Friday, February 19, 2010

How Do You Measure Up?

I have noticed a lot of discussion online lately about the power that is given to the scale when determining the level of success one has on a journey to better health. There have been posts written about the internal celebrations that happen when the machine cooperates, remarks made on how frustrating the one inch beastie can be when it doesn’t reflect what we would like, and even the occasional indifferent comment made about a weigh-in that would have others literally jumping for joy or, conversely, ready to throw the device right out the window. It remains a powerful tool on this pilgrimage, and while it is not the only measure of progress, it is the one that lends itself to the most controversy.

I have heard that the findings of a number of scientific studies suggest that weighing regularly is a great way to stay on track, but an equal number of essays have been written on the detriment of such actions. People walking this path weigh one or two times per day, per week, per month, and sometimes go even longer or shorter in between climbing atop that flat surface and staring down towards their feet on a quest for information. As with so many other things, individuals are generally quite capable of determining what way is right for their situation – often through trial and error – and some actually put little to no stock in the number that stares back at them.

There are many other ways to decide if such a journey is creating results and a lot of people have alternatively embraced this line of thinking. Fitting into smaller sized clothing is an excellent indicator of the progress that is being made, just as taking and recording measurements of one’s body can provide similar information. Having goal outfits is yet another way to determine how well one is doing in the quest to drop extra pounds. Furthermore, specific numbers such as those found when investigating the body mass index, the waist to hip ratio, or the caliper pinch – to determine the body fat to muscle ratio – are ways to note change in an easily trackable manner.

There are also a lot of different physical cues that let us know how we are doing. Is walking easier? Are joints less sore? Have cravings for high fat foods started to diminish? Are ten pound weights being used instead of five pounders? Do fresh foods suddenly seem more filling and tasty? Are painted toenails no longer the result of an embarrassing display of graceless contortions? Are bones being rediscovered as they come closer to the surface? So many unexpected pieces of evidence come up on this journey and they provide a detailed tapestry of the different ways that losing weight alters us and enriches our lives.

Mental and emotional changes are another way in which one can consider their progress. Is exercise starting to feel like a treat? Has motivation taken on a life of its own? Is confidence increasing? Are there milestones that mean more than anyone else could ever comprehend? Have celebrations become about more than the buffet table? Do certain epiphanies bring even more determination? Is joy the prevailing emotion? Again, there are countless victories that can be recognized as invaluable pieces of this process. The way that thoughts and feelings become different as one travels along such a path can bring a wealth of rewards that were never expected when taking those first few steps.

Verbal confirmation and just sticking to the plan are two last tools that I can think of which may be used regularly to determine how well the journey is unfolding. Validation from others and comments from loved ones – or even strangers – can be a powerful motivator. Likewise, just knowing that whatever program or lifestyle changes have been implemented are being followed closely – regardless of the amount of success gleaned from these other categories – can be an excellent way to verify the achievements we are all working towards.

So, I turn this question to you, dear reader. Surely, there is a combination of some or all of these things that help you determine how well you are doing, but what helps you along the majority of the time? Are there any other significant measures of success that I have missed?



  1. I can tell in a hundred little ways, but I do regret not taking measurements at the beginning of my journey. It'd be interesting to know now...

  2. My definition of success has evolved since this process has began. In the beginning it was getting started. Then it was the scale. When I was pregnant, it was commitment. After my pregnancy it was staying sane and conscious. Now it's something evenly distributed across the areas. This is just one part of my life. As life ebbs and flows, my goals and definition of success do too.

  3. Awesome post!!! I went back to read it again because you had so many insightful bits of wisdom and words of encouragement in there that I wanted to be sure I hadn't missed anything!

  4. I would have liked to vote for something other than the scale, but I had to be honest. I weigh every morning and that's my primary gauge of success thus far. The other big one I measure by is just feeling better and more energetic within a few days after I staretd on New Year's Day.

  5. One of my favorite ways of checking my progress is my ability to do certain exercises better, especially yoga. I find that I no longer have to do as many modified moves. That in itself it exciting to me.

  6. Great post! I am new at this and depend on the scale..too much probably. I need to start taking measurements. I do consider fitting into my pants better and being able to complete workouts victories, though.

  7. So funny...I just got done posting about having a high calorie day but cutting myself some slack. And then in the end I said "we'll see what the scale says tomorrow?" as if that is what dictates how I did all week. When in actuality I know I did well this week....I ate within my calories most days, I worked out, I drank my water, got good sleep, etc. Why do I let that silly scale have so much control? :o) Thanks for posting is a good reminder to have those NSV!


  8. I regret not taking my measurements at the beginning to my journey, but I was too lazy! The goal clothes work for me, but in the end, if the scale doesn't move, are we being successful in this journey? In the end, isn't that the ultimate goal?

  9. Oh my gosh, when you mentioned the painting the toenails thing I can totally relate. It's embarrassing having to bend your leg this way or that so as to not press uncomfortably on your belly. I definitely can't wait for that to change.

    My main two methods of tracking change are a combination of the scale and taking measurements. I weigh in weekly and measure monthly. Then I do a month by month review of how many pounds and inches I've lost each month so I can get a true sense of the progress I've made and not just rely on the decrease in pounds to confirm what I've accomplished.

  10. I just had my first comment of "You look skinner" the other day and I about flipped out! But, I'm an analytical person that needs numbers to work with. So I measure, I weigh in, I check my sizes, and so on.

  11. I think using clothes is tricky. A Gap 14 is way way different from a Lane Bryant 14. The scale can be frustrating but it is an effective tool. I know my measurements are decreasing, I see it in the mirror but I will wait until I reach a significant # like 25 pounds or so. Truly I think the scale is most effective at indicating if you are on the right path or you need some modifications. I used it almost daily, but only “record” the weight on Tuesday. I love the comment on Yoga - I too have to modify less now.

  12. I focus on what I can control. It makes everything simple. Control what goes in my body and do my workout. That's how I do it.

  13. you see the numbers..I would say my biggest lift comes from new pants sizes.
    It is a concrete form of measure.

  14. Excellent commentary here, people! Thanks for all the input! I think this is definitely one of those posts where the remarks offer more information that the original writing itself.

    Jack and Dawne, if you have an old pair of pants that you kept you can at least measure the waistband on those to figure out what your waist measurement used to be.

  15. I take measurements, sure.
    But not all changes are quantifiable.
    I like to feel better, sure.
    But not all changes bring the quality result we crave.
    I take comfort in the fact that I am doing everything "right"
    And doing the best I know how to do -
    With a true heart, and an open mind.
    For the "right" reasons.
    And every now and then a cliche!