How to Lose Weight, Part 4 of 17

Do you want to lose weight? Here’s part 4 of a 17-part series of blog posts. You can read all the posted tips on the How to Lose Weight-page.

The first and most important advice was to choose a low carb diet. Number two and three to eat when hungry and to eat real food. Here’s #4:

4. Measure Your Progress Wisely

Tracking successful weight loss is sometimes trickier than you think. Focusing only on weight and standing on the scale every day might be misleading, cause unnecessary anxiety and undermine your motivation for no good reason.

The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.

Losing fat and gaining muscles is great progress, but you may miss it if you only measure your weight. Thus it’s smart to also track the disappearance of your belly fat, by measuring your waist circumference.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Put the measuring tape around your middle, like in the picture above, slightly above your belly button (to be exact: at the midpoint between your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone, at your side).
  2. Exhale and relax (don’t suck in your stomach).
  3. Make sure the measuring tape is snug, without compressing your skin.
  4. Measure

Compare your result to these recommendations:

I recommend aiming for “excellent” but it’s not always realistic. Young people can usually achieve it, but for some middle-aged or older women it may be a major victory to get all the way to “decent”.

Measuring progress

I suggest measuring your waist circumference and weight before starting and then perhaps once a week or once a month. Write the results down so that you can track your progress. If you want you can measure more areas: around the buttocks, the chest, the arms, legs, etc.

Note that your weight can fluctuate up and down several pounds from day to day, depending on fluid balance and stomach contents: Don’t worry about short term changes, instead follow the long-term trend.

If you can, try to check other important health markers when starting out, like these:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar (fasting blood glucose and/or HbA1c)
  • Cholesterol profile (including HDL, triglycerides)

These markers are almost universally improved on a low carb diet, even before major weight loss. Re-checking these health markers after a few months can be great for your motivation as they’ll usually show that you’re not just losing weight, you’re gaining health too.

PS: Don’t have a measuring tape at home? Try these options:

  • Use any piece of string. Wrap the string around your waist and clip off the extra on day one. This string could magically appear to become longer and longer every week you wrap it around your waist. 
  • Comparing how an old pair of jeans fit is also a decent option.

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right

39 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Peggy Holloway
    Female: Age 59.5 - waist measurement 28.5;severely insulin-resistant with major family history of "diabetes;" low-carb for 13 years; ketogenic last 6 months
    Male: Age 70.5 - waist measurement 36.5; no family history of diabetes; gradually cut carbs over past 5 years;ketogenic last 6 months and lost 40 pounds
    These goals are attainable even for old geezers like us.
    Read more →
  2. HighlySkeptical
    Seems clear to me that many here don't understand what visceral fat is. The comments seem to confuse subcutaneous fat below the navel with interior visceral fat. The picture in the post doesn't help either. In fact, i think it's causing the confusion.

    Let's be clear. Subcutaneous (under the skin) fat is less harmful than the visceral (inside the body cavity) fat. Visceral fat is what surrounds your internal organs, not what's under your skin. For example, many people with little fat under their skin - that is, they don't look fat, they don't "jiggle" - are packed tight with fat inside their ribcage, all around their internal organs.

    Their kidneys can be so surrounded with fat that they are packed tight near to squeezing! :) This fat inside the body cavity around the internal organs is the visceral fat, and it is very hormonally active. It sends out estrogen (causing man boobs) and inflammatory signals. It's not passive excess tissue; it's very harmful to health, very dangerous.

    These skinny-fat people's livers can also be filled with fat. And this is also very dangerous. Remember that BBC show Men Who Made Us Fat? There the skinny host got the body scan. He was absolutely normal weight, normal BMI.

    But remember how his kidneys and heart were packed tight with fat? What was it - 4 liters or something? Remember how serious the doctor was when he showed the host his scan? He had a gallon of "invisible" fat tucked up inside his body cavity! He was stuffed like a turkey with fat! This is the deadly visceral fat.

    Losing your little subcutaneous below-navel pooch is nice and may be attractive, but for major health benefits it's getting the "hidden" fat out of our body cavity and out of our liver that we should focus on first.

    And the Atkins people have a study showing LCHF attacks this hidden internal fat first. That's the key.

