Everything to Know About Tracking Weight Loss Progress

tracking your progress

Tracking is the best way to guarantee quick and consistent fat loss results. Here's how to track your fitness journey so that you get the best results possible

A few weeks ago, I posted a before & after success story of my online coaching clients, Rachel:

Rachel Liddle Before & After

Rachel lost a significant amount of weight in just a few months, but more than that, she dropped numerous inches off her upper, middle, and lower body and even built lean muscle in the process!

 

Another one of my clients, Mark, had similar fat-burning + muscle-building results:

mark-beforeafter

Mark lost a crapload of fat...Like, a lot.

 

Through his hard work and consistency, he's taken it one step further and built a rock-solid physique which he's been maintaining ever since.

 

Finally, there's my client Whitney:

stubborn belly fat

When Whitney and I started working together, she was seriously struggling to make notable progress despite the fact that she was dieting and exercising religiously.

 

After a couple of dialing in her nutrition and workout routine, she was finally able to get rid of her stubborn belly fat, build muscle, and achieve the strong & toned body she's always wanted.

 

And the best part is that she was able to accomplish ALL of her fitness goals without giving up her social life (which she cherished). She continued going out for drinks with friends throughout the entire process!

 

Why am I sharing these success stories?

 

I'm not flaunting these transformations to try and impress you. Instead, I'm sharing these success stories to show you a commonality between them...

 

You see, despite having vastly different starting points and results, there's one thing that all three of these clients did that enabled them to accomplish what they set out to achieve...

 

All three tracked their journey - they tracked their food, their body stats, their workouts, and even their mental state throughout the entire process.

 

If you’re serious about taking control of your body and losing fat once and for all, then tracking your progress is a MUST.

 

I'm not just referring to the body scale, though...

 

I'm talking about keeping track of multiple different body stats as well as your diet and exercise routines.

 

If you've been struggling to see changes on the scale despite working tirelessly on achieving your goal, then you're in luck!

 

In this article, I'm going to outline everything you need to know about tracking your journey and fitness progress so that you can get the body and health you've always dreamed of having!

 

Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. 🙂

 

The Body Scale Dilemma

weight-regain

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

 

  1. You wake up one week and feel super motivated to finally lose weight
  2. As a result, you decide to start running every evening while trying to eat less "bad" food and more "good" food. (even though "good" and "bad" foods don't really exist...)
  3. The scale shows your weight dropping every day for the first couple of weeks, which is awesome.
  4. But one day, your weight goes up... and then goes up a little bit more the next day...
  5. You get upset, fall off the wagon, and end up binge eating raw cookie dough in the late hours of the night.
  6. Then the viscous cycle starts all over again...

 

Unfortunately, this tends to be the story with 90% of people trying to lose fat and achieve their dream body.

 

Everything's sunshine and rainbows at first, but then something happens–they accidently overeat one night, drink one too many cocktails, serve a second helping of dinner–and their weight shoots up.

 

Heck, sometimes their weight shoots up despite the fact they're following their exercise and diet regimen flawlessly.

 

Whatever the reason, because they've relied solely on the scale to gauge their progress, their spike in weight motivates them to either increase the intensity of their diet and exercise (often to unsustainable levels), or they simply quit.

 

Either way, they end up right back where they started.

 

The scale doesn't tell the whole story...

 

You may not realize this, but there are literally hundreds of things that can cause your scale weight to fluctuate up and down. Most of which have absolutely zero to do with gaining or losing fat.

 

Before you lose your sh*t about what you see on the scale, here are some things to take into account...

 

  • Did you weigh-in at the same time of the day?
  • Have you had anything to eat or drink?
  • Did you have a lot to eat the night before?
  • How much sodium did you have the previous day and meal?
  • Did you eat more carbs than usual?*
  • Have you gone to the restroom yet?
  • Are you wearing similar clothes?
  • Where are you at in your menstrual cycle?
  • Did you drink alcohol yesterday?
  • Are you dehydrated?
  • Are you more stressed than what's usual for you?
  • Did you sleep poorly?
  • Are you using the same scales that you always use?
  • Are your scales on the same surface every time you weigh-in?

*Note: It's not that eating carbs magically leads to gaining fat, but rather they cause the body to store water and glycogen - both of which can effect scale weight.

