It’s Just a Number…or is it?

Achieving a balance rather than an arbitrary weight

When it comes to tracking fitness progress and working out, there are many terms floating around that may be confusing.  Measuring progress of any kind is important so that you are able to determine if you are underperforming, meeting, or surpassing your goals.  In quantifying physical dimensional goals, many opt to track body weight and take body measurements.

Word Jumble

The body is mainly composed of water, protein, fat and minerals.  Of these components, body fat is the least constant constituent of the body. Thus, many models of body composition divide it into two components – the fat component and the lean mass (fat-free) component:


Within these two components, it should be understood that there are various metrics used to track body weight and composition ratios. This includes:

Overall Body Weight

This is the common term used to describe ‘body mass’, which refers to units of mass of the body [e.g. pounds (lbs) or kilograms (kg)].

Your body weight can vary depending on factors such as  how hydrated you are, when you last ate or had a bowel movement.  When tracking overall body weight you may want to consider that in order to obtain accurate results you should not weigh yourself at different times of day and that best results are obtained first thing in the morning.  

Word to the wise: Do not weigh yourself every day.  Tracking weight daily can become obsessive; rather, try creating a trend line of weights so that you can determine if you are moving towards your goals on average.

Body Fat Percentage (BFP)

This figure is the total mass of fat (both essential and non-essential) divided by the total body mass.

BFP equation

Body Mass Index (BMI)

This is a calculation using an individual’s height and weight used to determine weight classifications in adults.

BMI Equation


What is a healthy weight?

Healthy weight standards are typically used to determine whether one is ‘healthy’ or at an acceptable body weight.  In Canada, the BMI is used to evaluate health risks and determine weight classifications in adults (listed below). These standards consider height and body weight and are similar for many other countries.

BMI Health Risks
Source: Health Canada. Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classifications in Adults. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada; 2003.

Sample BMI Calculation

Note: Every body type is not the same and average standards are modified based on height, age and muscular body components.

Body Measurements

As previously mentioned, your body weight tells you how much of you there is, not its composition. The aim of weight training and working out in general is to lose fat, not muscle.  This is something that cannot be simply measured by your weight (e.g. fat can go down yet your weight stays the same due to lean mass gain).  Thus, the best way to measure overall progress in terms of appearance or fat loss in different areas of the body is to track body measurements. This way you can see how your body composition is changing.

Some common places measurements are usually taken:

Measurement Locations v02


Measurement Tips:

  • Create a schedule for you to take measurements (e.g. once a month or every few weeks); do not do this every single day
  • Use a non-stretchable tape measure
  • Make sure the tape is level around your body, close to your skin without depressing it, and is parallel to the ground


Do not get hung up on these numbers!

Obsessing over body measurements can greatly affect your mental wellness.  Achieving a target can of course make you feel good, but when you aren’t able to hit your goals, you may become aggressive, paranoid, and even face disappointment.  It is important to remember that results don’t happen overnight and that you must set realistic and achievable goals.

It is NOT all about one number.  Your body is complex, and your weight alone cannot tell you about your fitness progress, although it does act as a guide to determining this.  Setting fitness goals for yourself involves consistency in tracking and recording progress, for without measuring this, you have no idea what your real progress is. In any case, do not set yourself up for failure due to lack of planning.

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