    Read more →

All Comments

  1. Anja
    Doc, what do you think about those body composition scales? Can I trust one of those? Mine has sensors for both feet and hands, it should be fairly decent, but I would like to hear your professional opinion about those scales :)
  2. Murray Braithwaite
    Under 37 inches for men is excellent? That seems way too high. Has the chart mixed up the women's and men's measurements?
  3. Kenny
    Excellent post! I've been measuring my waist circumference every day for years.
  4. Stacy in USA
    This isn't going to work well for women with either an hour-glass or pear shape. I'm trim through the waist - always have been - but store fat in by breasts and backside. Rather than measuring waist circumference, a better measure is clothes size (bra and blue jeans).
  5. Peggy Holloway
    Female: Age 59.5 - waist measurement 28.5;severely insulin-resistant with major family history of "diabetes;" low-carb for 13 years; ketogenic last 6 months
    Male: Age 70.5 - waist measurement 36.5; no family history of diabetes; gradually cut carbs over past 5 years;ketogenic last 6 months and lost 40 pounds
    These goals are attainable even for old geezers like us.
  6. Stacy #4
    As long as you don't have a lot of viceral fat inside your belly you are healthy. Actually you can be "lean" according to BMI but still have a lot of visceral fat on the inside. That fact probebly explains why "lean" asians" are "metabolically fat" and getting diabetic at a scaring rate.

    Having some extra kilos/pounds of fat in your breasts or buttocks is not a health issue. Men with a good judgement [or women depending on your sexual orientiation] might in fact like it. :-)

  7. HighlySkeptical
    Women naturally collect rear & thigh fat for breast-feeding, to ensure that should they get pregnant they have energy stores to feed the baby. https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/6410?show=full such fat is a gift of evolution for human survival.
  8. Deborah Joyner
    So, I am one of those pear-shaped women who carries most of my fat in my butt, thighs, and upper arms. I have been doing LCHF for about a month. I am 56 and had my babies long ago. I am trying to be patient, and have seen nothing but good results since starting, but am wondering if this is going to be a slower process for me. When you lose fat, does it all go at the same rate? Do people lose belly fat faster than fat in the thighs?

    My waist is in the "decent" range of the chart, but I am still way overweight. I have lost 5.5 pounds so far.

  9. I have been on low carb for more than 8 month and all I know is I went from size 52W to 42W (never used a scale).
    Even though I am following the diet, It has slowed down dramatically to the point I can only maintain my weight.
  10. Robbo
    I suggest you should measure at the same time once a week, for example after waking but before breakfast on Saturday morning. This will take normal daily variation out of the measurements.
  11. Al
    I'm a bit confused by 37" being excellent. On someone that was 6' 5" that might be good, but if that same person were 5', I'd think they would be too fat... Comments?
  12. chilisalsa
    Well... 37" isn't excellent for a low carber anyhow...
    maybe for carb eaters with a bloated gut ?

    For a low carber without bloated stomach,
    I would happily cut 2 inches out of that number to call it excellent.

  13. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and
    let you know a few of the images aren't loading properly. I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I've tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.
  14. Alina
    It doesn´t work ))
    My waist is 80 cm, and my hips 120.
    I´m definitely overweight )) Soon no more.
  15. David Hogan
    Anyone experiencing a plateau, check that you aren't eating too much protein. I've also had good results with a mini-fast by skipping breakfast and lunch one day. If skipping a meal sounds hard then maybe check to make sure you are in ketosis!
    Reply: #38
  16. Great tips, but weight loss is all that matters. You could be losing weight in other areas than the stomach, but measuring can help. Your best source is the scale!

    Cody

  17. Good post and Thanks for sharing valuable information. Before follow any diet plan, you should know about your present weight. The calculation of BMI can help you to calculate if you are overweight, obese or normal in weight. After calculating BMI follow your diet plan and do exercise everyday. You can follow this link for more information http://www.howloseweightnaturally.com/natural-weight-loss-tips.html
  18. Diane
    I'm pretty short and fairly old and achieving the excellent range is not a problem. But take one look at me and there's hardly an hourglass-like shape of any kind. I'm basically straight up and down. Not that I'm complaining, just suggesting that maybe those absolute numbers aren't that great.

    And for Deborah, you are an older woman. It's not going to be so easy for you. It's never easy for us women after a certain age. We have to watch our portions and exercise restraint. Fortunately, eating higher fat makes the appetite calm down enough to where we can eat a lot less without going nuts with hunger.

  19. Rob
    I feel the recommended measurements are confusing and have taken some focus away from the better points of the post judging by the amounts of questions being asked about them. As stated in earlier comments, the recommended measurements for someone 6"4 is going to be different to someone that is 5"2.

    The take home message here is your stomach this week is smaller than your stomach last week which is smaller than your stomach last month. And its important to know that for motivational reasons if for anything else.

    People get obssessed with the scales and exclude all other measurements and I really don't understand it. Do people want a flat stomach or do they want to reach some arbitrary weight number? Measure what you want to achieve!

