Progress is defined as “the forward or onward movement toward a destination.” In the world of health and fitness, measuring progress usually means looking at your “magical” number that pops up on the scale, which either makes you happy or puts your day into a downward spiral. Studies show that as your weight increases so does your risk for obesity-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
Keeping an eye on weight is important. However, we can track body composition rather than weight to better show progress. Reducing body composition is a typical goal when starting a muscular strength or cardiovascular endurance regimen. Even if the scale is not changing, seeing a change in the way your clothes fit or evaluating other body composition methods should make the effort rewarding and help with the needed motivation to continue on a healthy path. There are a number of ways to assess body composition (body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and body fat percentage), for this article, we are going to explore waist circumference since it is an easy and low cost way to see if your weight-loss efforts are paying off.
How to Measure Waist Circumference
- Locate the lowest point of the last rib and the top of the hip bone.
- Find the midpoint of these two locations. This is your natural waist.
- Hold the end of the tape measure over the midpoint and wrap it around your body (check to make sure the tape is horizontal across the back and front). You may need a friend to help you out with the measuring. The tape should be snug, but not so tight that it compresses the skin.
- When measuring your waist, first exhale then measure before inhaling again.
What Does my Waist Measurement Mean?
Studies conclude that if people stores a majority of their weight in their mid-section (apple-shaped), they are at a higher risk for obesity-related illness. A healthy waist circumference is less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men.
Tips for Reducing Waist Size
- Exercise: Don’t just rely on target exercises like situps and crunches to reduce your waist circumference. Target exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles, but if you have a high level of visceral fat, you may not see a reduction in waist circumference. Instead, adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle strengthening activities on two or more days per week working all major muscle groups. If you are starting an exercise program, you should always consult your physician before starting.
- Diet: If you have ever looked at the list of ingredients on food packaging, you are probably not surprised to know that there is an abundance of unnatural products in the grocery store. Looking at nutrition facts is important for some consumers, but I also encourage you to pay attention to the ingredient list of foods you buy. Be on the lookout for products with these ingredients, and reduce/limit consumption:
- Common names for hidden sugars are fructose, sucrose and dextrose
- Partially hydrogenated oils, which are a primary source of trans fats
- Artificial sweeteners called sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame
- Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate which is a preservative in meats
- Artificial colorings in food, i.e., Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, etc.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) additive to enhance flavor
- Sleep: According to a 2005 study, sleep needs vary across populations which mean that there is no “magic number” for the amount of sleep our bodies need. When you exercise regularly and intake quality fuels consistently, naturally our bodies have a tendency to get optimal number of sleep hours that we need to perform at our best. A number of studies have also linked sleep deprivation to an increased risk of obesity.
Share with us your tips for measuring progress and staying positive while trying to lose weight!