Updated: Nov 25, 2021
When someone shares their weight loss story, it usually begins with, "I lost this many pounds in this amount of time." The focus is mainly on the number on the scale and how long it took them to lose it. Many weight loss plans focus mainly on the number on the scale moving down. This is an important factor in how well you are doing in reaching your weight loss goals but it's not the only way to measure your progress. What happens when the needle on the scale stops moving? This can make you feel like what is the point of eating healthy and exercising. During the weight loss journey, the experience of what I call "scale stop" will happen at some point. This is the time when you want to quit and just grab a package of cookies and forget about the weight loss process. Before you grab those cookies and give up on the process, turn your focus to other areas of your life you are doing well. These are victories apart from the number on the scale or what I like to call, non-scale victories.
Have you ever felt discouraged? Sometimes it feels like you work so hard and you are getting nowhere. It’s like the hamster running in the wheel. I was looking through some of my papers and found a list that I titled “Non-Scale Victories” list. One of the topics I wrote about in my book, Losing Weight to Gain Control-Loving Your Weight Maintenance Journey , was keeping track of non-scale victories. These are victories you have accomplished that have nothing to do with the number on the scale. There will come a point in your weight loss journey when the scale will stop moving. There may even be times when the scale goes up. The ultimate goal is to lose the weight and maintain that loss. If you only focus on the number on the scale, what will keep you motivated when it isn’t cooperating with you?
Here are some six areas you can use to measure your weight loss progress apart from the number on the scale:
1. Your Clothing Fits Better
The way your clothes fit you is usually the first sign in how your body is changing. The pair of jeans you used to have to squeeze into isn't so tight anymore. Maybe a shirt that you used to have trouble getting on is now loose when you wear it. Your shoe size may have even gone down (yes, this is something that can happen). When your current wardrobe begins to fit better or get bigger on you, this is an indication your body is losing inches even though the scale isn't moving. Another thing to remember is, don't measure your progress by the number in the label on your clothes. You may have noticed, a size large (L) in one brand of clothing might be an extra-large (XL) in another brand of clothing. Instead of focusing on the number and sizes on the clothes, focus on the fit of the clothing. Have you noticed when you wear clothes that are fitted, it looks smoother? This is a great indication of how well you are doing on your plan. Use the indicator that your current wardrobe is fitting better as a way to stay encouraged.
2. Your Physical Activity Has Increased
Measuring your physical activity is a way to gage your progress on your weight loss journey. Think about the last time you started an exercise routine. Your goal may have been to exercise an hour and you barely made it through five minutes. As you progress, you notice you can go 20 minutes and then eventually make it to an hour. Physical activity isn't only a scheduled exercise routine. Physical activity is now you can play with your children without getting tired. You can run after them and play games with them without having to take a break. This helps you feel better and your children will enjoy the time they spend with you. Another way to see your progress is, after you exercise you are able to go about your day and not feel tired. One struggle I had was after I did my one hour of exercise, I felt that was it for physical activity for the day. I was tired and would sit most of the day. Eventually I progressed to being able to exercise and go up and down the stairs at work and come home and walk some more. This didn't happen quickly but it kept me motivated to continue when the scale wasn't moving as quickly. You may have found you have more energy for the day. You are able to get your exercise, run after the kids, go to work and come home and get more stuff done all without being exhausted.
