6 min read

How to Take Body Measurements

Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

Whether you prefer to use measuring tape or a scale, these are all the ways to take body measurements as well as each of their advantages and disadvantages.

What Are the Reasons to Take Body Measurements?

If your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, taking measurements is a good way to keep track of your progress. Regularly monitoring the shifts in your body will let you know if everything is going according to plan, and allow you to make changes if it’s not.

For example, if you notice that you’ve stopped losing weight, that might be because your body has gotten used to the eating and exercise plan that you have in place. Being aware of a plateau in progress will allow you to rethink your approach, whether that’s introducing new and more difficult workouts or adding more protein to your diet.

In fact, a lot of people don’t realize just how important eating enough protein is to weight loss. Protein keeps you nourished and energized so that you’re less likely to snack out of boredom and better able to conquer challenging workouts. And we’ve got plenty of protein-rich recipes to keep you fueled for just about any physical activity.

The Basics of Body Measurements

As with healthy eating and exercise, consistency is the secret to taking accurate body measurements. To ensure the most accurate results, these are the basic principles to keep in mind.

#1 Only Take Your Measurements Once a Week

For starters, you never need to take your body measurements more than once a week. More often than that can give you misleading results that don’t account for the day-to-day fluctuations in weight that are caused by both internal and external factors, like hormones or high salt intake. Being aware of every slight shift in your body weight can be more harmful than helpful, and it rarely reflects the true progress that you’re making. Limit weight measurements to once a week to avoid unnecessary frustration.

#2 Take Your Measurements at The Same Time Every Week

Measuring yourself under consistent circumstances is the best way to get the most accurate reading. Try to do it on the same day every week and at the same time, ideally in the morning after you’ve used the restroom. That way, neither last night’s dinner or this morning’s breakfast can interfere with your measurements.

#3 Don’t Take Small Changes Too Seriously

The number on the scale doesn’t always represent how much progress you’ve made. After all, muscle weighs more than fat, which is why you may feel great even if you didn’t lose weight.

It’s also important to take into account the different factors that can impact weight. You might still be retaining water from Sunday’s salty brunch, but that doesn’t mean all your hard work has been undone and that you’re no longer losing fat.

These bodily changes don’t last long and aren’t representative of how far you’ve truly come. For people with periods in particular, these shifts often occur in relation to their cycle. On the flipside, some may notice great changes after an intense workout when there hasn’t actually been much at all.

No matter what the scale says, take into account what’s happening in your life and be easy on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.

The Different Methods of Taking Body Measurements

There are a handful of ways to take body measurements and all of them come with pros and cons. In general, relying on one or a combination of two methods will help you get the most accurate measurements.

#1 The Classic: The Scale

This is definitely the most common way to take body measurements, but the biggest drawback is that the scale doesn’t show you how exactly your body is changing. You may weigh more even though you lost fat because even lean muscle tissue is more dense than fat mass. The number on the scale only gives a surface-level reading of what’s going on in your body.

#2 The Athletic Method: The Measuring Tape

Athletes prefer to take measurements with a measuring tape, because it allows them to see exactly which parts of their bodies are changing and how. It allows them to better focus on and develop fitness plans for specific body parts, but it doesn’t tell you if you’ve gained or lost fat.

To get the most accurate measurements from this method, measure the circumference of the arms, stomach, hips, and legs and keep track of it in a journal. Always take your measurements from the same exact point to ensure consistency from one week to the next. Here are more instructions to get you started.

Instructions: How to Use a Measuring Tape Correctly 

For the most accurate results, take your measurements in the morning before breakfast and without any clothes on.

Stand in front of a mirror with your legs straight and together (less than hip width).

Measure the Circumference of Your Arm:

Let your arm hang free and wrap the tape around the widest point (at the biceps).

Measure the Circumference of Your Waist:

The natural waist is the point between the bottom ribs and belly button. Place the measuring tape slightly above your belly button. Exhale and relax your abdominal muscles. Don’t suck in your stomach.

Measure the Circumference of Your Hips:

Stand with your legs straight and your feet together. Place the measuring tape at the point where your hip bones meet your thighs. Be careful not to accidentally measure your pelvic bone.

Measure the Circumference of Your Thighs:

Stand straight and relax your thighs. Place the measuring tape at the widest point of your thigh, just below the buttocks.

#3 The Digital Method: Track Your Progress with Pictures

Taking photos is the best way to visualize your advancements over time. Just like with each of the other measuring methods, it’s important to put yourself in the same conditions every time. That includes day, time, and clothes as well as additional factors like posture, photo angle, and lighting.

#4 The Scientific Method: Calculate your BMI

Body mass index (or BMI) is determined by the ratio of height to body weight. And it’s only reliable if you’re weighing yourself regularly. That’s because you’ll need to recalculate your BMI every time your weight changes to ensure you always have the most reliable estimate.

Unlike the other methods, you can’t use BMI as a way to track weekly changes because it works too slowly. Often one or two pounds weight loss or gain won’t change your BMI much at all.

#5 Determine your Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Knowing your waist-to-hip ratio will help you determine if the amount of fat in your stomach is within a normal range. In order to calculate it, you need to use a measuring tape to take measurements of both your hips and waist.

Once you have those numbers, simply divide waist circumference by hip circumference in centimeters. The average value ranges from 0.7 to 0.85. But everybody is different, and these values shouldn’t always be taken too seriously.

Losing Weight Doesn’t Always Equal Success

Appearances can be deceiving. You might not feel any healthier or closer to your goal, even though the number on the scale has decreased. That’s why it’s important to put the way you feel above all else. And instead of blindly relying on numbers, ask yourself these questions to truly determine how far you’ve advanced.

What did you lose?

When we lose weight, it can be one of three things: muscle, water, or fat. Determining which you’ve lost is the tricky part. Luckily, there are two ways to know for sure.

  • Use an Adipometer to Measure Body Fat Percentage

An adipometer or skinfold measurement is a type of caliper that’s used to measure and record the sizes of fat folds.

This method takes time to show if you’re losing fat. The more precise you are, the more accurate your results will be. That means always taking measurements under the same conditions, including time and place.

  • Use a Bioimpedance Machine to Measure Everything From Muscle to Fat

A bioImpedance machine uses electrodes to get a clear reading on body composition. It produces a precise list of body fat percentage, muscle mass, water balance and tells you which range is normal for your body type.

The results are the most accurate body measurements you can get, and you can ask your pharmacist for more information on using a bioimpedance machine.

Before beginning any of these methods, it’s also important to take an honest look at your exercise and eating habits. Determine your goals and reflect on how your current habits fit into them. Do you need to work out more often? Or eat more of a certain nutrient? These are questions you want to answer.

How did you lose it?

If you lost a bunch of weight only to gain it back, you might be experiencing the yo-yo effect. Many fad diets rely on things like fasting and overcutting calories, which don’t produce sustainable results.

 

Healthy weight loss takes time and patience. It’s about adjusting your eating habits to suit you in the long-run. Though it may take longer, it’ll give you results that actually last the test of time.

Taking Your Measurements: Our Conclusion

  • Taking regular body measurements will better help you track weight loss progress.
  • Use one or two body measurement methods to get the most accurate readings.
  • Look beyond the numbers and ask yourself how you can make sense of them based on your personal situation, your daily eating habits, and your exercise routine.
Article sources
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.