We’ve all been there.
We eat better for a week, or two. Maybe even a month.
We hit the gym regularly, and work hard while we’re there.
But that stupid scale just won’t budge!
It’s frustrating, can feel defeating, and make us question why we’re working so hard if there’s no payoff.
When the scale doesn’t seem to want to budge, what do we do?
Well, I have four answers to that question. And, the good news is that you can apply all of them now. Like, right now.
#1. Redefine “progress”.
We have a nasty habit of letting the number on the scale determine our level of health. But it’s not that simple. Losing 10 pounds doesn’t necessarily make us healthier, just as gaining 10 pounds doesn’t necessarily make us less healthy. But we act like it does.
Or, at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us know our weight doesn’t automatically determine our level of health. We know that weight loss is often more about the aesthetic, and wanting to “look better”. We say we want to be healthier but then rely on a marker (scale weight) that doesn’t necessarily impact our health. I think we tend to pull the wool over our own eyes a bit.
If we can get away (just a little) from the trap of the scale, and focus on actually increasing our health, good things can happen. If we are focusing on improving the quality and longevity of our lives, this gives us something to keep striving for when the scale doesn’t budge.
The funny thing about this is that actually improving our health often results in weight loss, while losing weight doesn’t mean we are getting healthier.
#2. Focus on behaviors.
While going through my certification program with Precision Nutrition last year, I kept reading about the idea of focusing on behavior-based goals over outcome-based goals.
As defined be Precision Nutrition, outcome-based goals focus on the end result, like losing 20 pounds, but don’t account for what happens between now and then. While behavior-based goals are centered on the actions you take, like eating three servings of vegetables per day.
We can’t make a goal of losing 20 pounds automatically happen. It can only come about as a result of consistently doing the behaviors that lead to losing 20 pounds.
If you only have outcome-based goals, what happens when the outcome isn’t happening? We give up. Every time.
Outcomes aren’t directly controllable. Behaviors are. So focus on what you can control.
(Need help identifying what behaviors will lead to the outcomes you want? Let’s talk.)
#3. Focus on non-scale victories.
Throughout the last eleven years of training, I’ve developed a few phrases that I tend to say frequently. One of them is, “A freshly washed pair of jeans doesn’t lie.” Meaning, if a pair of jeans that have just been washed and dried are a little roomier than they used to be, you’re smaller.
The crazy thing is that I have had a lot of clients dismiss clothes fitting more loosely simply because the scale hasn’t changed. Their goal is to be smaller, but they dismiss actually being smaller because the number on the scale hasn’t moved. That goes to show how much power the scale can have over us, and how much it can mess with our heads.
It also goes to show why it’s incredibly important to celebrate non-scale victories as often as you can.
Here are a few of my favorite non-scale victories:
- Clothes fitting looser
- More energy
- Improved blood labs
- Sleeping better
- Improved mood
- Getting stronger in the gym
- Feeling your strength outside of the gym (daily tasks are easier)
- Decreased resting heart rate
- Increased sex drive
- Pooping better (improved digestion)
- Decreased pain
- Increased muscle definition
- Get sick less often and recover more quickly
- Increased mental clarity and focus
- Stronger will power and self-discipline
- Reduced or quit taking certain medications
- Improved blood pressure
Celebrate every victory, not just the ones on the scale.
#4. Identify your “why”.
Whenever a client starts having difficulty with consistency, I like to have them do this simple practice – identify their “why”.
In other words, I ask them figure out the real reasons they embarked on this journey in the first place. Not the knee jerk responses like “to lose weight”, “to feel better, or “to get in shape”. Not that these are bad reasons, but they usually aren’t the real reasons. They’re the reasons on the surface.
I want the deep ones.
“I want to better manage my diabetes so that I can have a full and long life with my family.”
“I want to feel more comfortable in bed with my spouse.”
“I have been told my whole life that I can’t do the things I want to because I’m a girl. I want to prove everyone wrong.”
“I want to be physically stronger so that I feel like I can protect my family if I ever needed to.”
“I want to be able to get on the floor and play with my grandchildren.”
These are real responses that I have got from clients when I’ve asked them to identify their “why”. And, like the proverbial carrot on a stick, these are the types of reasons that can keep you going when the scale tries to tell you that you’re spinning your wheels.
There you have it. A whole mess of ways to keep your head in the game, and stay focused when the stupid, lying scale tells you that you’re not making progress.
Sure, it feels good when the scale drops a bit. But your progress is dependent on and determined by much more than that number. Focus on those things, and let the scale worry about itself.