    From personal experience there have been weeks where my weight hasnt moved or has even gone up but my stomach / waist measurement has still gone down. I don't care how heavy I am, I care how flat my stomach is and how loose my jeans are.

  20. laura
    Hmmm I am below 80 but I would hardly consider it excellent infact I have 14 pounds still to lose although I am naturally a big frame!

    Eating when hungry jsut would not work for me...I would be chompng constantly! Even paleo/lchf food gets fattening in the large quantities i would consume. I ahve been paleo/lchf for 9 months now but my drive to eat remains about the same so that is the monster i need to contend with every time I eat. reducing my food intake to one/max two meals a day within a narrow window has been the best for me.
    If you can control your appetite then grazing should be fine but I can't.
    Life is hard!

  21. HighlySkeptical
    Seems clear to me that many here don't understand what visceral fat is. The comments seem to confuse subcutaneous fat below the navel with interior visceral fat. The picture in the post doesn't help either. In fact, i think it's causing the confusion.

    Let's be clear. Subcutaneous (under the skin) fat is less harmful than the visceral (inside the body cavity) fat. Visceral fat is what surrounds your internal organs, not what's under your skin. For example, many people with little fat under their skin - that is, they don't look fat, they don't "jiggle" - are packed tight with fat inside their ribcage, all around their internal organs.

    Their kidneys can be so surrounded with fat that they are packed tight near to squeezing! :) This fat inside the body cavity around the internal organs is the visceral fat, and it is very hormonally active. It sends out estrogen (causing man boobs) and inflammatory signals. It's not passive excess tissue; it's very harmful to health, very dangerous.

    These skinny-fat people's livers can also be filled with fat. And this is also very dangerous. Remember that BBC show Men Who Made Us Fat? There the skinny host got the body scan. He was absolutely normal weight, normal BMI.

    But remember how his kidneys and heart were packed tight with fat? What was it - 4 liters or something? Remember how serious the doctor was when he showed the host his scan? He had a gallon of "invisible" fat tucked up inside his body cavity! He was stuffed like a turkey with fat! This is the deadly visceral fat.

    Losing your little subcutaneous below-navel pooch is nice and may be attractive, but for major health benefits it's getting the "hidden" fat out of our body cavity and out of our liver that we should focus on first.

    And the Atkins people have a study showing LCHF attacks this hidden internal fat first. That's the key.

  22. I think everyone gets into the habit of measuring their waist when trying to lose weight.
  23. Sarah
    Hi there:

    I have been on a strict LCHF diet for 10 days now and after some initial hick-ups I am now doing fine.

    My dilemma is that I have GAINED weight in those 10 days. I'm really frustrated and don't know what to do. I eat lots of fat, salty food, keep the protein low and the carbs under 50 grams a day, drink about 3 liters of water a day.

    I am hungry often as I very rapidly digest food (has always been like this) so I eat about 3500 calories a day (I'm 1,66m at 80 kg / 5'6 at 176 lbs). I do work out about three times a week. I do feel my basal metabolic rate, meaning the rate at which I expend energy when resting, is high, maybe even higher now that I'm so low-carb.

    I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

  24. David Hogan
    How low is the protein? I've read that something like half of your protein intake is converted to glucose so adding that to your 50g of carbs you might be getting too much sugar to ever get into ketosis. i'm having good results with < 20g carbs (and only from non starchy vegetables) and around 100g protein and as much fat as I want to eat. I've also found that alcohol consumption tends to prevent weight loss for a day or two.
  25. Wade Henderson
    Sarah, you're eating 3,500 calories a day and you're surprised you're gaining weight?

    Just because you hear that you don't need to count calories , doesn' t mean that calories don' t count.
    However you suggest you are also taking in a lot of salty food. Some people are sensitive to that and retain water. People are different in what affects them.

  26. Maggan A
    Sarah

    you are eating way to many carbs a day. try to go down to 10 - preferably 5 grams a day if you want quick results.

