How (and why) to take body measurements when dieting

Why bother with measurements?

It is easy to assume that you can just cut out a few Christmas indulgences, hit some extra gym sessions and your unwanted weight will drop off. However, this is often NOT the case. In fact, it is possible (and common) for people to lose weight but get FATTER by improper dieting – they lose muscle instead of fat and slow their metabolism down. This sets them up to put on more fat at a faster rate in future too!

More commonly, people stick to their diet for a couple of weeks and then lose interest. Or they gradually eat more and more until their weight loss stalls.

Taking regular measurements provides you with a way of making sure that not only is your cut staying on track, but that you are losing the right kind of weight; fat, not muscle. Knowing that you have a weigh-in coming up can also provide a bit more motivation when you are flagging.

What should I measure?

  • Date and time
  • weight (in kg)
  • Body Fat Percentage
  • Fat Mass ( = Fat % x Weight)
  • Muscle Percentage
  • Muscle Mass ( = Muscle % x Weight)
  • Visceral Fat Percentage

You can get these from a set of body fat measurement scales in a matter of seconds. You will have to calculate the fat mass and the muscle mass yourself.

We include the time because your body weight fluctuates considerably during the day. Ideally you will pick a consistent time for measurements.

Keep an eye on your fat mass and muscle mass numbers. You want the fat mass to drop as quickly as possible, but the muscle mass to stay as high as possible. If you start losing lots of muscle mass as well, it means that you are dieting too hard and need to eat more calories  and/or you aren’t eating enough protein. We want to retain as much muscle as possible during a cut.

If your fat mass doesn’t drop for two weeks in a row, then something needs to change – either more exercise or less calories.

Visceral Fat is the (unhealthy) fat around your organs, and generally you will want this value as low as possible. As you get fitter and leaner, it should come down in line with your general fat mass. Anything above 12% is considered high risk to your health.


(if you are only cutting in January, do these at the start and finish)
  • Neck
  • Upper Arm
  • Chest
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Thigh
  • Calf

You can just use a normal cloth tape measure. It’s usually easiest to get someone else to take these measurements. If you are a David Lloyd member, then just drop me a message and we can arrange five minutes to take your measurements.


Progress Photos. This is where you really get to see the difference – remember yesterday I talked about the importance of taking photos before you start? This is so that three months later you can see where your discipline has taken you. Book this into your diary in advance so that you know when the photos are happening; it will help you keep on track.

You can record all of this on one of these sheets: body-measurements3

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