Measuring Your Success

One of the cool things about being a health coach is talking to people about their health goals and their plan to get to these goals.  I love it because everyone has a different take on how they classify weight loss success and I find that pretty cool.  For some people it's to get to a certain clothing size.  Others aim for weight on the scale, a body fat %, a specific outfit, to feel a certain way, be able to do certain activities, or to look like a certain person.  Some people know exactly what they want their body to look like when they are at their goal and some just know what they do not want their body to look like.  Some people just know they want to do something different to change their life and just start moving to be healthy with no real goal at the end other than healthier than they were on day 1. All of these are certainly acceptable ways to go about being healthier for sure.  But what I always find interesting is the case when someone gives me a goal but their way to see if they are actually getting to their goal is totally off base.  Most people use the scale as their measuring tool for weight loss.  For many it's their only measuring tool and they live and die by the scale.  It's not surprising this is a common measuring tool.  It's easy to measure, it's easy to understand, and for most of us, our doctors will applaud our weight loss on the scale before going into our body fat percentage or being excited that we dropped a pants size or two.

It's also unfortunately not the only...and not the best in all cases...measure of your weight loss success.  For example, my first round of INSANITY I lost almost 2 whole pants sizes and 2 shirt sizes.  But only 10 lbs.  I lost a LOT of inches and that resulted in feeling great and looking great.  But some people hear 10 lbs and think that the program didn't work for me.  If I was going by the scale I may have been disappointed, but by looking at more than the scale, I saw my success hidden in my body fat percentage and the inches lost.

My point here is NOT to get you to stop weighing yourself.  I think that it is a very easy way to see how things change and I also use my weight as a goal.  But I want to encourage you to look at your actual goal and look at other ways to measure your success.

Body Fat % - This is my favorite thing in the world honestly.  I get this done maybe every other month?  The readout gives me tons of info aside from just a percentage.  It tells me how much (in lbs) excess fat I have.  Essentially - how much fat I have to lose (even though you don't necessarily want or need to lose all of the excess fat) and helps me figure out a better plan of attack for my weight loss.  It also tells me my BMR - which is how many calories my body burns at rest.  I do not count calories, but I do use this info as a check to see if I am eating enough.  Most of us retired dieters can estimate calories and this number is my target to make sure I'm eating enough to not screw my metabolism up.  You should eat at least your BMR.  It's a struggle honestly, if you have fallen into eating a lot of raw produce, no dairy and minimal animal fats, but it's certainly possible with some effort :)

Inches - This is the easiest and cheapest.  Go get a tape measure and measure your hips, waist, biceps, calves, thighs, bust (or chest for the fellas).  Then do this again in a month.  We all know that muscle makes us look sleeker and slimmer - so if your goal is to look fantastic - this is where it's at.  Trust me that when I was 230 in 2000 vs this year, I was a whole size or two bigger in all directions.  If you are doing intense exercise then this is where you see your results (and BF%) because you will see the shrinking effect.

Pictures - Okay, maybe this is the easiest and the cheapest.  I take pictures ALL the time, which cracks the man up.  But seriously - take them.  Because no matter what the scale says, your eyes will show you the truth.  Take front, back, and side photos.  Flex your biceps in one.  Take them in workout (read: tight fitting) clothes and take a few in regular clothes too.  I like to use the same outfit as a measuring tape so to speak by taking pics in that outfit regularly.  I can see how it changes on me by how long my shirt hangs or how tight something is.  Visual evidence is the best way to observe your physical changes!

Jeans (or other clothing item) Check - This is something I do every time I change sizes.  I buy one pair of pants in a size smaller and use it to see how close I'm getting to wearing that size.  It's fun and inspiring to see pants go from not going over your butt to going on to zipping with a muffin top to fitting.  And you can see you are making tangible progress!

Personally, I do have a weight goal, but it's not a final weight goal, it's just a weight I want to get under and never go over again.  I have no clue what weight I want my final goal body to be, but I do know that I want it to look fly :)  So I use all of these methods listed above to track my progress.  Some months I lose tons of weight and other months I lose tons of inches and other months I lose a little of both.  But by tracking my progress it helps me keep the faith and keep moving along even when things seem like they are not changing.  One of the best motivators you have is yourself...and this helps create that motivation cycle for you to see how far you have come :)

How else do you track your weight loss or healthy living progress?  Does your tracking method align with your real goal?  If not, how can you make them fall more in line?