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I think we all know someone (or are someone) who has an idea in their head of “the perfect weight,” this notional thing that can loom large enough in our minds to make our lives miserable. If the bathroom scale is your enemy, think outside the can!

Most of us have other, more meaningful goals when we make healthy changes in our lives. It can sometimes be hard to focus on them, because they aren’t as convenient as a number on a little screen, but they will probably make the biggest difference in whether you feel a sense of success.

Here are some examples of non-scale measures – and successes:

  • Measurements: Take all the measurements a tailor would take, and repeat them every couple of weeks or so. (Or just take a few, but make sure you include a waist measurement.)
  • “Sentinel” clothing: Choose an item (or a couple of items) whose fit is snug, and try it on every week or so.
  • Change in habit: Realizing you walked right past the donuts in the office for the first time.
  • Change in mood: Little things at work bugging you less, for example, or realizing you aren’t feeling wiped out after lunch anymore.
  • Change in ability: The same settings on the treadmill feel easier, or you kept up with your full-of-beans kids for longer than before.
  • Change in appetite: Finding you reach for more nutritious food first because you want to, not because you’ve had to convince yourself to.
  • Change in focus: Getting more excited about a new thing you can do than what the scale or tape measure says.
  • Specific performance goals: Choosing a goal number of steps per day, and hitting goal – then hitting goal every day for a week, or 6 days a week for a month. Or maybe setting bigger goals.
  • Health measures: A lower resting heart rate, or less of a jump when you exercise; lower or more stable blood sugar or blood pressure; better test results at your annual physical.
  • Branching out: Finding you’re ready to try a new thing – a class, a new form of exercise, or maybe a group activity that you never wanted to do before.
  • Growing confidence in social settings: Actually looking forward to that big party – or even a 10- or 20-year reunion.
  • Other people notice! Coworkers or friends tell you you’re looking great, or ask you your secrets.

I once read in a women’s magazine, gosh, more than 20 years ago, that everyone should try this simple test: notice your immediate reaction when you catch sight of your reflection in a mirror or a window. Did you scowl? Jerk your eyes away? Instantly focus on that thing you hate? Or did you smile?

Non-scale victories are about the things that put a smile on your face. Sometimes we think we should be making more progress than we are, real life intervenes and just messes up our schedule for three days in a row, or we get invited to dinner and decide to just plain enjoy it. That’s life, and it’s fine – if we’re making good changes most of the time, we’ll keep moving in the right direction. And that means more smiles.

This is an excerpt from a longer article about what the bathroom scale is good — and bad — at, “Maybe it’s time to let the scales fall away.”

Wonderful image from the Veterinary Internal Medicine Service website.

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