By Cade Fields-Gardner, RD

Originally published on December 02 2009 11:00 AM ET

If you have received advice about how to prevent or treat body shape changes, especially where fat can deposit inappropriately from primary HIV infection, 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.