Ways to measure weight loss success that don’t involve a scale
Weight loss success does not happen in an instant, and it isn’t always easy. In fact, the process of losing weight and keeping it off can feel slow and, sometimes, incredibly challenging. Lindsay Kirkland, RD, explained other ways to measure weight loss success while you build a healthier body and why you shouldn’t be discouraged if the scale isn’t moving.
Relying on calorie intake alone can drag you down
“Calorie intake is a very important part of losing weight,” said Kirkland, “Knowing how decreasing overall caloric intake can be done healthfully is essential, but it isn’t a great way to measure success all on its own.”
Since 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of weight, the general advice is to try to eat 3,500 calories less per week or to burn 3,500 more calories per week to stick to a healthy weight loss routine. That equates to reducing your overall number of calories by 500 per day, or to burn 500 more through physical activity.
This kind of calorie reduction takes some work, especially during the holidays or other food-focused events. It can feel especially disappointing to put so much effort into changing up your diet or exercise level, only to realize the scale is showing the same number as it did a week or a month ago.
Measure progress by the fit of your clothes
“One thing I do suggest, especially for those who really struggle with seeing that number on the scale, is to focus on the fit and feel of your clothes instead,” said Kirkland.
Those who are eating well and exercising regularly may feel like they’re not losing any weight, when really they’re replacing the potentially harmful excess fat around their belly with healthier, stronger muscles through exercise. As stubborn belly fat fades, the scale may not move – or the number may even go up – but you might find that your favorite pair of pants fits more comfortably, or your shirts begin to fit more loosely.
You might consider taking progress pictures in the same outfit once every couple of weeks or once a month. The changing fit of the same clothes will make it easier to track the visible shift in weight even if the scale doesn’t feel like it reflects all your hard work.
Measure progress by measuring yourself
“Another good idea is to keep a running tally of your physical measurements,” said Kirkland.
Using a tape measure, take note of your waist, hip and chest measurements. Some people like to measure the circumference of their necks as well. Take your first measurement when you begin trying to lose weight, so you have a starting reference to look back at. Even if you’re fairly far along into your weight loss journey, you can start taking measurements at any time and still measure your progress.
About once per month, retake the measurements and write them down, noting the changes. You may find that even if you don’t “lose weight,” that your waist or hip measurement is noticeably different. The weight on the scale is the same, but your body is changing!
Use a journal, Word document or even an app like myfitnesspal or baritastic to keep track of these measurements. Apps like myfitnesspal also allow you to track caloric intake and exercise, making them all-in-one options to let you check over what you’re eating, how much you’re working out and see your results.
Check internal health markers with your doctor
“For many, their journey toward a healthier relationship with food or exercise starts with a medical appointment where they receive concerning news about their health,” said Kirkland. “And being able to see yourself turning that bad news into good results can help you feel reassured that by making these changes, you’re making a difference for years to come.”
Ask your doctor or medical team to help you check for improvements in diabetes, cholesterol or high blood pressure if those are issues you’ve been dealing with. If your doctor suggests lowering your medications for these and related conditions, or even stopping the medication entirely, these are signs of serious internal progress.
You may also see improvements in your confidence and mood just from eating healthier foods and getting active long before you have visible changes to your waistline.
“In the end, there’s so much more to being healthy than the number on the scale,” said Kirkland. “Your body weight is just one of many different tools we use to determine weight loss success, but you shouldn’t feel like it’s the most important tool or one you need to always check on.”
Using these ways to measure weight loss success can help keep you from feeling discouraged and ensure you remain confident and upbeat throughout your weight loss or health-building journey.
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