A major pet peeve of mine, especially working in the fitness industry, has been the usage of the scale as the primary way to measure success. While yes, the scale can be a metric used for measuring success, should it be the first tool we turn too?
The scale is simply measuring your gravitational pull to the earth. That number doesn’t also apply to your worth as a person, whether or not you’ve been “good” or “bad.” Instead, it just helps us compare ourselves to an arbitrary ideal weight standard. There are so many other metrics to look at that give a broader picture with regards to assessing your total body health.
And that’s the key: total body health. You can be at the “perfect” weight and still be unhealthy. You can be “overweight” and be healthy. Your weight shouldn’t be the only parameter you look at when assessing your health.
If I don’t recommend using weight as a metric for measuring success, what do I recommend?
1. Body Fat Percentage
Your body fat percentage gives you a clue into how much body fat, as well as how much lean muscle mass you are holding on your body. Lean muscle mass has been consistently shown to increase metabolism, support joint and bone health, and help you live a longer, fuller life.
2. Body Circumferences
I absolutely love measuring body circumferences (maybe it stems back to my days at the bridal store). Often, I see client’s lose several inches without huge jumps on the scale. That’s a sign that lean muscle mass is increasing, because lean muscle mass takes up less space than fat (it doesn’t not weigh less – that doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. Lean muscle mass is simply more compact than body fat). Common measurements include chest, waist (smallest part), abdomen (fullest part), hips, thigh, and calf (although I don’t love the last two per se).
3. Waist to Hip Ratio
Stemming from the last metric comes your waist to hip ratio, which is obtained by dividing your waist by your hip measurement. Ideally, you’ll want a number .9 or lower in men and .85 or lower in women. Any number above one means that you are larger around your waist than your hips which means you’re storing more weight around your midsection as visceral fat. This type of fat isn’t ideal, especially for your organs, and is often correlated to dysregulated stress and hormone levels.
4. Strength Assessments
What better way to assess your progress towards any health goal than to compare where you started with where you are now? For instance, if you can do 15 pushups in a minute at the start of a fitness program and at the end of a three month program you can do 30, doesn’t that seem like an awesome measure of how much you’ve grown? This is why I also love writing down my workouts. It provides a consistent measure for progress.
Our sleep quality and quantity are crucial to our overall health, so when on a health journey if your sleep begins to improve, that is a huge win for both the short and long term!
Who doesn't need more energy throughout the day? When our energy increases as a result of changes we are making for our health, we know what we are definitely on the right track. Our hormones are rebalancing, as well as our blood sugar, both of which are vital for energy production.
7. Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living encompass such sweeping number of activities from a variety of activities including playing with your kids/grandkids, focusing on a task at work, bending over, going up and down stairs, sitting down in a chair - the list could go on and on. These activities are highly individualized and vary person to person. However, they are often some of the best measures to consider. If you didn't lose a pound but were able to go throughout your day with much more ease than you do now, wouldn't that be worth it in the end?
8. Health Markers
Take a look at your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, vitamin levels - these are metrics that can give you huge insights into the state of your health that weight might overlook.
9. How Your Clothes Fit
It's definitely promising when some of our clothes that have always been a bit snug start to fit our body differently. This might mean that the clothes become looser as you lose body fat, or it might also mean your clothes get smaller in certain areas as you grow lean muscle mass. Personally, even though it's not always fun when I outgrow my favorite outfits, I love the latter. There is nothing better than realizing I've gotten stronger and put on more muscle mass than when my arms won't fit in a jacket anymore!
Of course, there are other metrics to measure success as well, but my point is this: take your eyes off the scale. Focus on a couple of these other metrics when defining your success on any health journey. Because, trust me, you are more than just a number on a scale or a pair of jeans.