How To Know If You’re Making Progress—In Ways Beyond Weight

For years and years, people have been using the scale as their main way to measure progress. We’ve hurled tears and profanities at this thing when our weight doesn’t move like we’d like. But the truth is, you are more than just a number, and there are many other ways to measure your physical progress that are actually better indicators of your overall health and wellness.

Before we dive into those, the first thing we need to touch base on is the subject of self-efficacy. This is an important term in psychology that defines your feelings of self worth. It represents your belief in your ability to do something. When your self-efficacy is high, you make bigger goals because you know that you can crush them. When it’s low, it’s best to make small goals that you know that you can accomplish, and build from there. The more goals you can accomplish, the better you feel, and the higher you should aim the next time. Studies have shown that it is better in the long run to start small and build self-efficacy than to start with a big goal that is hard to accomplish, because if you start big and fail, you may not get back on the horse any time soon—or at all.

Here is an example of this in practice: My client Mike (not his actual name) was drinking about a 12-pack of beer a week. When I asked him if he really needed that 12-pack, he said that he could go without. But instead of saying “Ok, no more beer!” we went with a less aggressive goal. Mike was allowed to buy a 6-pack every Monday. If he wanted to drink it all then, he could; if he wanted to spread it throughout the week, he could do that too. The important thing was that he only bought a 6-pack once a week. Mike knew that this would be really easy for him to accomplish, and after a month, he was actually spreading the 6-pack out for two weeks instead of one because he believed he could do it.

The point is: Easy goals beget bigger goals! When you cross one off, move on to the next and you’ll start noticing progress in spades. Here are some good things to try.

1. Chip Away at a Bad Habit

Be like Mike. Find a habit that is hard to kick and then chip away at it. If you drink five cokes a day, bump it down to four. It doesn’t matter if you’re still drinking coke a month from now; what matters is that you’re drinking less, and your willpower is getting stronger!

2. Track Performance

In the gym, measure your performance in a training session or average workout. Are you less fatigued than you used to be? Have you increased your weight in resistance training, or completed a cardio task quicker? Think about some specific exercises that you can track to gauge your progress as well. For example, see how long you can hold a plank or a wall squat. Or try to do as many push-ups as you can in one minute. Then try again each month and write down what you complete.

When you’re at home or work, there are other indicators of your improved fitness level. Is it easier to walk up the stairs? How about walking your dog or playing with the kids? Are you generally more active around the house? Finding common tasks like lifting laundry bins or pushing the lawnmower easier? You average day should actually illuminate lots of ways you can progress.

3. Keep an Eye on Your Clothes

Fun fact: If you’re weight lifting regularly, you may lose fat and gain muscle, but your weight stays the same. But your clothes will fit differently! How are those pants fitting? Do your clothes look oversized in photos? Break something out of the closet that you haven’t tried on in a while. You may be surprised.

4. Schedule a Regular Doctors Visit

There are many reasons to have regular contact with a primary care physician, but a simple benefit is seeing those key numbers change. How is your blood pressure? Are you taking the same level of medications? At risk for diabetes? Regular exercise and a good diet helps improve a lot of health-related things they’ll be tracking. You can also request blood work if you want to get even more detailed.

5. Watch Other Measurements

Depending on your goals, weight may still be a good number to track, and that’s fine. But there are additional beneficial measurements like waist, bust or belly circumference. You could also track your sleep (quality and length), which is important for your overall health.

Ultimately, if we don’t measure where we started, and where we’re going, we can’t full celebrate how far we’re come! So get out there and try these, and let us know how it goes.

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