Today I’m going to teach you one of the most important things you can do for yourself in regards to your fitness progress: how to measure yourself!
To some it may sound silly to measure yourself and instead you’ll want to jump straight onto the bathroom scales but I’m here to tell you that the very first thing you need to do, even before you step inside the gym, is to measure yourself – something I speak of in the book. In fact, you may have come here straight from reading it!
Whilst it is true that when it comes to eating, Primal Cure never counts calories, when it comes to exercise, we measure virtually everything.
If you’re serious about making changes to your lifestyle then I cannot stress how important it is to record your progress. There are many reasons why this is important but here’s a few:
- On the days you’ll be doubting yourself you can see how far you’ve come
- To keep track of your weight and strength training
- To set goals for yourself
- To see exactly how you’re progressing and how long it’s taking
- Scales don’t show the whole story
- To be able to determine if your getting stronger or not
Let me ask you this: How much more productive are you when it comes to achieving goals when you know exactly what you need to get done and when it needs to get done? Think of your goals as an important date with yourself that you cannot miss! For example, if I were to set the goal to increase muscle mass in my biceps over the next month then firstly I would measure the current size of my biceps and secondly, I’d pay more attention to training my upper body and fuelling my body correctly. By measuring myself after that month, I’d then be able to see if I’ve progressed and hit my goal.
What should you measure?
Firstly you may be wondering if you should measure weight, BMI, waistline or body fat percentage? Which is a really good question and the answer will be different for different people. Personally, I feel the best measure is your percentage body fat, but lets go through the four main measurements that people use to determine if they are of a healthy weight.
In isolation, weight is pretty much a useless measurement. If you are six foot tall and weigh the same as your mate who is four foot eight, then the likelihood is one of you is definitely not a healthy weight for your height.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Devised in the 1830s by Lambert Quetelet a Belgian mathematician, statistician and sociologist, The Body Mass Index is just one measurement that can provide a rough indication of how healthy you are. Although, it’s important to remember that BMI only considers your height compared to your weight and therefore it might provide incorrect readings and may possible tell you that you are actually overweight, when really you may just have a big frame or big muscles as muscles weigh more than fat! So, if you have three extra stones of fat then that will undoubtedly make you look fat, but if that was three stones of muscle, you would look lean and ripped but the BMI cannot tell the difference.
For example, I am 5ft 8” tall or short depending on your view, which is 1.73m and currently weigh 12 stone 8lbs (81.3kgs). To calculate BMI we divide our weight by our height squared. Overall, this means my BMI is 27.19
The BMI Index is as follows:
18.5 to 24.9 Normal
25 to 29.9 Overweight (fat)
30 to 34.9 Moderately Obese
35 to 39.9 Severely Obese
40 plus Morbidly Obese
So, according to the BMI and BMI only, I am over weight and half way to becoming obese but if you were to look at me then you wouldn’t think so! Also, I would like to point out that BMI does not differentiate between males and females, which is a little strange as women tend to carry less muscle than men and have more slender frames. Therefore, it is likely to under estimate females and over estimate males.
Measuring visceral fat via our waistline (also known as a beer belly) might be more beneficial than it first appears. Whilst it is only one measurement, it is by far the most important. You’ve probably seen it on the news, in the newspaper and heard it on the radio but without doubt, the fat we carry around our waist is considered to be the most dangerous of all. So whilst you may be in a hurry to reduce your bingo wings, grow your buttocks or increase your hip size for appearance reasons, it’s the size of our belly, regardless of our height that is an important indicator of our overall health. Not to mention how the size/strength of our core and waistline can affect our posture and overall back health.
The size of our waist reflects the amount of fat deposits around our heart, kidney, liver, digestive organs and pancreas. Fat around these vital organs can lead to heart diseases, diabetes type 2, cancer and strokes. It is said that for men a waistline of more than 37 inches (94cm) and for women 31.5 inches (80cm), indicates that there is too much fat encircling their organs.
On the NHS website they describe the above measurements as “at risk”, but go on to suggest, “You are at very high risk and you should contact your GP if your waist is:
- 102cm (40ins) or more for men
- 88cm (34ins) or more for women
Now ask yourself this: is your waistline something you need to consider first and foremost?
How you should measure yourself
You’ll need a tape measure for this one and you’ll need to make sure that your measurements are taken in the morning and not after you workout as you’ll have more blood in your muscles after a workout, especially after strength training. Also, it’s important to measure the same place each week so that each measurement is accurate. So grab a tape measure and take a circumference measurement at each of following areas of your body in your most relaxed state possible:
Shoulders – Keep both of your arms down at your side and measure at the widest point from shoulder to shoulder.
Chest – Lift up your arms and then wrap the tape measure around your chest( just below your armpits).
Bicep – Measure the circumference of each bicep midway.
Waist – Measure around your waist, just above the belly button.
Hips – Measure around the widest part of your hips.
Thigh – Sit down and measure around each thigh midway of knee to hip.
Calves – Sit down and measure around each calf midway from ankle to knee.
Body fat percentage scales
I would highly suggest using a pair of body fat percentage scales to measure yourself correctly. I currently use a prototype pair of scales that are being developed for Primal Cure as we speak (these will be ready for sale at the end of 2017). The scales themselves are combined with a handheld scanner to measure individual body parts called Skulpt for correct accuracy.
The calculation is very simple. If for example, you weigh 180 pounds and have 18 pounds of fat, then your body fat percentage is 10%, getting an accurate measurement is surprisingly challenging. Obviously if we put on more fat our percentage goes up and if we lose fat our percentage goes down. However, increasing or decreasing muscle or retaining/loosing water content can dramatically alter the measurements. For example, if I measure my body fat as soon as I get out of bed I get a reading of around 16%, but this can drop dramatically to 13% just two hours later if I have been to the gym or played tennis. Therefore, I would suggest that the key thing for you to do is measure your percentage of fat at exactly the same time each day each week. A perfect way to measure your fat would be to get out of bed, go the toilet and then take your measurement. If however, you’re getting out of bed much earlier than normal or having a long lie in, then we shouldn’t weigh ourselves that day as the body fat percentage reported will be misleading.
This may sound a little silly at first but taking photos of your undressed body every week can really help you to understand two things:
- Your own progress and where you’re progressing best/worst. I,e waistline.
- That progress can take time but as the weeks go on and as you compare your photos you will see slight changes – even if they’re minimal!
To take your own progress photos I would suggest standing in front of a mirror in your underwear with your phone camera/camera and start taking pictures of your body from the front, side and back. Do this first thing in the morning, after you’ve been to toilet and on an empty stomach. I’ll be honest – you might not like what you see and you may not want to share your photos and that’s absolutely fine, but do not delete them! These photos are crucial to seeing how much progress you are making – even when you feel like you aren’t! Just make sure you keep up with your progress photos weekly and by 4/8 weeks you’ll start seeing the changes… If you’re on track!
So before you even think about stepping in a gym, make sure you measure yourself so you can track your progress and make goals for yourself. Like I said earlier, you may not like what you see but that’s the point! There’s no doubt that you’re reading this because you want to make a change to your lifestyle and body appearance. So let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? Get those measurements in!
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