I work with a fantastic client who recently was looking for nutritional help prior to a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. We’ll call him ‘J’. J came to me 12 weeks ago with the hope we could help lose a fair bit of body-fat whilst improving overall health and knowledge of nutrition. Straight away it becomes aware to me the best ways we can measure this are body-fat readings, potentially Body-weight on the scale and progress pictures.
However we had a chat when we begun working together on how 12 weeks wasn’t a long time at all, especially for someone wanting big change rather quickly! Not an issue though, we had to have the discussion on setting the right expectations between us to begin with. Common nights out or binges on food in this short time-span would definitely be detrimental to our potential to lose as much so we had to have the right conversation first and discuss how we wanted this to look.
Now here is where it began getting a bit tricky. J came to me in a very low calorie intake, approx. 1300 a day. In my opinion there’s no way we can make sure he holds a healthy metabolism, hit the gym 5 times a week hard and STILL lose fat on that low calories. So we had to start by increasing his calories over a 4-6 week period. In this time we managed to get his calories back up to 2200 calories, keeping a close eye on his body-weight and using progress pictures to make sure we weren’t making gains in body-fat detrimental to his goals. Body-fat readings were hard to come by for K, otherwise we would’ve kept a close eye on this maybe once a week.
When we got to a suitable amount of calories for J we decided we could now focus on the main objective, leaning down and focusing on the thing that mattered most, getting lean AF. Previous to this we kept a close eye on his biofeedback markers (stress levels, workout performance, hunger and sleep), these were all looking pretty healthy all round and when these indicated he was in a healthier place than when he came to me in, we decided to switch over to fat burning!
From here on in it was a case of small reductions in calorie intake weekly, whilst increasing workout intensity and keeping a fair bit of resistance training to maintain current muscle tissue. Those same biofeedback markers were still monitored but only to make sure we weren’t going too fast on his calorie reductions. As long as every week we reduced calories by 10-15% and his workout performance looked ok still, his hunger wasn’t overly an issue and sleep and stress still looked good, we could make sure we weren’t beating J up too badly!!
We also got a tight focus on progress pictures to help with motivation between the weeks which really served J well. A simple snapshot of a picture when we started working together and 8 weeks in in our fat-burning phase was a HUGE motivator for the both of us, let alone J. J felt motivated that what were doing was good, and I had more faith that we were on the right line as a coach. All we had to do was make sure we can hold this trend of progress to our 12th week.
We monitored weight 3 times a week from here, keeping a very close eye on hunger and workout performance and a weekly progress picture. By keeping an eye on the things available to us both, feeding both our faith and motivation in the process was enough to get us to 12 weeks in an aggressive state of dieting.
By keeping an eye on his weight we made sure we were in a calorie deficit as that is the only way we can lose weight. Keeping an eye on his hunger and stress levels was a great tool to see if we were going too hard and the progress pictures simply served to us both to make sure we were progressing with leaning down and keeping motivation up!
As you can see it’s a very fluid process, often reacting to our goal or timeframe. 12 weeks is a very short time for an aggressive body-fat burn but by measuring the right indicators and not getting hung up on the things that didn’t matter we kept our goal in sight.
J went on holiday today and looks INCREDIBLE and he’s deserves to pat himself on the back (he’ll be going into our testimonial page very soon!!).
This is quite a different example to something you may use in your goals but we had a super tight, inflexible deadline, on top of the fact we had to restore calories to begin with to a healthier level. However I hope it serves as an example of how fluid it can be, and how we should keep an eye on the things that are available to us as well as the best ways to measure our progress. Notice we didn’t get hell-bent on the fact we couldn’t get body-fat readings due to none available., however imperative that may have seemed initially.
Often just progress pictures and a patient timeline is enough to help us see the light through the tunnel, but it will completely depend on your goal!
I’d highly recommend from here that if you’ve a goal in mind you want to drive that you make it equally as imperative to decide not just what you want to achieve in your goal but also choose how you’re going to measure it.
Choosing the wrong way to measure your progress can throw you off-track, and can demotivate you instead of motivate you!
Also bare in mind that weight loss is something that fluctuates like the weather in Manchester. It varies based on our hormones and stressors we put on our body. If we’re in a healthy place it STILL won’t be 100% downward progress, your body only has so much energy to give towards weight loss so there will be days and weeks where sometimes we won’t lose weight. As long the trend is going in the direction you want to go, maybe you should take that as a win instead of being fixated on an amount you’ve just decided you want to reach in body-weight!
One fun thing I love doing with my weight readings when I’m trying to lean down is plot a graph of three weight readings a week (if you want my template for this get in touch in the comments!!). By plotting my weight on a graph and I know i’m doing my weight loss right (slowly and patiently) I know increases in my weight come just before they decrease!! I play the game and get proper hyped when it increases and anticipate how much it’ll potentially drop.
Play the game.
Monitor the BEST ways to measure your progress.
Don’t look at unnecessary shit like looking for abs if what you’re doing doesn’t even correlate with what you’re doing.
Don’t monitor your weight if you know you can become obsessive.
Don’t even think about monitoring bodyfat increases if you’re looking to gain workout performance, they just don’t go hand-in-hand.
DO give the way you monitor your progress more thought than maybe what even is your goal! It can be the difference between motivated and unmotivated, and even whether you’re successful!
Thanks so much for reading though.
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It was the motherships birthday today so a regular trip to our favourite Thai at Pthanthong in altrincham was due! . I opted for the healthier options as I'm going hard on leaning down the last week before I go away. In my opinion that was a beef dish with plan noodles and minimal sauce. . This was FIT! And although I THOUGHT it was minimal sauce there was a fair bit of oyster sauce. Either way, I'm not beating myself up about this shit. . I had food, I enjoyed it, We laughed, we ate! And so we should. You can relax knowing you can pick shit up the next day. Being realistic if you're stressing about 500 calories you've probabaly left your goal too late. . I probably could've driven maximum fat loss 2 months earlier, but I didn't 🙂 and I don't really mind! I'm enjoying this process and it's working for me. . Just pick your shit up the next day. If we're massively stressing over a meal out and not having fun, then I personally believe we're using the wrong approach, at least for an amateur athlete 🙋🏻♂️😏 I'll go one further again and say we should've started earlier if that was the case too! . Also stress, it's a sustainable journey. Enjoy it and have fun 🙌🏼👊🏻 Stay fed! . #chargenutrition #health #fitness #nutrition #iifym #iifymgirls #macros #macrofriendly #macrocoach #flexibledieting #fit #fitspo #fitfam #diet #fuel #gym #strength #cardio #workout #instafit #food #nutritionist #nutritioncoach #determination #progress #altrincham #wilmslow #sandbach #pthanthong #manchester