When people are trying to lose weight they often get discouraged, most commonly because the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as they would like.
Unfortunately gaining weight is a lot easier and can happen much faster than losing it. Which is why it is best to avoid gaining in the first place.
When trying to improve wellness, the trick is to pay less attention to the scale and more attention to other measurements of good health. Once you realize the scale isn’t the only thing telling your wellness story you can shift your focus and likely bypass the discouragement.
Let's look at three (although there are many more) health goals you can measure every day. Assuming you are eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly you can measure the following as healthy indicators:
Resting Heart Rate: Your resting heart rate (RHR) is a good indicator of your cardiovascular health. A healthy range is 60-100 beats per minute (bpm); however, some athletes can have resting heart rates of as low as 40 bpm. As you lose weight and become more fit your resting heart rate should decrease. The best time to check your RHR is first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. It is even better if you can wake up naturally without an alarm. Check your HR at the carotid artery (on the side of your neck) by counting the number of pulses for one minute. Continue to check this each month to see if you are improving your health.
Mood: Food and activity (or lack thereof) can alter your mood drastically. Processed foods and sugary snacks can leave you feeling tired, edgy, and lethargic- no one is happy or productive when they are tired! Also a lack of activity and/or exercise can lead to stress levels that are out of control! Dr. Michael Otto, professor of psychology at Boston University says, "The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong, usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect." Before you exercise, associate an emoji with your mood. Is it a frowny face, or stressed out face? Then reassess your emoji after your workout. Most likely you will have a smile on your face :)
Endurance: Think about how quickly you fatigue when climbing the stairs or kicking the soccer ball around with your kids. A wonderful benefit of weight loss and improved fitness is gaining endurance for these activities. A great way to measure your endurance is by using the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). Each time you exercise rate your exertion on a scale of 1-10. 1 representing how you feel at rest and 10 being the hardest you could possibly work. As you become more fit your RPE should decrease. Tip: Once your exercise becomes less than a 6 increase your intensity so you don’t plateau.
What the Scale Does Not Tell You
Weight alone is not a sole indicator of your percent body fat.
In addition to body weight, it is important to understand your entire body composition. When we refer to body composition we are talking about the amount of fat mass, fat-free (lean) mass, and even the bone mass that makes up your body. You may be wondering how you can benefit from knowing all of these percentages. The rationale behind measuring body composition is that it can provide insight into many aspects of your health no matter your age. It can indicate your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cancer, malnutrition, osteopenia, sarcopenia, eating disorders, and even lead to death.
Another reason why the number on the scale can be misleading is because fat-free mass (lean muscle) is denser than fat mass. Let’s look at some numbers… fat mass is equal to .901 g/cc whereas fat-free mass is equal to 1.10 g/cc. So if you’ve been working hard, eating right, including all modes of exercise, but aren’t seeing the number on the scale drop like you want – try on your favorite outfit. You may find that it fits a lot better than it did before.
So how do you evaluate your own body composition? There are a number of methods, each having advantages and disadvantages. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of different modes for assessment. Keep in mind that a health body fat percentage is between 10-22% for men and 20-32% for women. If you have additional questions, talk with your doctor or another health care professional about how and where you can receive a body composition assessment!
Program Manager Certified Personal Trainer Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
Tracking your progress through a nutrition and/or fitness program can be as easy as looking in the mirror and striking a few flattering poses!
On the other hand, many people experience periods of gradual - seemingly unnoticeable - changes in their physical appearance as they progress through their programs. Understandably, this can feel rather discouraging. So, if you’re struggling to notice changes in your body and you’re beginning to feel discouraged, consider taking bodily circumference measurements to gain a more precise understanding of your progress.
The most common circumference measurements are taken at the waist and hip. Other useful circumference measurements include the chest, upper arm, and thigh. Gathering and logging these measurements will give you an excellent perspective on where you store excess fat, where you are losing excess fat, and how effective your nutrition/fitness program is. Here is how to take these measurements using a measuring tape:
Hip – Wrap the measuring tape firmly, but not tightly, around the point of greatest protrusion of the buttocks. Ensure the measuring tape is uniformly perpendicular to the floor and record your measurement.
Waist – Wrap the measuring tape firmly, but not tightly, around the narrowest point of your waist (somewhere between your lowest rib and the top of your hop bone). Ensure the measuring tape is uniformly perpendicular to the floor and record your measurement.
Chest – With your arms elevated at shoulder-level, wrap the measuring tape around the chest (approximately at the nipple line). Lower your arms (ensure the measuring tape is uniformly perpendicular to the floor) and record your measurement upon exhale.
Upper Arm – Raise your arm out perpendicular to the floor and bend your elbow to create a 90 degree angle (as if you’re were flexing your bicep). Wrap the measuring tape firmly, but not tightly, around the widest of the upper arm. At a relaxed state, record your measurement.
Thigh – Wrap the measuring tape firmly, but not tightly, around the thickest point of your thigh (approximately at the mid-point). At a relaxed state, record your measurement.
*Gathering accurate measurements can be difficult on your own. Having a friend assist you is highly encouraged **Take all measurements from a standing, relaxed position while breathing normally.
Shred rotisserie chicken. Cut up zucchini and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and sauté over medium heat with sesame oil.
Add shredded chicken to pan. Pour in hoisin and soy sauce.
Place mixture into Bibb lettuce leaves.
RivalHealth is a fitness-based wellness platform that engages employees with daily exercise and nutrition activities and sustains engagement through social interaction, challenges, incentives and outcomes.