Does the scale show roughly the same number every morning, no matter how much you exercise and how good you eat? Don't get frustrated. Remember that the number on the scale isn't the only way to measure weight loss/body recomposition success.
In the words of Dr. Arya Sharma, "Health is not measured in pounds."
I tell my clients all the time, that the number on the scale doesn't tell the whole story. You can lose weight in unhealthy ways or you can start healthy habits and not always see a change in weight. Plus, there are other factors to consider such as muscle mass, bone structure, water, and bowel movements. All of these can affect your weight.
Yet, so many people get caught up with the number on the scale, and it causes them to miss so many other benefits and “victories” they are achieving. These are known as non-scale victories, or successes in your fitness and nutrition journey that cannot be measured on the scale.
While seeing the number on the scale go down is a great feeling, I think it should be viewed as more of an “added bonus” to the non-scale victories. Having this mindset and a focus bigger than weight loss will help you stick to your fitness and nutrition plan longer, and truly make it a lifestyle.
Making this mindset shift is really important because the reality of any weight-loss journey is that the scale is going to fluctuate and may not always cooperate as much as you want, or as fast as you want. The bottom line here is that the actions that make you healthier do not always lead to weight loss. This doesn't mean weight is a bad metric. It just shouldn’t be the only way you measure success.
So, let’s look at a few other ways we we can measure success BESIDES the scale. Non-scale victories will vary from person to person based on your goals, past/present health, and lifestyle habits.
Body Measurements/Progress Photos
Sometimes you can lose body fat but not see a big change on the scale yet your body has changed. You might be maintaining or building lean muscle, especially if you are strength training.
If you are a numbers person, body measurements are a helpful number to track instead of just weight. We have our clients track their waist, hips, arm and thigh measurements weekly as another way to measure progress. Additionally, it is important to take weekly progress photos to help you to visually see the difference. Since we look at ourselves in the mirror daily we don’t notice the change until we compare a few weeks side by side.
Even without taking body measurements, you can use clothing as a guide. Are you
Then something in your body is changing! Just be careful that you don't play the "numbers game" with clothing sizes. Like the number on the scale, the number on your clothing tag doesn't define you... not to mention every brand is made differently so I may be a size 4 in one brand, and 10 in another brand.
This can mean a few things, maybe it’s easier for you to focus on your every day work and tasks, whereas before you would be easily distracted. You can think clearly, and are more productive rather than feeling like you have brain fog.
Health Conditions and Medications
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea are just a few of the health conditions that are related to excess weight. Since starting your health journey:
Fewer medications and fewer health conditions are amazing successes.
Are you resting and recovering better? Perhaps you’re sleeping through the night, and waking up feeling refreshed. This is a huge win and highly correlated to better food choices which results in less inflammation in the body!
Greater Energy and Endurance
Are you bursting with energy since you started your health journey? Here are a few examples of everyday situations that may reflect improved energy and endurance:
These all count as successes!
Having extra weight can cause uncomfortable situations in public settings. This includes someone just wanting to lose 10-20 pounds, to those needing to lose 80-100+ pounds.
Feeling comfortable is so important for physical, mental and emotional health.
You Can Move Better, Without/With Less Pain
Has your weight literally held you back before? Maybe your joints, knees, or low back were achy from carrying excess weight or maybe you needed to use a walker or wheelchair at times.
If you've been able to ditch a walker and walk on your own, that's amazing. Even something as simple as crossing your legs or tying your shoes is great progress.
Take a moment to recognize that and celebrate your new mobility!
You Now Enjoy Being Active
Extra weight can make it hard to enjoy physical activity. Not only are you carrying extra weight, you might have had an unpleasant exercise situation, which makes it mentally hard to enjoy physical activity. Are you enjoying being active for the first time in years or maybe even ever—maybe walking, dancing, water exercises or yard work? You can measure your progress in distance, dance steps, strength training progress, or laps.
Last but not least, Inspiring Someone Else
When others see how happy, positive, and confident you are, that they want to do what you are doing! It’s the best feeling when you look in the mirror and think, I look good! BUT it’s even a better feeling when someone else notices and asks what you’ve been doing to look so good.
This can be anyone around you! Coworkers, family, friends, ‘swolemates.’
Examples here may be someone sees you lifting a little more in the gym, and it encourages them to go a little harder than they might usually.
Or your family starts eating a bit better or making healthier choices because you have set an example for them and are encouraging them without even knowing it!
Take a moment today to recognize your new lifestyle habits that are healthier than the ones you had before and think about how they are paying off in areas besides the scale. Celebrate the non-scale victories and keep moving forward to the new, healthier version of you!