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How to Measure Weight Loss Progress (No Scale Required!)

Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN

Are you frustrated that you haven’t lost weight? Maybe you’ve been trying really hard with diet and exercise, but the number on the scale just doesn’t reflect your efforts. While you may have a specific “goal weight” in mind, rest assured that there are plenty of other ways to measure your weight loss progress.

Even when the number on the scale is not where you want it to be, you can monitor other changes that can occur when someone is succeeding in their weight loss journey. Keep reading to see how you are progressing in your weight loss journey!

Forget the Scale

Some people end up becoming so frustrated with their scale when they’re not losing weight (or not losing weight fast enough). Others may actually fare better if they don’t have access to a scale at all, particularly those with eating disorders and disordered eating patterns. However, there are plenty of ways that you can measure weight loss success without a scale.

Your clothes are looser.

Have you noticed that your pants are a little loose around the waist? Maybe your shirts feel a little bigger than they used to. Even if the number on the scale is not where you want it to be, looser clothes indicate that your body is changing!

You have greater functional ability.

Many people who are overweight or obese complain that certain everyday activities are difficult to complete. Walking to the mailbox, bringing in groceries or bending down to pick something up can be difficult if you are carrying around excess weight. Furthermore, couple that with older age and you may have lots of trouble going about your day. In general, weight loss can help reduce the stress on the body, making daily tasks easier.

You can perform cardio exercises longer or easier than when you first started.

Think back to when you first started getting more active. Maybe you could barely get through 1 cardio session or you were beyond winded. If you’ve noticed that cardio exercises have gotten easier or that you can exercise for longer, this means that you have improved your cardiovascular endurance!

You can lift more weight or do more repetitions than when you first started.

If you have been doing strength training exercises, go ahead and flex in the mirror! Some people may be pleased to see toning on certain areas of their body. Even if you don’t see any toning yet, there are other ways to measure weight loss success in regards to resistance training. Have you been able to increase the amount of weight you train with? Or, have you increased the number of repetitions that you do in a set? If you answered “yes” to either question, this means that your body is gaining more muscle!

You have had to increase the intensity of your workouts.

Are there some activities or exercises that are now just too easy for you? Your body adapts to new exercise habits rather quickly, so make sure you continue to push yourself. Challenging your body leads to improvement.

You have less joint pain.

Being overweight or obese can really put a strain on your joints, leading to joint pain. Plus, when you have joint pain, who wants to get more active? Pain and weight gain is a nasty cycle, but if you have noticed that you have less joint pain, this can tell you that you are getting out of that cycle!

You just feel “stronger.”

Body image and self-esteem are driven by emotion, social influence, confidence, self-awareness, comparison to others, upbringing and an individual’s personality. Sometimes people who make healthy lifestyle changes just feel stronger physically, mentally and/or emotionally. That is a huge success!

You have more energy.

Whether you are eating more nutritious foods or you have been getting more active, living a healthier lifestyle yields more energy (even if you worked out that day). Doing healthy things and having more energy is a double win!

You have been able to control your calorie intake.

Think about how you were eating before and how you eat now. If you have been tracking your calorie intake, then you can go back and review your previous logs to see how your diet has changed. Ask yourself: Have I decreased my calories overall? Have I been eating more vegetables? Have I reduced my sugar intake? Do I eat more fruit? Accomplishing any of these dietary changes is something to be proud of! For more information about healthy eating, click here.

You have an altered sense of space.

People who experience weight loss or a change in body composition may notice that their body just “feels” different. For example, if you had a hard time putting your arms right against your sides – and now you can – your body is changing right in front of your eyes!

Weight is Just a Number

At the start of your weight loss program, you may have had a very specific weight loss goal in mind. So, when you see on the scale that you have not reached that goal, it is discouraging to you. But think about this: Is the number on the scale really the ultimate goal?

  • How would you feel if you could fit into a smaller clothing size, but you were not at your goal weight?
  • What if you were able to feel great in a swimsuit, but you were not at your goal weight?
  • If you can keep up with your kids or grandkids, does it matter to you if you hit that goal weight?
  • As long as you see improvement in your chronic disease, does it matter to you if you are at your goal weight?

Perhaps it’s time to rethink your weight loss goals. Not only can you measure weight loss success in multiple ways, but you can also create weight loss goals that are not scale-related! While “goal weights” are a great targets, perhaps you can still feel accomplished with weight loss in other ways.