    Eat between 5 - 10 grams of carbs

    As many grams of protein as you are above 100 cm in length

    For the rest eat fat until you are not hungry anymore,

  27. Ocean
    Sarah,
    50g of carbs isn't really low carb -- or at least not low enough carb to get into ketosis. Try to keep carbs to under 20g per day. As to proteins, my general rule is .5 per pound, so for you that would be around 88 grams. Add to that as much fat as you want. I supplement with MCT oil and coconut oil which add to my calorie count, but keep me from ever being hungry. I generally get my carbs from steamed veggies -- broccoli, cauliflower, spinach -- and everything else from meat, fish, seafood, cheese, eggs...and after the first few days, have both rarely felt hungry and easily lost weight.
    It's great that you're reading this blog; were it not for the Diet Doctor and Dr. Attia I never would have been able to lose weight!
    (I'll add...I was inspired to respond to you though I usually just lurk on these sites because you're so close in size to where I was when I started.)
  28. Fitness Wayne | Paleo and Weight Loss Blog
    You make a good point, though in my experience fat usually comes off faster than muscle is added. So you should see results on the scale. I also see if I am making progress by tracking belt notches.
  29. Peggy Holloway
    I am in an ongoing debate with someone on Huffpo (a die-hard vegan). He/she has asked me to read RCTs that she/he has cited showing animal based diets to be harmful. Can anyone help me formulate a brief critique of using this trial as evidence for plant-based diets being preferable?
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/5/1003.short
  30. Wanda Mariano
    Hey Doc, have you heard of the 7 Recipes for Life mini-cookbook, there's a review here. I'm just wondering about your thoughts on it. It seems like a healthy recipe don't you think?
  31. eddie watts
    Peggy: i would not try to convince the opinionated. there is no vegan who is *not* opinionated.
    (just like there is no pale fan who is not opinionated or LCHF fan etc etc)

    as for fat loss exceeding muscle gain, that depends on where a person is coming from.

  32. Maggan A
    Peggy Holloway

    We humans ar also animals and carnivores just like for example wolfes, lions and eagles. Our bodies are made of red meat and saturated fat. How in gods name should something we are made of be bad for us????

    If somebody likes to live in lalaland beliveing we are something else than just another animal - it is THERE problem - not youre´s or mine - just let them - just leave it to THEM ;-)

  33. Patti
    I'm somewhat skeptical about the value of the waist measurement due to this fact. I am 5'5.5", medium build but very short waisted. I have a mere 3 inches on the side between my rib cage and my hip bone. I have known women who have 5+ inches there. They also had lovely thin waists, something that has always eluded me, even when I've been very thin, to the point my doctors at the time were concerned.

    Measuring at the waist will certainly be a marker of weight loss/gain, but I have to question the chart just because of different body types. If I were long waisted, I might have a perfectly fine waist per the chart but have lots extra in my thighs or backside.

    I have been eating what I thought was low carb, but have just discovered the LCHF recommendations the last few days. I initially lost 10 lb. on the Paleo, but have stalled for the last year. Now I'm watching my carbs & protein carefully - hopefully that will make the difference!

  34. Margaretrc
    Dr. Eades ( or should I say Dr. Eades and Dr. Eades have) has a way to differentiate between visceral fat and subcu fat in the abdomen. Lie flat on your back. Any fat that drifts off to the sides due to gravity is subcu and not dangerous. Any fat that remains in the middle and keeps the belly distended upwards is visceral fat and of the dangerous kind. (From Drs. Eades' "The Six Week Cure for the Middle Aged Middle.") Makes sense to me.
  35. My spouse has a belt he wears often that's his measure; he's now at the last hole on the size 38, and it is too loose. I measure rarely, but can see this makes a lot of sense. The scale forces me to get on it every morning or I'm frozen and can't move--damned scale!

    http://www.sugaraholics.com

    http://highfatlowcarbrecipes.wordpress.com/

  36. Margaretrc
    Peggy, studies like that are looking short term at "soft" end points. It does make it look like one would be better off with PUFA than sat fat. But RCT that study longer term effects of replacing sat fat with PUFA find that all cause mortality is not different because more people die of cancer in the PUFA group than in the sat fat group. You're not going to change this person's mind, however. He's like all those others who don't want to be confused with facts because their minds are made up already. I don't know how to critique the article you linked because it doesn't say much about the rest of their diet. IF it's high sugar/high carb, the results make sense. Sat fat can be a problem when combined with a high sugar/refined grain diet. It's not a problem with a real food, low sugar and refined grains diet.
  37. The truth is that, a healthy and effortless way to loose weight is to be meticulous of type of food you are taken into the body. it is advisable that it has to be high in protein and fiber, less in fats and sugar. In order to loose weight, a person must do is to eat 5 kinds of fruits in a day because they rich in fiber. Fiber is what helps dissolves excess fats in our body.
  38. HelenB
    @David, doesn't a mini-fast just force the body to release sugars giving you a sugar high and this can be sustained for hours after instead of the sugars coming down they get higher?
  39. David Hogan
    No idea, and it probably acts differently in someone living in ketosis as I am than someone who is still living off sugar.
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