How do you measure success?

Updated: May 4, 2020

You are doing everything right. Eating right, exercising, practicing stress relief techniques. Everything. And yet, the number on the scale hasn't changed. Worse yet, it has gone up! Instead of admitting defeat, broaden your horizons and look for other signs of success.

When I see a patient for a follow up visit and the scale says they weigh exactly the same (or more) than they did a few weeks ago, I prepare for disaster. I mentally brace myself for a barrage of questions, and I even begin to question my own knowledge and experience with the human body.

Not cool. Now there are two people in the room doubting themselves! The fact is, the human body is a crazy and unpredictable operation. Weight can fluctuate up to five pounds in a day depending on a variety of factors. Weight is simply not a reliable means to determine progress. So, how should we measure success?

So what is really going on?

The reality is, we are putting too much stock into one marker of health, and we largely ignore the rest. If the scale says we are failing, we are failing. End of story. It's not that simple!

Weight can be influenced if you are retaining water, fluctuates by time of day, hydration level, whether or not you have had a bowel movement, muscle mass versus fat mass, and plenty of other things.Your body weight is simply a measurement, and yet it takes precedence over other measurements like your total cholesterol, blood pressure, IQ and many more. Why do we put so much stock in this one measurement when it is perhaps the least important of them all?

Because the scale can be so deceiving, don't let it get under your skin. It is so easy to give up on yourself early on in the weight loss game because you are not seeing "expected" results. Instead of relying on your bathroom scale for validation, here are a few other measures you should be considering:

1. Your clothes fit better: As you begin a new exercise routine, the body has a tendency to move fat around. Your belly may be a little flatter, and those skinny jeans fit just a little better.

2. You notice more muscle definition: Exercise certainly makes those muscles stronger and more defined. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are gaining in strength, you may see your weight increase.

3. You have more stamina: Suddenly running or weightlifting feels easy. You are getting stronger and building daily tasks become easier and less tiring.

4. You sleep better: Eating healthier foods and exercising regulates hormones and circadian rhythms that give you more restful sleep and easier mornings.

5. You dodge the mid-afternoon slump: We've all been there. 2pm rolls around and sneaking under your desk for some shut eye seems like a viable option. Steadier nutrition throughout the day keeps you alert all afternoon.

6. Your health profile improves: After a few months of steady nutrition and activity, common health markers like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood pressure start to improve.

7. You feel less anxiety and depression: Diet and exercise have been shown to boost happy hormones like serotonin, which are important for combating depression and anxiety.

All of these measures should be taken into consideration along with your weight. Yes, if you are clinically overweight and obese, you cannot simply ignore the number. But when it comes to motivation, your best bet is to consider all of these factors before deciding to give up. Even if the results are slow, there will be definite signs of progress and improvement. Continually building on those small successes will have you reaching your goals in no time.

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