Changing my body – Thoughts about physical body metrics
I posted earlier about keeping track of my body metrics (Changing my body – Baseline 21-001), and I feel somewhat, umm, undecided about them. Some seem obvious, like weight. BMI has some well-known issues, and I don’t really care about it, but it’s auto-calculated on every app, so I don’t care if it’s there. But beyond that? I’m not sure what I actually care about.
I have three separate apps that track measurements, and I’ve set them all up for now so that I can see what it looks like when I do my October and November updates. Essentially, I want to see what they show me for ongoing tracking, so for now, I’m tracking “everything” that each one does. Here’s what the three apps do collectively.
|Area of the body||MY WEIGHT app||REMEASURE app||Body Tracker app|
|Body fat %||Calculated||Calculated||—|
|Stomach above belly button||—||—||—|
|Stomach at belly button||—||Yes||—|
|Buttocks||—||Yes (but not used)||Yes|
|Biceps (Relaxed)||Right / Left||Right / Left||Average|
|Forearm||Right / Left||Right / Left||—|
|Right / Left||Right / Left||Average|
|Knee||—||Right / Left||—|
|Calf||Right / Left||Right / Left|
|Ankles||—||Right / Left (but not used)||—|
|Feet girth||—||Right / Left (but not used)||—|
What do the measurements tell me?
So, I really like the My Weight app for the simplicity of entering weight measurements regularly. I like the screen it shows me, nothing too fancy, just simple everyday progress (or more accurately, whenever I choose to enter it, which isn’t daily, more weekly). The Body Tracker app has a very simplified interface too, and simplified measurements, but the big “advantage” of the app is that it lets me take front / side / back photos and has some basic features built in to let me do side-by-side comparisons at check-in. To “see” my actual change in body, which hopefully will eventually be visible. I don’t however have to use all the features of any app, just seeing what works.
But when I think about my body, I think some things stand out more than others as areas I care about. Weight is a complex beast compared to health overall as a better goal, but on the other hand, I’ve been experiencing some negative parts purely from weight (breaking furniture, for example). I’m more conscious of it of late and it’s bothering me, separate from the health concerns. While my weight hasn’t shifted much during COVID, I’ve lost heavier muscle tone and gained lighter fat in increased girth. And while I will obviously include Weight as an ongoing measurement, it’s really the girth that bothers me the most at present.
However, on weight, my earlier musings to achieve my target goal of 185 lbs in a little over 4 years were apparently way too ambitious. Based on medical research, the best advice is 5-10% change per year. At 5% reduction per year, it will take me 12 years to reach my goal. At 10% reduction per year, it’s a little closer to 6 years. I was thinking in terms of linear totals (i.e., the same amount each year), not the percentage per year, so that changes my timeline. I’ll have to alter the plan to make it where I want to be by age 62, or about 4-5y after retirement, and 8-9 years from now. That is a hard blow to take, to see that long a delay in achieving my goal, but it’s more realistic. At least I’ll see benefits all along the way at earlier milestones.
The apps can calculate fat % or BMI, not active tools I’ll be using, but they’re there. Maybe they’ll give me info, maybe they won’t. We’ll see.
For the neck, it’s a bit misleading. I don’t in theory care about my neck measurement, at least not directly. What I do care about is having multiple chins. I have a light beard right now, so it’s not as obvious (I’m not doing it to hide it, it’s just WFH laziness on my part). But if I shave, and I tuck my chin into my neck to “force” the worst possible look, it’s bad. “Fat-shaming role in a movie” bad. I know it’s there, and I’ve had it for a long time. One of my least favourite memories from my mother happened a bit after Jacob was born. She wasn’t being deliberately mean, more merely thoughtless, but she suggested out of the blue that I needed to start doing neck exercises to get rid of my extra chins. As much as I disliked the comment, she wasn’t wrong. In fact, when I got married, it was something I discussed with the photographer — how could we do some photos that wouldn’t show how fat my face was? There’s a reason why the best photo of the bunch has me leaning forward and looking up a bit.
So I’ll measure neck as I don’t quite know how to measure “chin” decrease…from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1? I confess I also have concerns that as I lose weight, the skin won’t retract with it for tone and I’ll be left with hanging flesh in places, including my neck or arms. I try not to dwell as that is an almost-envious problem to have because it would mean I had lost enough weight to see the difference.
Shoulders? I really don’t think I care. Maybe if I was trying to be a linebacker, this could be relevant? I’m not trying to increase or decrease it, so why track it? Only one of the apps asks for it, while another has a slot for it. But it is also one that requires someone else to measure as your arms have to be down at your sides, and that alone is enough for me to likely veto it. I’m trying to do most of the stuff on my own without burdening Jacob or Andrea too much in my tracking. It’s my obsession and problem, not theirs, and while they’re willing to help, I also don’t want to impose too heavily on their goodwill.
