Calculating weight loss percentage is a way to see your weight loss from a new perspective. Instead of just looking at the pounds drop on a scale, it’s a way to see that weight loss as a representation of how much your body is changing individually.

For example, let’s say you and a friend both agree to lose 10 pounds as a New Year’s resolution. If you start out at 160 pounds, losing those 10 pounds will require losing 6.25% of your body weight. But for someone starting at 250 pounds, those same 10 pounds will only be 4% of their body weight.

Weight loss percentage is a good way to assess your weight loss within the context of your own body. Additionally, research shows that even losing just 5% of your body weight can lower your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

How to Calculate Weight Loss Percentage

To calculate weight loss percentage, divide the amount of weight lost by your starting weight, then multiply that by 100. To break it down, the formula will be: number of pounds lost/your starting weight x 100.

For example, if you started out at 250 pounds and recently lost 10 pounds, you would calculate weight loss percentage like this: 10/250 x 100. This would show you that you’ve lost 4% of your weight.

Should You Calculate Weight Loss Percentage?

If you’re trying to lose weight, one of the biggest temptations may not be the doughnut. It may actually be the scale. We are a nation of scorekeepers, and we want instant information on how we are doing. That may work in a football game, but it’s not the best way to increase your odds of successful weight loss.

“When I counsel patients with a weight loss goal, we usually focus on something other than a number,” says Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian in Decatur, Georgia, and bariatric coordinator at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

“We can change our diet and behaviors that influence weight, but we can’t change the number on the scale, so it’s better to focus on the non-scale victories.”

These wins can include meeting the physical exercise goal you’ve set or sleeping the required number of hours to achieve weight loss. This is important to note because these lifestyle factors not only contribute to your overall well-being, but also play a role in managing weight effectively.

While daily scale-jumping is not helpful, there are times when calculating weight loss is beneficial.

“Numbers like these are data points that help us determine our progress, if the behavior strategies we are using are beneficial, if our physical efforts are on target,” says Nancy Farrell Allen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Farrell Dietitian Services in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “The numbers also challenge us to work harder or can motivate us to continue working toward our goals.”

Ways to Track Weight Loss

There are a wide variety of ways to keep track of weight loss: total weight, waist or other body-part measurement, body mass index, or BMI, body fat percentage and weight loss percentage. That last measurement is worth a closer look.

Weight loss is extremely individualized, says Majumdar, and comparing yourself to others can make it more difficult. “People lose at different rates and different amounts, and comparing oneself to others is rarely motivating but can be demoralizing,” she says.

The benefit of calculating percent loss is that it’s a way of comparing you only to you.

Everyone should start by setting a goal of losing between 0.5 and 2 pounds per week, Majumdar says. “Losing more than that is not reasonable and setting your goals higher than that leads to both disappointment and muscle loss.”

Is Weight Loss Percentage Better?

“I would say no, as many people get confused with percentages,” says Farrell Allen. Instead, she recommends sticking with whole numbers but remembering that the number on the scale is just one measure of progress.

Majumdar tends to agree. In fact, she stresses that “monitoring behavior can be more productive than monitoring outcomes.”

For example, instead of noting weight loss, which can vary greatly week to week and sometimes not occur at all, Majumdar recommends monitoring your behavior, for example, the number of steps you walk per day. “That can lead to changes — adding a walk at lunch, getting off the bus or train a stop early, using the stairs — rather than being frustrated with the scale,” she says.

Both Farrell Allen and Majumdar offer other ways to monitor weight loss besides that number. For example, keep an eye on how your clothes are fitting. Have you moved from an XXL shirt to an XL? Are you noticing that you can use different notches on your belt?

Tracking Healthy Habits

And consider tracking food, not weight. Some people prefer spreadsheets, apps, a journal or a checklist that monitors, for example, aiming for 8 cups of water per day or five fruits and vegetables, Majumdar says.

While tracking food intake helps some make better choices, others find the process burdensome and not realistic to maintain. Farrell Allen notes from experience that many people need help evaluating and understanding these numbers. “A registered dietitian nutritionist can help make sense of the data points you are collecting on your journey and guide a patient on how to alter behaviors for improved outcomes,” she says.

Most nutrition experts stress that best way to lose weight is to focus on the behaviors that lead to weight loss, not the actual number. By concentrating on improving habits for your overall well-being, you’ll find motivation that extends beyond the numbers. Think about the potential benefits of other markers of health, such as increased energy levels or improved cardiovascular health.

“Focus on what you have control over — making small, meaningful changes that can impact your health as the primary goal,” Majumdar says. “Use the goals as a way to identify patterns in your behaviors, not as a way to beat yourself up. Enlist a support person, like a registered dietitian nutritionist, who can make sure your goals align with improving your health and can give you grace.”

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How to Calculate Your Weight Loss Percentage: Expert Advice originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 10/11/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.