Good Question! The answer is not so black and white or clear cut. That’s where experience comes into play.
For the abdomen measurement, AR 600-9 clearly addresses the individual is to be relaxed and when the measurement is to be taken (para B-4 applies to males and B-5 to females).
B–4. Circumference sites and landmarks for males
a. Abdomen. Measure abdominal circumference against the skin at the navel (belly button), level and parallel to the floor. Arms are at the sides. Record the measurement at the end of Soldier’s normal, relaxed exhalation. Round abdominal measurement down to the nearest 1⁄2 inch and record (for example, round 343⁄4 to 341⁄2).
I trained and certified all my NCOs who conducted weigh-ins to watch for certain indicators and react appropriately. When taking stomach measurements I had the NCOs talk to the Soldier, asking questions that required answers and did not allow the individual time to concentrate on the measurements being taken. This caused Soldiers to relax and we usually got a good measurement. If it was apparent the Soldier was “sucking in” we would have the Soldier take a series of deep breathes and have them exhale, then take the measurement at the end of the exhale.