The one instrument that most people use to measure health and fitness progress – the scale – is the one that we have the least amount of control over. Lots of other things influence weight (i.e. time of day, recent meals, what you’re wearing, the scale you use, the time of the month, maybe you’ve gained muscle, etc.), and it’s usually the last to respond to the progress we make compared to many other markers such as better energy levels, less stress and even a slimmer waistline! You may lose inches before pounds if you’re gaining muscle and lean mass while losing fat.
So while body weight is one way of measuring fitness results, by no means should it be the only one. I like to “triangulate” results with my clients. In other words, if someone does want to track weight, I try to have them choose at least a couple of other indicators of meaningful results, such as:
- Pants, dress or waist size
- Ability to perform a sport or daily activity better
- Energy levels
- Stress levels
- Hunger levels
- Self-confidence levels (in your body/physique)
- Non-Scale Victories (NSV’s)
I came across the idea of NSV’s in a book called Coach Yourself Thin, written by Michael Scholtz and Greg Hottinger. An NSV is any success you’ve had in the past day, week, or month related to eating better or being physically active that is not related to your weight, but is still meaningful for you. Something as simple as saying “no” to a free cookie and choosing a piece of fruit instead is a non-scale victory. Here’s a link with more examples: http://www.weightwatchers.co.uk/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=40701.
Ultimately, weight is really just a means to an end, whether it’s looking sexier, performing better or feeling more energized. Connect with the real reasons why you want to lose weight and track those too. Then when looking at results in 4, 6 or 8 weeks from now, review progress on all counts and consider the majority: if your waist is slimmer, you feel better, and you have a list of 10 NSV’s staring you in the face, odds are the improvements you made to your eating and exercise habits have had a positive result, even if the scale only shows a couple pounds of weight loss.