It’s that time of year when New Year’s is just a couple of days away and people are talking about what their resolutions are going to be. Chances are that if you’ve overheard similar office chit-chat or recently had this conversation over Christmas dinner, then you’ve heard more than one person mention wanting to eat more nutritious food, go to the gym more often, or lose weight. These are all great goals!
However, too often are health and wellness oriented goals accompanied by a focus on the scale.
Given that wellness does not have a one size fits all solution and that I truly believe a holistic approach is necessary for optimal health (attention to nutrition, strength training, cardio, quality of sleep, stress reduction, etc.), I just don’t understand how one of society’s most preferred ways to measure progress still remains the number on the bathroom scale. Seriously, how?!
I got rid of my scale years ago.
One of the main reasons I dislike the scale so much is that muscle is more dense than fat, so someone who’s been training hard may not see the scale change much, if at all, despite having lost body fat. When I started strength training, I actually gained weight… but even though I was up around 5-8 pounds, I actually dropped 2-4 pant sizes and am now so much happier with how I look both in and out of clothes. Thankfully, I didn’t let the number on the scale upset me, otherwise it could have wreaked havoc on my mindset and progress!
Another reason I dislike the scale is because it doesn’t necessarily reveal fat loss. For example, perhaps you step on the scale in the morning and see a several pound weight loss. That might be fat, sure, but it also could be from water. Or two extra pounds one day? Hello, bloat.
The scale simply can lead to too many weigh ins, frustration, and obsession. It can lead to people feeling like failures if the numbers aren’t ideal. This doesn’t sound fun to me at all, nevermind something that will help me get to a happy place with my health.
If you are making any wellness related goals for New Year’s, I encourage you to move away from focusing on the numbers on the scale, and instead search for different types of metrics to measure your progress. There are so many different kinds of numbers out there that can shift the focus from how you look to how you feel. To what your body is capable of doing. Numbers that encourage reflection, celebration, and positivity. Doesn’t that sound like a better frame of mind to be in as we ring in 2016? Doesn’t doing this sound like it might help you achieve better body transforming results… while being much happier throughout the process?
To help you get started, I want to share a few ideas for some numbers you can focus on in 2016 that don’t involve the scale. Pick a couple that resonate with you, and give them a try!
1. PERSONAL RECORDS
I don’t think it’s a big surprise that my favorite health related numbers to celebrate are the ones on the bar in the weight room. Maybe you want to be able to do a full chest to floor push up from your toes instead of your knees or deadlift your bodyweight. Maybe you are working on holding crow pose in yoga class for more than ten seconds. Maybe you are shooting to be in the top three on the torq board at Flywheel or beat your personal best sprint mph number on the treadmill at Barry’s Bootcamp. Maybe it’s to shave time off your best 5k race time or how quickly you can finish a metabolic finisher. These are all much more fun and rewarding numbers to focus on than the numbers on the scale. And the best part is that you get excited when they go up!
I feel like last year was the year of wearable fitness trackers, no? Whether your goal is to get in five, ten, or fifteen thousand steps a day, prioritizing movement is essential for your overall health. I’ve read endless articles about how sitting is the new smoking, and the gist is that even if you exercise daily, sitting too much throughout the rest of your day is still not good for you. I know that tracking my steps on my Fitbit or vivofit has helped me prioritize movement outside of the gym!
I know a couple of people who have a fitness jar and throw $1 or $5 in the jar every time they complete a workout so they can reward themselves to a vacation, a new pair of shoes, or something nice once they reach a certain fitness goal or the jar gets to a certain monetary amount. Along the same lines, tracking my daily healthy habits on the Wellcoin app over the past couple of months has been really motivating. I’m certain that focusing on the number of Wellcoins I can earn from logging nutritious meals, making mindful decisions to park far away or take the stairs, and even spending time with family is far more enticing than weighing myself ever will be. The scale doesn’t let me redeem my Wellcoins for gift cards and other goodies from an online marketplace! Perhaps creating some incentives for yourself in 2016, whether through a money jar, Wellcoin, or another avenue would work for you!
4. HOURS OF SLEEP
Oh, sleep, my unhealthiest habit. I never get enough, and I’m probably heading into my third year in a row of committing to get more sleep. This year I am going to try to break the numbers down into more manageable increments. Instead of saying I’m going to get eight hours a night right off the bat, I am going to try to get to bed five minutes earlier than I normally do. Then ten the next week, and so forth. This method worked for me when I tricked myself into becoming a morning workout person, so perhaps I’ll have success with it for sleep as well.
5. CONSISTENCY BENCHMARKS
Celebrate consistency and streaks! I like to get to one yoga class a week. Perhaps it’s bootcamp for you. Congratulate yourself with something that isn’t food when you wake up for 6am bootcamp for four weeks in a row. Acknowledge when you’ve hit your steps goal for a week straight. Celebrate five consecutive nights of 7+ hours of sleep. Recognize how you feel after meditating for five minutes a day. If you focus on the small, day-to-day wins, it’s key!
6. NUTRITION SERVINGS
I’m not talking about calorie counting or restricting myself to only having a certain amount of something. I’m talking about prioritizing veggies, proteins, and healthy fats throughout the day. Perhaps your number goal is to aim to get one serving of protein with each meal or snack that you eat. Maybe for dinner you tell yourself that half your plate is going to be full of vegetables. Maybe it’s that you will allow yourself one treat per day as a way to preemptively cheat so you don’t end up binge eating later. It could also be calculating what your daily water intake should be. These kinds of numbers work much better for me when it comes to eating balanced and mindfully as a lifestyle rather than viewing myself as on a diet.
7. LAST YEAR’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Finally, as this year comes to a close, it’s so easy to just look ahead and have big plans to be better, faster, stronger. There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s a beautiful thing to want to improve. However, I think the desire to always want to improve can cause us to not take a moment to celebrate the journey and the things we’ve already accomplished. You can have your goals for the New Year, but be proud of last year’s numbers too.
A couple of final thoughts on this topic:
I don’t want to discredit anyone who does get motivated by seeing numbers decrease. If this is you, I would recommend focusing on circumference measurements though instead of your weight. For example, take measurements with a measuring tape around your arms, thighs, waist, etc. Adding up the inches you lose every month or so can be a great way to measure progress, and doesn’t six inches sound way better than two pounds? Plus, because the circumference measurements take a little more time and effort, you might not be as inclined to do it as regularly as you might want to step on the scale.
Even though the seven types of numbers I mentioned are not intended to focus on weight or counting calories, I recognize that it is still very extremely easy to get compulsive or fall into a comparison trap when it comes to any type of tracking. If you have any personal history with this and find that focusing on numbers is too trigger inducing for you, then my recommendation is to simply think of the mantra “prioritize, don’t obsess,” something I learned from Neghar Fonooni. Prioritize veggies, healthy fats, and protein along with your water intake. Prioritize your daily movement and sleep. Prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional health. There are many ways to do this without looking at any numbers whatsoever. Because the last thing we want is for you to let any number, whether on the scale or not, dictate your worth. <3
Let’s chat! What are your goals for the New Year? What non scale numbers are you going to focus on in 2016? What accomplishments from last year are you proud of? Are you motivated by numbers? How do prioritize without obsessing?
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Wellcoin as part three of three of our brand ambassador agreement. While I was compensated for this post, all opinions (as always!) are my own.