I work with a number of people to help them achieve their health goals. For a lot of them, those goals are weight loss.

I sometimes wonder, why does the number on the scale matter so much to us?

I know for some of us, weighing ourselves is a way to reassure us that we’re still ‘on track’ with our healthy lifestyle. I mean, if we’re going to be putting in time, effort and funds towards living a healthy lifestyle, then we have to track our progress somehow, don’t we?

However there is a down side – sometimes weighing ourselves can do more harm than good. That number on the scale could act as a trigger behind an emotional roller-coaster. Consider this scenario: For one week, you’ve been eating well, exercising, taking your supplements, cooking homemade meals etc, but you’ve found that you’ve actually put on 2 lbs by the end of the week – you’re crushed! You start to feel hopeless, ashamed, frustrated and think that everything has been a wasted effort.

But was it really a wasted effort? What is it about that number on the scale that means so much and that takes a huge shot at our confidence? Were there any other benefits that were experienced from adopting a healthier lifestyle?

…and does that number on the scale really tell the whole story?

Consider this graphic:

(FYI – not a client of mine)

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Isn’t it fascinating how sometimes you can see a huge change in your body, without seeing much of a weight shift?

Yes the scale is one way to track progress, but please take it was a grain of salt!

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Progress towards your best self can encompass a wide variety of factors – beyond just the number on the scale. If you chose to track your weight, make sure you consider these other changes as well:

1) Your body composition

As demonstrated in the above graphic, it is possible to experience shifts in your body composition, without experiencing large shifts in your weight. How about tracking your measurements as well as your weight? Try keeping track of at least your waist measurement – excess weight around your midsection can be more harmful than weight that sits elsewhere on your body.

2) Your energy levels

Tired of feeling tired? Looking to avoid that mid-afternoon slump or that fatigue you feel after dinner? Eating better can do wonders for your energy levels. I had a client say to me recently “I’m tracking my progress with how many cups of coffee I have in a day – the days I have fewer cups, the better my energy levels are!” Smart guy.

3) Your mood

Adopting a healthier lifestyle impacts not only your body, but your mind. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression. With an improved mood, you are more likely to continue your healthy lifestyle choices – now that’s positive reinforcement!

4) Your sleep

There is an increasing amount of research connecting the quality of our diet to our sleep quality.  In tern, as we sleep better, we are less likely to binge on high-carb foods. Pay attention to how restful you feel after weeks of better eating.

5) How your clothes fit

Drop 4 pant sizes while only dropping a couple pounds? Yes it’s possible and I’ve seen it with clients in my practice. Don’t discount this.

6) How ‘in-tuned’ you are with your body

In today’s world, we are so out of touch with our body. I had a client say to me last week that he’s either full or starving – there’s no in-between. He’s not the only one who holds this belief. We’ve lost touch with our body and our internal hunger cues and only pay attention when they are one of the extremes. Why is not being in touch with our body harmful? Because sometimes we can confuse the need for eating for a need for something else. Perhaps instead of those chips while watching a movie, we actually need a relaxing bath or need to stretch out the tension that built up during the day.  You can track progress through mindfulness and how well you can identify what you body is telling you it needs in one moment.

7) What your body can do

I work with athletes who want to achieve both goals of improving performance and goals of weight loss. Often they see the improvement in performance first. Ride that high of a faster time, greater distance run, etc.

8) The quality of food in your diet

When you improve the quality of food in your diet, you are getting a greater variety and amount of micro-nutrients. Do you notice your skin being brighter, stronger nails and hair? That’s because you are getting a well-rounded nutrition profile.

9) Your relationship with food

How do you view your food? Are you guilty of labeling food as ‘bad’ and ‘good’. Are you unable to ignore the numbers (calories, amount of carbs, etc) in the food? If so, you could benefit from improving your relationship with food. These thought processes can trigger unhealthy thought patterns and trigger feelings of guilt and shame when one makes a food choice that is not as desirable.

Cooking more fosters a healthy relationship with food. You get to experience food in a different way and appreciate the process it goes through to become that delicious dish. You will start to see food as more then just numbers.

10) Metabolic factors

Have you had a blood test recently? Metabolic factors including insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol measures are far more indicative of overall health than the numbers on the scale—and potentially lifesaving. When you make healthy choices, you can see dramatic, long-lasting changes in those numbers.

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Written by Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc

I'm a Registered Dietitian who works with clients in the Durham Region! I use evidence-based recommendations to help you achieve your nutrition goals. I have many hearty and delicious recipes to share! My office is in Courtice, ON. I regularly work with clients from Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Newcastle, Bowmanville and Courtice.

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