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Keeping Track of Your Body Shape

Keeping Track of Your Body Shape


If you have received advice about how to prevent or treat body shape changes, especially where fat can deposit inappropriately, you may want to keep track of how well you are doing. Body shape changes can include the loss of fat under the skin, especially in the arms and legs, and the gain in deeper fat around the belly, back, and chest areas. A dietitian can measure body circumferences and fat under the skin to keep track. Your physician can order tests, such as soft-tissue dual X-ray absorptometry testing or others that give you an idea of any localized losses and gains in body fat. You can also do some measuring and tracking yourself with a simple tape measure, a mirror to check your measurement technique, and paper and pen to record your measures over time. You can take a measure of the circumference around the abdomen at belly button level. To measure the belly area, stand and hold a tape measure around your middle at the belly button level and make sure it is parallel to the ground and that it lies gently on the skin without gaps and without compressing any fat. Holding both sides of the tape to allow for expansion, inhale deeply and slowly exhale to a relaxed position to take a good reading. Read the number where the tape overlaps and write it down. To measure the calf, sit on a flat surface with the thigh parallel to the ground and the lower leg perpendicular to the ground. Relax the calf muscles and place the tape around the largest part of the calf, holding it gently against the skin with no gaps and without compressing any fat. Read the number where the tape overlaps and write it down. Take measures monthly and share them with your doctor and dietitian during your routine visits. Fields-Gardner is the director of services for the HIV nutrition company Cutting Edge and is a member of the International AIDS Society and the American Dietetic Association's Dietetic Practice Group on HIV and AIDS. She is the author of Living Well With HIV and AIDS: A Guide to Nutrition and a coauthor of HIV Medications: Food Interactions and A Clinician's Guide to Nutrition in HIV and AIDS.

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