How To Stop Letting the Scale Define Your Progress
I’ve been doing this a long time, and if I’ve learned one thing it's this: the bathroom scale isn’t the best indicator of progress.
Wait, what? But isn’t that the whole idea?
I mean, whether you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, isn’t the change on the scale what you’re chasing?
Well, yes and no.
The scale can be a useful tool, especially when you’re looking at the long-term, big picture. Over time, it can help you see trends in the changes happening with your body and understand when it might be necessary to make adjustments.
But the key word here is long-term.
When you start a new fitness or nutrition program, it can be tempting to jump on the scale every few days. You’re ready to start seeing those changes. And you’re working hard and staying committed to the plan — shouldn’t the scale reflect that?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume the numbers you’re seeing are misleading you, especially in the early days.
So without monitoring your weight, can you really tell if your new program is working?
In fact, recognizing the non-scale victories that are happening on your path to a healthier body can help you stay motivated to stick with it for the long-haul.
Let’s look at 3 ways to see progress that don’t involve worrying about the number on the scale.
You feel full after meals.
Do you ever wonder why you seem to have no self-control when it comes to junk food?
I mean, you know that bag of Cheetos or package of Oreos won’t do you any favors. And you don’t even want those fries your kid didn’t eat. But once you get started munching, suddenly your stomach is a bottomless pit.
Believe it or not, it isn’t your willpower that’s to blame. It’s biology.
The human body has spent millions of years developing processes with one aim — to keep you alive. And one important way it does that is by sending you signals, like hunger, to tell you when you need more energy to keep going.
Under normal circumstances, your gut sends signals to your brain about much energy you’ve digested. When you’ve had enough, the sensation of satiety — feeling full — is triggered and your brain tells you it’s time to stop eating.
But processed food throws this whole system out of whack.
Because these foods can be intensely sweet and salty, full of fat, and often have a pleasing creamy texture or satisfying crunch, they trick your brain into thinking it’s hit the mother load:
Must eat ALL the food! Must stock up on this, it will keep you going for weeks!
In its quest to keep you alive, your brain doesn’t send you that feeling of fullness. So you eat, and eat, and eat (while getting basically no real nutritional value).
So what does progress look like?
You’re choosing to eat whole food sources over processed junk. You’re eating slowly to allow you brain time to recognize what you’re digesting. Your body is being nourished by fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
And so you know what happens?
You feel full.
Not stuffed. Not miserable because you’ve stretched your stomach to it’s breaking point. Just satisfied. (And while it might sound simple, it’s an amazing feeling to just be done with your meal.)
And this process starts happening from day one when you’re feeding your body the right foods.
It’s an early signal that your nutrition plan is working. And over time, this “resetting” of your hunger cues will help to curb cravings, naturally regulate your calorie intake, and stay on track with your goals.
You’re full of energy.
Are you living in a state of constant exhaustion?
Getting out of bed when your alarm goes off in the morning feels almost impossible. You need caffeine to get going (and more throughout the day). You’re dying to take a mid-day nap. And all you want to do at night is crash on the couch, before you drag yourself to bed to start the whole cycle over again.
Believe it or not, what you’re feeling isn’t normal. And chances are your lifestyle choices are playing a huge part in how tired you feel.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to brain fog. Eating too much processed or sugary food can cause your energy levels to crash, encouraging you to turn to stimulants like caffeine to make up the difference. Skipping the physical activity can lead to excess stress and anxiety.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
So what does progress look like?
After a few weeks of sticking to a quality nutrition and fitness program, something crazy starts to happen.
You find yourself ready to wake when the alarm goes off — sometimes you’re even up without your alarm. Your attention is sharp for your afternoon meetings, and you haven’t felt the need for a shot of espresso all week. After dinner you have the energy to play with your kids, take the dog for a walk, or get your workout in.
Suddenly, you’re like the energizer bunny. So what gives?
You’re properly fueling your body with the constant, full-day energy it needs to keep you going. No crashes, no brain fog, no sluggishness. Instead of wearing you out, your fitness program is actually giving you an energy boost, and helping to alleviate stress, which can also be a mental and physical drain on your body.
Suddenly your healthy choices aren’t just impacting the way your body looks, they’re also improving your quality of life at the same time.
It feels like a lifestyle, not a “diet”.
The idea of a “diet” probably doesn’t get you excited. Chances are it feels more like a chore (or even a punishment).
And while you know that making those changes can have a positive impact, it can also be a soul-sucking item on your overly-packed to-do list that has you counting down the minutes till you get to quit.
And what about when you do quit? You’re often right back where you started — or worse. You’re back to eating foods that make you feel like crap, regaining weight, and feeling like you failed, yet again.
So what does progress look like?
When your nutrition or fitness program is working for you, things really start to click at some point.
There isn’t some big ah-ha moment, you’re just living your daily life, which now includes the changes you’ve made.
It’s like brushing your teeth — it doesn’t feel like some big chore, or some unpleasant task. It’s just one of the things you do everyday, without really thinking, because you know you need to and it makes you feel good.
It’s the same way with healthy behaviors.
Suddenly, you’re choosing the salad over the cheeseburger because it truly sounds good.
Your grocery trip and meal prep plan are just another part of your weekly routine. There isn’t an end point, this is just how you choose to eat these days.
You don’t feel like you’re messing up, or cheating, or failing if you choose to eat the birthday cake, or indulge in a good meal, or grab drinks with a few friends. You can incorporate those things into your life without feeling guilty or derailing some restrictive plan.
After all, it's no big deal — you’ll be back to your new normal tomorrow, anyway.
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