How to Track Your Weight Loss

Servings of the "Not So Healthy Stuff"

The number to aim for here: as few as possible. Refined grains, products with added sugar, fast food, sodas, and processed foods tend to be high in calories but provide very little nutrition. The more you can cut back, the easier it will be to trim your total calorie intake and lose weight. The key is to not feel like you're depriving yourself; start by substituting a healthier option (a half-ounce of dark chocolate instead of a bowl of ice cream) and reduce how frequently you indulge (from three cans of soda to one).

Running Performance

As you exercise harder and become faster, you burn more calories. If you also watch what you eat, burning all those calories will lead to weight loss. John Colver, a fitness coach in Seattle, gives his clients "milestone" workouts each month to test how their running is improving, and notes that the workouts themselves often lead to weight loss. "Speedwork in particular has the added benefit of increasing an athlete's metabolic rate, which increases the rate of weight loss," he says.

One-Mile time Trial

Once a month Colver's athletes run a mile on a marked track. "It's a surefire way to see accomplishment over time," he says. You can do a time trial on any course you regularly run — for example, a loop around a lake or a point-to-point running trail.

Treadmill Test

Daniel Forman, M.D., director of the exercise testing laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, suggests wearing a heart-rate monitor while doing the exact same treadmill workout every few weeks. For example, run at a five percent incline at 6.5 miles per hour for 10 minutes, and record your average heart rate. Do the same test every month and compare the results; as your fitness improves, your average heart-rate for the same exercise will decrease.

Race Times

Research shows that healthy runners can expect to race about two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. Jason Logue started tracking both his race times and his weight loss in 2006. He got fitter, faster — and lost weight, too. His performances in Pittsburgh's Great Race 10-K speak for themselves: In 2006, he ran 53:57; in 2007, 52:26; and in 2008, after losing 60 pounds, he ran a far speedier 49:26.


Increasing how long you can run will help you burn more calories and boost weight loss. Jared Reeder, a creative director in Atlanta, built up his endurance by counting the minutes he could run before he was out of breath. When the then-overweight Reeder first started, he could only go three minutes, but slowly built up to 20. Now he's run four marathons — and is 55 pounds lighter.

Bad Math

Some numbers won't help you lose weight. Don't bother focusing on these three figures

Body Fat Measured on Scales

Your hydration level and even the room temperature can affect the accuracy of these devices. Calipers or even the "Holy Grail Pants" test will give you a solid idea of your progress for less money and fewer headaches.

Your Max Heart Rate Compared to Anyone Else's

It doesn't matter if your max is 180 and your buddy's is 200. Everyone is different.Your max is determined mostly by age and genetics — not by how hard you train.

Body Mass Index

Healthy BMI ranges are quite large (a 5'4" woman could weigh anywhere from108 to 145 pounds and still be in an "acceptable" range), so it's only useful if you're significantly over- or underweight. And the formula doesn't hold up with very muscular athletes. A 5'10" 209-pound man, for example, with just10 percent body fat is actually considered overweight by BMI standards.

Running the Numbers

3: Ounces of whole grains you should eat every day. That's equivalent to about one cup of high-fiber cereal, one slice of wholegrain bread, and half a cup of brown rice.

5 to 6: Servings of meat, beans, and nuts you need daily for the right amount of protein. Many runners mistakenly assume they need more. Mix up your carbs and add nutrients to your diet with these tasty pasta alternatives.

25 to 35: Grams of fiber you should eat every day. Get it from legumes (a cup of lentils has 16grams), vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

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