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How to Track Your Weight Loss

Updated on March 28, 2013
Unlike gimmicks and fad diets, a weight tracker is a useful tool in your quest to lose or maintain your weight.
Unlike gimmicks and fad diets, a weight tracker is a useful tool in your quest to lose or maintain your weight. | Source
Regular use of a weight tracker can help you to see when and where changes may be necessary to achieve or maintain your weight goals.
Regular use of a weight tracker can help you to see when and where changes may be necessary to achieve or maintain your weight goals. | Source
Weight loss and the tracking of it has been popularized by concepts such as "The Biggest Loser"
Weight loss and the tracking of it has been popularized by concepts such as "The Biggest Loser" | Source

The Five Fundamentals of Weight Loss

You're contemplating losing weight or you've made the decision and are ready to get started. There is no shortage of companies and products that assure you all you have to do is follow their plan or buy their product/service and you'll be slim in no time.

Even if a very few of these products and services do bring about a slender you, will you also be a healthy person? That's the problem with fad diets and diet pills and more -- even when they work for weight loss, you might have inadvertently jeopardized your health in the process.

Maintaining weight loss, something you'll want to do for a long time, is even more difficult if you haven't developed lasting lifestyle changes as you lost weight. Fad diets, diet supplements and diet pills may get those pounds off, but when you return to your previous lifestyle without having changed unhealthy eating or exercise habits you will begin almost immediately to regain the lost weight.

The gimmicks, the fad diets, the "fat-melting belts" -- they all appeal to that portion of human nature that wants results now, if not yesterday. Instant gratification, instant results sound so tempting, but they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Replacing unhealthy eating habits and regular exercise are the twin keys to both weight loss and weight maintenance.

Consider these five fundamentals of effective and healthy weight loss:

  1. Become focused on being healthy. Make your motivation for weight loss to be improved health, not thinness. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how becoming healthier is a long-term motivator. If thinness is your main motivation, when temptation presents itself -- and it will -- it would be easier to discard that mental image of your thinner self in a bathing suit than it would be to dismiss your goal of your best health.
  2. Keep your weight loss goals realistic. The recommended rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds/week. If you weight loss exceeds this rate occasionally, so much the better, but set yourself up for success by setting healthy, attainable goals. The same fundamental applies to daily calorie counts, if you are counting calories, and to exercise. If you currently have a sedentary lifestyle, don't set a short-term goal of an hour of exercise daily. Start small and build up your endurance, strength before building your exercise goals incrementally.
  3. Track your food and your weight. Research has shown that keeping a food diary and tracking your weight loss help to keep you focused and mindful of your goals. As you begin to see the effects of your efforts to be healthier as decreasing numbers on the scale, you'll feel rewarded for your efforts. Keeping a food diary increases your self-awareness about the food you are eating, how much of it, how often and if there are patterns of behavior or triggers for unhealthy eating habits.
  4. Get support. Different people need different levels of support and encouragement to stay on track toward reaching their goals. You may have a family member or group of friends who will fulfill this role for you. Others may be less interested in having those people they are close to in the support role; an online or community support group may work.
  5. Consult your health care provider before undertaking any diet or exercise changes. It's always wise to consult with your primary care provider before making lifestyle changes such as diet or exercise. Not only will your health care provider know if you have any current health conditions that may require modifications to your methods or goals, but the provider is also a resource for information and a partner in your journey to improved health.

Free App: BMI/Weight Calculator for Android

Free Download: BMI/Weight Calculator for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Information to Track During Your Weight Loss

Before you begin your weight loss lifestyle changes, or shortly after you've begun, there are different types of information that you should record both at your starting point and at regular intervals throughout your journey. This information will help you to see your progress, provide tangible proof of your successes and help you to see when you've reached a weight loss plateau.

  • Take a picture. Take a silhouette and full front picture of yourself in shorts and a bra (or just shorts for men). No one needs to see the pictures but yourself. You don't even need to look at them now if you don't want. Then take the same type of pictures at one month or six week intervals; you can file them with the first photos, or you can compare them to see your progress. And don't forget to take the same pictures when you've reached your weight loss goal -- talk about motivation to keep that weight off!
  • Weight. Keep in mind that weight is just one measure of your healthiness and is influenced by the time of day, clothing worn, liquids consumer, menstrual cycle and more. For the first month, weigh yourself once a week, then taper off to every two weeks or once a month for the duration of your weight loss journey. Weigh at the same time of day, same day of the week and with the same clothing or lack of clothing each time.
  • Measurements. Get out the measuring tape and measure yourself in five key areas: Chest or bust at the nipple line; waist right above the belly button; at the widest part of your hips; the biggest part of your thighs and biggest part of your upper arms. Take your measurements at the beginning of your weight loss, then again every two months, preferably on the same day you weigh yourself. Even if your weight hasn't changed because you've dropped fat but gained muscle, your measurements will reveal the changes.
  • Food eaten. Depending on which weight tracking method you choose, some of them have food diaries built into them. If yours doesn't, keep a separate food diary or journal, recording each thing that you eat or drink, portion size, time of day, and feelings or behavior before eating. There's something about writing this information down that creates an increased self-awareness and an innate honesty to record the information accurately. Don't fudge the truth; it will only be yourself you are deluding.

There will be other things you'll notice as you begin to eat healthier and get more exercise, things you won't necessarily record on a weight loss tracker, but they should still be signals of progress to you:

  • You can walk further without becoming winded
  • You can fasten your belt on a tighter notch or need a new belt altogether
  • You can see body parts that had alluded you for years
  • Calorie-laden foods don't hold the same appeal to you as they used to
  • You need to buy smaller clothes or shoes
  • Your back doesn't hurt from carrying a large and poorly supported abdomen
  • You can do more activities with family and friends
  • You sleep better at night
  • You feel less fatigued during the day

Printable Weight Loss Chart

How to Use SparkPeople's Free Food Tracker to Lose Weight

Weight Loss Charts and Weight Loss Trackers

A weight loss chart or weight loss tracker can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can use a notebook and a ruler to make columns and head each column with the information you want to record. You can use a blank spreadsheet in the same way. If you're looking for something already created and you simply need to fill in the blanks with your information, there are plenty of those types of weight trackers, too.

Here's a list of free weight loss charts and weight loss trackers:

  • Super Tracker: This is a customizable weight tracker provided by through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Vertex42: Offers a downloadable weight loss chart and options for free downloads of other charts including a daily food log, BMI chart and BMI calculator and Workout Log.
  • Chart Jungle: Provides a variety of printable charts in addition to weight loss such as medical expense and allergy charts.
  • Fit Day: You can create a free account and have access to a weight and diet journal online.

How likely are you to use a weight loss chart or food tracker?

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