Most people who are trying to lose weight, at some point, get frustrated with the scale. This is a pretty common frustration for those who don't know what other metrics they could be tracking in order to see their progress. When a person has made diet and exercise changes weight is far from the only measurement of change and/or success and in my professional opinion doesn't need to be the main focus. The fact is, if you are making the right changes, there will be a slew of positive affects and weight loss will be a by-product of all of them.
If you are committed to making the changes needed to get healthy then let me help you track your success. There a several areas that you should see and feel change as your health improves. I recommend tracking these so you can follow the changes and feel the motivation from the improvements.
1. Resting Heart Rate (RHR): A low resting heart rate is a good indicator of a healthy cardiovascular system. Having a low resting heart rate means your heart is proficient at pumping blood to all your organs. The average adult has a RHR between 60-100; however, well trained athletes can have a RHR as low as 40. Cardiovascular exercise is the key to lowering your RHR because it strengthens your heart muscle therefor creating efficiency. Your resting heart rate should get lower as you get more fit. Learn how to measure your RHR here.
2. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): Your RPE is how hard you feel you are working when exercising. Another words, on a scale of 1-20, one being barely working at all and 20 being the hardest you could work, how would you rate yourself when exercising? So, if you walk on the treadmill at a 3% incline at 3.5 miles per hour and your RPE is 15, you are probably working pretty hard. Your likely feeling winded and working up a good sweat. So, over time, as you continue this same exercise, your PRE should get lower meaning the exercise is getting easier because you are becoming more fit. But, here is the key; when your RPE gets lower that means it is time to increase your difficulty level. Increase your speed or incline (or both!) on the treadmill to challenge yourself again. This is the key to avoiding plateaus. To learn more about RPE check here.
3. Strength: You can measure your strength with weights. If you have been using 5- pounds weights for a while try picking up the 8 pound weights. You are likely getting stronger. If you can do a set of 12 bicep curls with your 8 pound hand weights without much trouble move up to 10 pounds. Your strength is improving. The key is to not get complacent with your weights. If you can lift it easily for 12 reps, increase your weight. You know you are using your perfect weight if your last 2 reps (#11 and #12) are quite challenging.
4. Mood and Stress: As you improve your diet and get moving you will notice a change in your mood and stress levels. I always say, you never see people in a bad mood or stressed out at the gym! It is no secret that people who exercise regularly handle stress better. So how do you measure it? I like to think about the different emoticans on my text messaging. There is every emotion you can dream of placed on a yellow circle face. Pick one that matches your mood before starting your exercise and then pick one after you are done. And don't think that you need a full workout to reap these benefits. Studies show that just 5 minutes of moderate exercise gives you a mood enhancing effect!
Now you have metrics that truly measure your health and fitness. The weight will come off as these things improve. Sometimes shifting your focus makes all the difference in the world.