There are two measurements, bust and just below the bust (i.e., lower chest), and I’m rather bewildered about these ones. I am carrying a lot of fat to the sides of my breasts, and it’s visible in the pictures. I hate it, sure. And I definitely want to find ways to get rid of it. But if I go by measuring the bust area, in theory it will go down and then back up? Down as I lose the fat, back up as I put some muscle into pecs and lats. So I’ll keep measuring it, at least one of them anyway (likely bust), but I’m not sure how to interpret the numbers as to whether a dropping number or an increasing number is good/bad.
The next five measurements are all very inter-related, and some of the descriptions from app-to-app are conflicting about which is which for upper stomach, stomach, waist, hips and buttocks. Some of the waist definitions point to the belly-button, others go to the waist band of underwear, some call that the hips. Generally, the top one (above my belly-button) and the bottom one (around the butt) are really clearly different, but the other three get intermingled. For me? I care about three things. I want to get rid of my giant stomach. It’s in the way when I’m bending over, I can’t see my toes, blah blah blah. So at least one measurement that is around my stomach at the belly-button level has to stay. The next measurement is waist. Part of the challenge, tied to pant measurements for example, is that if you are thin and tall, you tend to wear your waistband higher than you do if you’re fat like me. My stomach wants to “push” the beltline lower, which is why you often see TV and movie characters “cinching” their belt under their beer belly. In the end, I don’t care what it is now, I only care what it is when I get closer to my ultimate goal in several years. I want to wear 30″ pants someday, and not because I’m so old that I’ve lost every ounce of tone or weight. And thirdly, just to close out, I want to get rid of my extra girth in the pelvic and butt areas. So a measurement around the butt area is probably a decent one to keep.
For the arms and legs, I get confused a bit again. Take biceps, for instance. I have a lot of flab in my arms right now, and so they seem “bigger” than they actually are. Ergo, I want that number to go down, right? Except, I wouldn’t mind if I could develop some decently noticeable biceps. I don’t want to be a body-builder or anything, but I would get some mental boost from seeing actual definition. So, the measurement should go “down” and then back “up”? But to what? Like I said, I want functional strength and some definition, not competition-style biceps. I confess I also have no idea what thick forearms would translate to in actual numbers or definition. As with other areas, do I want it to go down? Up slightly? I have no idea. On thighs, they definitely need to go down and then gain some definition, which a measurement won’t really capture. Similarly to forearms, what does a measurement around the knee tell me? Should it go down? Up? And finally my calves. With my diabetic numbers, I moved into wearing compression socks, and with that compression, the girth has gone down, as has the more marbled appearance I used to deal with from time to time. At times, I liked it, as my calves looked like tree trunks. But now that I’m wearing the compression socks, does the size matter? Should it go up? Or down? Or is it simply about definition again? I think it should go down for awhile, but I’m not sure what a “good” size would be.
Where does that leave me?
If I’m brutally honest then, and utterly ruthless, I need:
- A weight measurement, to tell me how I’m doing more regularly than the monthly baseline review;
- A neck measurement, as the only useful proxy for how many chins I still have;
- A bust measurement, for context;
- A stomach measurement, as the only one focused on the most significant area of girth;
- A waist measurement, for context in the short-term;
- A buttocks measurement, for eliminating some flabbiness on the front and back;
- A thigh measurement, for flabbiness and simple sitting agility/pressure;
- A calf measurement, for future compression sock conversations; and,
- A bicep measurement, as a bit of an ego thing.
Since I want the first app for the great tracking related to weight, and I’m using the third app for the photos, the real question is whether or I keep the second app long-term. I’ve certainly shown there’s no need to include any measurements in the third app, as it is just not robust enough. I’ll keep it for photos, and weight, but likely not the body measurements. But if I compare app #2 against app #1, my problem with only using #1 is that there’s no option for a good stomach AND waist measurement, and while I could repurpose hips, there’s also no pure buttocks measurement area. If I go instead with only app #2, I can do all the measurements, but the weight aspects are not as visually appealing.
Overall, it seems like I’m likely to keep:
- My Weight for the purposes of weight tracking;
- ReMeasure for a smaller grouping of physical body measurements; and,
- Body Tracker still for the photos.
As I said at the beginning, I’ll enter the measurements for now in all three, and re-evaluate once I get to November or December. Mostly what I’ll be looking for is how it shows me graphs and trends in an easy to use format.
I’m not convinced I know what all the measurements will tell me individually, but it’s a start.