Measure Your Body Composition Change Without The Scales.

We recently wrote about why we believe that the weight scales are obsolete as a measure of body composition change. In this post we will list a number of other methods that you can use to objectively assess whether your body composition is improving.


Before doing so however; I might take this opportunity to reiterate our firm belief that body composition is not the only way to assess your health and fitness levels. Overall health is so much more than what your body shape looks like or how much fat or muscle you have. Please get in touch with other means to measure your own health and fitness, such as; quality and quantity of sleep, hormone balance, mental health, happiness and stability, mood trends, muscle strength and movement patterns, just to name a few.


In no particular order, here are some ways to check if your body composition is changing:


1. Measuring Tape (cm).

I particularly love this one because it is just as easy and quick to wrap a measuring tape around your target area, be it your waist, hips, bottom or thighs and assess whether you have made a positive change, as it is to jump on the scales.


In addition to being a good way to track your body shape change, waist girth is also widely used by medical professionals as a determinant of risk for obesity-related diseases. As a male, if your waist girth is over 94cm then your risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers is increased. For females, your risk of these diseases increases if your waist girth is over 80cm. For more information check out The Department of Health.


Pros:

  • relatively non-invasive

  • cheap

  • quick and easy

Cons:

  • does not differentiate between fat and muscle or account for water retention


2. Use your clothing.

Nothing is more telling than the very clothes that you love (or loved) to wear that are hanging in your own closet. You know those old jeans that used to fit you perfectly and make you feel like a rockstar?? Instead of hiding them away in the furthest, darkest corner, pull them out and place them somewhere you see regularly. Better still; pop them on every couple of weeks and get a gauge of how close you are to pulling those bad boys on and doing up the button without a struggle. If you are fitting in all the clothes that make you feel amazing and happy and confident... then who cares what number is displayed on the weight scales?


Pros:

  • non-invasive

  • cheap, quick and easy

  • can be done in the privacy of your own home

  • makes the goal more personal and hence, often more motivating

Cons:

  • does not account for water retention or show fat : muscle mass


3. A peg and string.

A good friend of ours whom is a personal trainer, has a client who has a goal to lose weight. Instead of using the scales or even the measuring tape or any other method which offers the tracking of numbers, she simply uses a peg on a piece of string wrapped around her target area. She wraps the length of string around her waist (for example) and places the peg where the string meets. She hangs up the string and peg until next time she wants to measure.


This method takes away the emotional attachment to numbers which can create anxiety for some. If we are tracking or chasing a particular number we are constantly comparing ourself to where we think we 'should' be or where we once were or worse; comparing ourselves to someone else's number. Using the peg and string method, if the peg is moving closer to the start of the string then you're changing. Simple as that.


Pros:

  • relatively non-invasive

  • cheap, quick and easy

  • removes the emotional attachment to numbers and promotes focus only on progression instead of comparison to a previous stage/age or different person.

Cons:

  • does not account for water retention or show fat : muscle mass


4. Skinfolds.

Skinfold callipers are used to measure the thickness of your subcutaneous fat: the layer of fat immediately under your skin. Up to 35 different fold sites on the body can be recorded, eg: bicep, tricep, abdominal, gluteal, sub scapular, calf, thigh, etc, although measuring all 35 sites would take a long time hence a 4 or 7 site method is more commonly used throughout the PT industry. Whilst the calipers are very affordable and portable, the skin folding process does require training to perform accurately and measurements can vary between testers.



Skinfolding can be used to track body composition change in a couple of different ways;