 

If you wanted to keep your daily weigh-ins as consistent as possible, you would need to make sure that all of those factors (and probably more I can't think of while writing this) are kept constant.

 

Obviously, trying to micromanage every single aspect of your life isn't reasonable, nor is it a realistic approach.

 

There's also the fact that the scale only shows one type of weight - TOTAL weight. Just check out this photo of my fitness progression from 2014 to late 2016:

Carter Before & After at 171 lbs

Want to know something crazy? I was the EXACT SAME WEIGHT in both pictures - 171 lbs.

 

You see, not all weight is "bad" weight.

 

Because I had my diet and training dialed in, I was able to both lose fat and building lean muscle mass despite hovering around the same body weight.

 

This is one of the main reasons I'm such an advocate of strength training while dieting. Although your scale weight may not drop as fast compared to starving yourself and running 20+ miles a day, the weight you do lose from strength training will be almost entirely fat and not muscle.

 

Unfortunately, folks who neglect resistance training and focus solely on losing scale weight typically end up looking "skinny fat" (often characterized as appearing thin in clothes but with extra fat around the mid-section).

 

One of my coaching clients, Amy, has had a similar experience with making non-scale weight progress.

 

In the first few weeks together, she didn't lose a single pound of bodyweight. However, when she took her body measurements, we found out that her body measurements had gone down a total of 6 inches!

 

Amy's measurements clearly showed how she was able to lose fat despite her scale weight not changing. (on a side note, her weight did start going down eventually!)

 

The Consequences of Not Tracking

 

When someone comes to me struggling to lose weight, it's usually from making one or more of these mistakes:

 

They Aren't Tracking Their Food - This is by far the most common mistake. Most people think they just need to eat "healthy" to lose fat. However, eating healthy isn't always enough. For most, consistent progress is best achieved through tracking their food intake (i.e., tracking calories, counting macros, or controlling portion sizes.)

Here's Why You Don't Have To Count Calories, But Probably Should...

They Aren't Tracking Their Workouts - Do you go to the gym and mindless wander from exercise to exercise without much thought? Starting a strength training program is a great first step, but you also need to make sure you're tracking your workouts to ensure you're progressing each week to build strength and muscle.

 

They Aren't Tracking How They Feel - You could follow the best diet and exercise routine in the universe, but if it causes too much stress, it'll only be a matter of time before you give up or give in to temptations. While all diets will cause some degree of hunger and energy deprivation, it should never get so unbearable that you can't sustain it for more than a few weeks.

 

The Tracking Triangle: 3 Points of Progress

The Tracking Triangle

By this point, I hope that I've thoroughly convinced you of the importance of tracking.

 

As the saying goes, "what gets tracked, gets managed."

 

The Tracking Triangle (see above) includes the 3 points of progress that I have each and every client monitor to ensure they're getting quick and consistent fat loss results.

 

1. Tracking Your Body

 

To start, know that you should never analyze and compare your body stats on a day-to-day basis.

 

Your body is an incredibly complex piece of machinery with thousands of systems, many of which lead to weight fluctuations each day. When you're analyzing your progress over time, focus on the changes you're making weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly.

 

The Body Scale

"Wait, didn't he just spend the first third of this article bashing the body scale?"

 

I know, I know. It seems a little hypocritical of me, doesn't it? 😉

 

But when the body scale is used correctly, and alongside other forms of body stat tracking, it can actually be a handy tool for assessing your progress.

 

The key words, though, are "used correctly."

 

We've already discussed the mistake of comparing your day-to-day weigh-ins, but another common mistake is looking at single, once a week weigh-ins.

 

The issue with comparing once weekly weigh-ins is the same problem of daily weigh-ins - it's hard to tell if your weight change is due to fat or from body fluid/content fluctuations (remember the long list from the previous section).

 

The solution to this is actually quite simple.

 

All you have to do is combined the two by taking daily weigh-ins and comparing them weekly using weekly weight averages.

 

With a weekly weight average, you'll flatten out your high and low weight spikes throughout the week and have a more reliable number for comparing actual fat loss:

weight fluctuations vs fat loss

Here's a video I made illustrating how to find and compare your weekly weigh-in averages:

Written instructions:

 

  1. Weight yourself every day and write the number down. Remember, you shouldn't worry about the number you see at the time of weighing.
  2. At the end of the week, take all seven of your weigh-ins, add them up, and divide that number by 7. This will give you your weekly weight average.
  3. Repeat those two steps for at least 4 weeks.