3. Your Finances Are Improving.
Money and weight loss are two subjects rarely ever mentioned together. It's amazing how taking control of your weight can lead to your money situation becoming better. When you begin taking control of your eating habits, you will probably stop eating out as much and cooking more meals at home. Another benefit to eating at home is the reduction in the number of calories you eat for a meal. Bryan Ganey experienced taking control of his weight and finances. He is the author of IMPOSSIBLE: How I Lost Nearly 400-Pounds Without Surgery. He was featured on the The Dave Ramsey Show and told his story of how he lost 400-pounds and paid off a bunch of debt. Part of Bryan's weight loss success was he stopped going to the drive thru at fast food restaurants. He didn't realize how much he was using credit cards to pay for the food. You may notice this on your weight loss journey. You start tracking your food and planning your meals and this starts to spill over to the money area of your life. You start a budget and tracking how you spend your money and making adjustments to your spending. Noticing the progress you have made in the area of your finances will show you how you are becoming better in this area of your life. (You can also listen to Bryan's story on The Losing Weight to Gain Control Podcast- Part 1 and Part 2)
4. You Feel More Confident
Feeling confident about who you are is a non-scale victory. When you take steps towards improving your health and your life, you may notice a change in yourself. You start to walk taller, you look people in the eye when you meet them and you start trying new things. These were things I had trouble with for many years. When I would walk around, I looked down and rarely ever looked someone in the eyes when I was speaking to them. The reason I had such a hard time being confident is I felt I was being judged for the way I looked. I learned it wasn't other people that were judging me but I was judging myself. I didn't feel confident in who I was. As I began to adjust my eating and exercise habits, I started feeling better about myself. I hadn't lost much weight at that point but the fact I took action to do something about my weight and my life gave me the confidence I needed. When you start feeling more confident, you may find you start trying things you never did before. You apply for a higher paying position at your place of employment. The confident you decides to take a chance on a relationship with someone you are interested in. The more confident you may even decide to start a business. You can count your feeling of confidence as one of your non-scale victories to encourage you to continue on your weight loss journey.
5. Your Eating and Drinking Habits Have Improved
One overlooked area when it comes to measuring your success at weight loss is your eating habits. The focus is on the number of calories consumed and how to reduce the number of calories you are eating. You may have reduced the calories you eat but did you improve the types of foods you are eating? In the past, you may have eaten candy bars and potato chips on a regular basis and now you eat more fruits and vegetables. One of your former eating habits may have been to go to the a fast food drive thru for every meal. Now, your eating habit is you prepare most of your meals at home and even take your lunch with you to work.
Drinking a lot of soda is one habit many of us see as a challenge. The amount of calories and sugar in one bottle of soda can add up if you drink several throughout the day. I once had someone tell me they drank 6 bottles of their favorite soda daily. They added the statement, "I can't give up my soda." I recommended to them to reduce the bottles they drank and start there. When I spoke to them at a later date, they told me they were down to 4 bottles a day. This was a victory for them because they never thought they could reduce the amount of soda they were drinking. This goes for blended coffee drinks and mixed drinks that contain alcohol. Some blended coffee drinks and mixed alcohol drinks could contain as many calories as a small meal. If you have been able to reduce the amount of these drinks or find lower calorie substitutes, that counts as a non-scale victory.
6. Invest In Yourself.
Investing in yourself doesn't always involve buying the latest stocks. Investing in yourself could involve learning a new skill. It is so easy today to learn something new. It used to be to learn something, you had to go to a college campus or even go to the library and find a book on topic you are interested in. Today, we have resources like YouTube, Google and online course formats to learn anything we are interested in. Do you want to learn how to start a podcast? What about learning the basics of cooking. There are individuals that have created courses and formed communities you can become a part of. Some of these communities are free or some may charge a fee for extras you receive.
You can invest in yourself by scheduling time for you. You can do this by blocking out an hour or more and let others know you are not available during that time. You can take that time and invest in self-care. You can get some rest, take a walk, read or watch your favorite television show or movie. That time is for you to do whatever you want to without any distractions.
Another way to invest in yourself is have regular checkups with your doctor. You might wonder how is this investing in yourself. Investing in your overall health is the best type of self-care there is. Visiting your doctor for annual visits could find potential health problems before it becomes bad. Your doctor may find you are pre-diabetic and you can begin taking steps to stop the onset of diabetes. Your doctor might find potential thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies. You might find you are diagnosed with a condition that makes the process of losing weight a challenge. This would mean you may need to make adjustments to your food and exercise plan based on your diagnoses.
I used to feel spending time and money on these types of things was selfish of me. I didn't feel like I was worth spending time and money on. One thing I learned through the weight loss process is, I am important enough to take time and money to learn about things I am interested in and take care of my health. This made me feel I am valued and I was able to share my new knowledge with others. Take the time to invest in knowledge and your health. You are worth it.
These are just a few of the types of non-scale victories you can keep track of. When you start your your list, you will realize just how far you have come. Your victories aren't just food related. Your victories can come from taking a chance and doing things you were afraid to do. Focus on what you have overcome to get to where you are now. This will give you the strength to keep going on your weight loss journey no matter what gets in your way.
About Gwen Alexander
I am a Speaker, Author and host of the podcast, Losing Weight to Gain Control . I help individuals create a plan to lose weight and create a life they don't use food to escape from.