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There’s no worse way to set out to accomplish something than doing so without a goal in place. The goal itself doesn’t have to be something everyone approves of or understands, but it should certainly be something that makes sense to you. I myself struggle with this, a lot. It’s hard to balance my ‘what’s meant to be will be’ philosophy for life with my ‘what’s next’ approach to my career.

For a long time, my weight loss efforts were [mis]guided strictly by the scale. I had one number on my mind that I HAD to reach each time I renewed my efforts. The thing is, I didn’t know why. I imagined arriving at that number would mean I’d look and feel a certain way, but I didn’t recognize the value of focusing on these potential non-scale outcomes.

The scale is a touchy subject – some say to stay away completely and others swear by it. Personally, what helped me finally achieve my goals was loosening the reigns to find a middle ground. I used my scale regularly to help me track my progress and to observe the effects of the changes I was making, but for once I actively tried not to let the number on the scale define me. It’s a mental battle, and requires a fair amount of positive self-talk. Ultimately, it can be liberating.

So, before I share how I lost the weight allow me to share some possible goals you may want to set (both scale and non-scale).

How to use your scale

When you’re committing to a long-term lifestyle change, it’s helpful to check in on your progress regularly so you don’t lose momentum. When you can mark some tangible changes as you go, you’re more likely to stick with the efforts.

I recommend weighing yourself once a week only, at the same time and in the same place each time. For me, that time is every Sunday morning before breakfast and the place is in my kitchen. I also wear about the same thing (usually my workout clothes as I head to the gym right after a quick bite) in efforts to keep as many of the variables constant as possible.

If you’ve ever weighed yourself in different areas of your home, you know that your scale can reflect back a number that is several pounds higher or lower depending on where you are (upstairs, downstairs, on carpet, on tile, etc). Similarly, the scale at your friend’s place may show you a number different from the scale at your gym.

Part of letting go of the exact number is recognizing that you are seeking a particular shift, whether that be up or down on the scale for you, and focusing more on that than the number itself. Essentially, what I’m looking for when I weigh myself each week is did I lose, gain or stay the same compared to what the same scale and conditions showed me last week, and what choices during the week led me to my result.

Look forward to non-scale victories

There are myriad non-scale victories to focus on when you make a lifestyle change like the one I made. Here are just a few:

  • Increased energy levels – You know when you find yourself breathlessly exclaiming, “I’m so out of shape!” Yea, saying that less.
  • New activities – It’s always amazing when your body doesbalancing act nausheen fitness.jpg something you didn’t think it could. For me, this first came in the form of running an entire 5k without stopping. Granted I was motivated by chocolate, but still!
  • Fitting into an old favorite – You know what I mean, those skinny jeans or that one hot dress. A lot of my clothes fit me better now than they ever have before. Sure, this also means a lot of my clothes eventually got too big, but actually feeling a pair of pants go from too snug to too big is an incredibly tangible result of your efforts.
  • Losing inches – The number on the scale can be pretty finicky sometimes. If you’re looking for another quantitative way to track your progress, consider keeping track of measurements. You can measure your waist, arms, etc every few weeks and track how these change over time. It’s something I did not do and sometimes wish I had!
  • Healthy cravings – The healthier I eat, the more my body craves healthy foods. While my sweet tooth is alive and well, I notice a big difference in how my body feels when I eat unhealthily vs healthily. This helps me choose healthy options happily and more often.
  • Feeling better about yourself – Realizing you’re treating yourself well and feeling proud of your healthy choices is the best. Little compares with the feeling of knowing you’re finally doing right by yourself. Chances are, you’re running around all day trying to fulfill your responsibilities to your family, friends, kids, boss, etc. There is something incredibly satisfying about valuing yourself enough to make time for your own health.

Next week, I’ll share how I finally lost 20 pounds. In the meantime, if you’re looking to make a similar change this week is a great time to set your goals. What non-scale victories are you looking forward to, or have you already achieved? I’d love to hear about it!