 

Once you have all of the data from those three steps collected, you'll be able to accurately analyze and compare your weekly weigh-in averages to see if you're progressing in the right direction.

 

Body Measurements

Along with using weekly weight averages, you should also monitor the changes to your body circumference measurements.

 

I have most of my clients take all of their measurements–neck, shoulder, chest, arms, waist, hips, thigh, and calves–once every two weeks. But at the very minimum, I recommend you take two measurements every 14-21 days.

 

  • The two measurements for Men: waist and shoulder circumference
  • The two measurements for Women: waist and hip circumference

 

If you are doing it yourself, you may want to purchase a self-measuring tape like THIS ONE for ease of use and more accurate measurements.

 

Progress Photos

Progress photos are by far my favorite method for tracking physical progress and changes.

 

Sure, watching a few data points change over time is nice, but it's nothing compared to the motivation you get from seeing positive changes in your physical appearance!

 

Since we see ourselves every day, it's difficult to notice small changes from looking in the mirror. But with progress photos, you'll have snapshots from different points in your journey that'll make it easy to see body changes taking place.

 

After 3-4 months of working with a new client, I always like to show them their "before and after" photos. Most of the time, they're completely shocked by the amount of progress they've made without even realizing it!

 

Pro tips for taking progress pictures:

  • Wear a bathing suit or similar attire.
  • Use the same mirror, clothing, lighting, and time of day to take your photos
  • Take three relaxed photos: front, side, and back

 

Now, I understand that some people might find taking half-naked pictures in the mirror somewhat uncomfortable.

 

If that's you, then here's what I'd do: still take the pictures, but hide them in a computer folder for later use. Once you start making progress, you'll be glad you have those photos to look back on - trust me. 🙂

 

2. Tracking Your Food

 

When someone comes to me complaining about not seeing progress, the first thing I always do is ask them a few questions about their diet:

 

Do they know how many calories they're eating?

How many times do they eat? And how much?

Do they monitor their portion sizes?

Do they eat plenty of fruits and veggies?

Are they getting enough protein?

 

If the answer to any of those questions is "I'm not sure?" or "maybe?", I know that there's probably something in their diet that is causing them to struggle which needs fixing.

 

I'm a fan of tracking calories and macronutrients, but while some people love tracking and measuring their food, others loathe it. Either way, I believe everyone should spend some time (at least ~6 weeks) tracking their food intake in some fashion.

 

If you absolutely hate tracking, at the very least I suggest figuring out your calorie needs for weight loss and then creating a meal plan around those targets. This way you can just eat the same meals and know roughly how many calories you're getting each day without tracking religiously.

 

3. Tracking Your Workouts

 

When you walk into the gym...

 

Do you have a plan?

Do you know what exercises you're going to do?

Do you know how much weight to use?

Do you know how many reps to aim for?

Do you write down how much you did so that you can look back and make improvements the next workout?

 

...or do you mindless hop from exercise to exercise and do what sounds fun on that particular day?

 

When you're just starting out, you can get away with doing random exercises with random weights and reps. However, this approach quickly turns into a one-way ticket to plateau city as your gym and fat loss progress stall out.

 

Instead, you should be working out with purpose.

 

Working out with purpose means following an effective strength training routine, tracking your workouts in a notebook or phone app, and making consistent progress each week.

 

A Start-Up Plan To Start Tracking

 

How seriously you track your progress will dictate how seriously (and quickly) you get results.

 

And now that you know the importance of tracking, I bet you're hankering to find a diet and workout plan that's going to allow you to apply this newly obtained knowledge, aye?

 

Don't worry - I gotcha covered!

 

My 14-Day Fat Loss Course has everything you need for setting up your diet and exercise in a way that'll have you burning fat and building lean muscle in no time...

 

Not only that—you'll also learn how to do it using sustainable strategies that last a lifetime 🙂

 

If you're intersted, click the link below to sign up 🙂

 

14-Day Fat Loss Forever

Enroll in this FREE course and learn exactly how to lose fat, build the body of your dreams, and end your struggle with weight once and for all.

 

- Carter

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