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Motivation Articles

Measure Progress Without the Scale

An Arsenal of Tools for Your Motivation

Frustrated. Disappointed. Hopeless. Skeptical.

Whichever you choose, these emotions are enemies of people trying to lose weight—especially when you feel like you have done everything right. For many trying to shed pounds, the elation from that initial weight loss is brought to a screeching halt when the scale stops moving. But instead of viewing this as a setback, look for other ways to measure your progress besides the scale. After all, good health isn’t always measured in pounds.

Losing weight usually involves a relatively simple calorie equation: burn off more calories with daily activity than you consume through food. So what happens when these numbers indicate progress, but the scale doesn’t? Before the aggravation sets in, consider why this might be the case. If you’ve been hitting the gym on a regular basis, participating in both cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, then chances are good that you have shed some fat. But the scale might not indicate this because you have also been building lean muscle. Since muscle is dense (a small volume of muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat), the scale might not reflect your hard work.

4 Non-Scale Signs of Progress
1. See results by taking a trip to your very own closet. Take out a pair of pants that fit snugly before you began your new, healthy habits. Are you able to ease into them, when before you had to sit (or lie) down and yank them up your legs? This is a sure sign of progress toward a leaner you! What about an old shirt? Is it now a little loose around your waist or arms? Also look for improved muscle definition when you check out your body in the mirror. There are many everyday indicators that you are firming up your body, from how your clothes fit to sitting more comfortably in a booth or small chair.

2. Aside from weight, use other numerical signs of progress. When you first start your program, take measurements of your waist, arms, neck and hips. Even if you are not losing pounds, you very well may be losing inches all over your body as your figure slims down and tones up with muscles. Measuring your body is more reliable than the scale alone. Other numerical indicators include a reduction of blood pressure or cholesterol, heart rate, and body fat percentage.

3. Monitor how a healthy diet and regular exercise affects your energy levels. Not only will you be able to work out for longer intervals of time, but everyday chores will also become easier. Whether cutting the grass or simply walking up the stairs, these behaviors will come effortlessly. Think of all the daily activities you could use more energy for—grocery shopping, house cleaning, playing with your kids, and more. Pretty soon you’ll be training for your first 5K!

4. Lastly, be conscious of how you feel emotionally. You’ve been working hard to reach your goals. Hopefully, the hard work will come with a boost in self-esteem, confidence, and happiness. Are you beginning to feel more comfortable in your own body? Work to build a positive vocabulary to stay motivated.

Just because the scale has stopped moving doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a plateau in reaching your goals. Don’t give up out of frustration—all healthy behaviors are well worth the effort. Whether it’s better sleep at night or more energy throughout the day, start listening to the signs your body gives you that all of your hard work is paying off!

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Member Comments

  • I almost never weigh myself at home. I don't often think about it.
  • I visit my doctor every three months and weigh in there. That way I don't get upset with the fluctuations and standstills or heaven forbid gains.
    This is all fine and well, Spark, but this site is clearly driven by weight-based goals when it comes to the body stuff. Try running a report from the Track Weight section when you haven't put in any weight, just measurements. You get a message saying "no weight found," So if I want to run a progress report of my "success" I still need to base that around a scale, apparently.
  • I let my clothes do my measurement and weight. Because I don't want the scale to get me upset.
  • If don't weigh often I start eating more. For some reason the scale keeps me accountable. It is sort of like some mental thing, like if I don't see it, it doesn't matter....but it does matter because I don't want the pounds to creep back on. So I continue to weigh often but I keep in mind the day to day fluctuations and I it works well for me.
    The battery on my scale went dead this morning and I don't have a replacement at the house...having with drawl symptoms, so yes, I probably watch the scale too much. It is kinda like gambling might be for some people....many times great disappointment, but oh the joy when I hit the jackpot :) !!!!!
  • I also weigh in too often and I am not always happy with what I see, but I only record the weight taken on the same day of each week, and usually find it to be down or the same, but I know pants that were tight a week or two ago, are now lose.
  • Lucky for me I've actually lost my scale lol so I'm not tempted. I usually take measurements to see if I've lost inches =]
  • I am a scale watcher, but this time have decided that there are other things that are more importnt than weight: better health; smaller size clothes; more energy; longer life. So thanks for the reminder.
    However I will also reach my weight goal, no matter how long it takes.
    Thank you for such a timely reminder. Scales are such fickle things, it is hard to not feel defeated when they don't reflect how you feel.
  • Oh well.. at least my scale has not going up.. im not gonna lie.. i have cheat myself for 2 wks ... opps sorry... i cheat a little.. but at least i've been exercising...
  • To help inspire me to continue the Spark program, I play a little mind game with myself before getting on the scale. I set the balance to my weight milestones I have had over the past 6 months. I set the scale to my start weight in Feb to 266. I then step on the scale. The needle doesn't budge. YES!!! I step off and set it to 255, my weight in March. The needle doesn't budge.Yes!!! I step off and reset it for every month's milestone until I reach to the current weigh in. Last weigh in was Aug at 235.
    This process reinforces the POSITIVE and gives me a mental readiness for the possibility the needle will go up before I reach the weight at which I think I should be. My thought process is already "look how far I've come" rather than "I'll never meet my goal" when the scale registers no weight loss.
  • I know that I've been faithful to my diet and the scale hasn't budged for the last two weeks...I admit I'm truly upset about this. Tonight I'm going home and measuring myself!

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.