Non-scale victories, also known as NSVs, are health improvements that result from small life changes. They may go unnoticed if you’re only focused on the scale as a measure of your success.
A bathroom scale shows a number — a snapshot of your weight at a given moment on a given day. But the journey to a healthier life can’t be reduced to a single frame so easily.
You can create a truer picture of your progress by recognizing the many improvements you’re experiencing day to day.
Instead of only focusing on your weight as a number on the scale, why not take a moment to add some of these non-scale victories to your win column?
1. Your clothes fit better than they used to
Your pants may let you know your weight is changing before the scale does. If your clothes are feeling more comfortable than they used to, your efforts are very likely paying off.
A 2017 study showed that roughly 77 percent of women and 36 percent of men wanted to lose weight so they’d look better and feel more comfortable in their clothes. Appearance is especially powerful for younger people, studies show.
2. You can do more of the things you love
Physical activity doesn’t have to take place in a gym. If you’re on the path to a healthier life, you may find that your new habits are making it easier for you to get out and do things you enjoy more often.
Playing with your children or pets, working in your garden, dancing to a favorite tune, or taking a brisk walk are all activities to celebrate.
3. You have more energy
When you’re eating more nutritious food and increasing your physical activity, you’re bound to feel more energetic overall.
Health researchers point out that increased energy is one of the main benefits of adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle.
4. Your sleep has improved
If your new activity and healthy eating habits have changed your weight, you may be sleeping more soundly at night.
A 2018 study found that people who successfully lost around 15 pounds also improved the quality of their sleep. Research suggests that losing belly fat has a particularly positive impact on sleep quality.
5. You’ve reached a fitness milestone
Exercise has many health benefits. If you’re moving more than you used to, you’ll probably notice changes in your fitness levels the longer you stick with it.
More reps, heavier weights, and longer exercise sessions indicate that you’re moving in the right direction.
Experts recommend that you increase the intensity and duration of your workouts gradually. The goal should be to build up your fitness levels so you’re able to do 30 minutes of daily physical activity at least 5 times a week.
Combining cardio with weight training may be beneficial if weight loss is one of your health goals.
6. Your mind is sharper
When you change your diet, exercise more often, and lose weight in the process, your thinking skills are likely to improve.
Studies have shown that weight loss is associated with better memory, increased attention span, and faster mental processing. The bottom line is that positive health changes may help your brain to function better.
7. Your skin looks better
Healthy eating and regular exercise improve the health of your whole body. But research shows that eating lots of fruits and vegetables may produce benefits that show up on your skin.
Studies have found that eliminating dairy products and high-glycemic load foods (such as white bread and sugar) may help reduce acne.
And a diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help prevent DNA damage from sun exposure, possibly lowering the risk of developing skin cancers.
8. You’ve lost inches
Exercising, especially strength or weight training, can change your measurements. One important number to track is your waist circumference. According to a 2020 study, losing inches around your middle can reduce your risk of life threatening cardiovascular diseases.
If you’re looking for another NSV to measure, keep an eye on your waist-to-hip ratio, and notice the changes as you continue with your health habits.
9. Your coping mechanisms are healthier
When people are stressed by illness, conflict, loss, or trauma, about 80 percent change their eating patterns. Roughly 40 percent increase the amount they eat while the other 40 percent decrease the amount.
Stress eating, sometimes called emotional eating, has been linked to the release of dopamine, a chemical associated with reward centers in your brain. The eat-reward connection may be part of the reason why stress eating becomes a habit.
If you’ve noticed that you don’t use food to cope with stress like you may have in the past, this is a victory worth celebrating. You may have retrained yourself to use healthier stress management techniques like exercise or mindfulness.
10. You’re in less pain
Losing weight reduces the stress on the joints in your body that are weight-bearing — your legs and lower back in particular.
If your weight is slowly decreasing, you may be feeling less joint pain. This may make it easier for you to get the physical activity you need to stay active and healthy.
According to one study, losing weight and staying active may reduce your risk of osteoarthritis, too.
11. Your mood is improved
Another non-scale victory may be an improvement in your mood.
According to a 2015 study, 82.2 percent of participants who’d been feeling depressed reported a positive change in the severity of their depression symptoms after losing 5 percent or more of their body weight. What’s more, their improved mood remained even 2 years after their weight loss.
12. Your medical markers are getting better
If you’ve made healthy changes to your diet and exercise routines, a doctor’s visit may show that important health markers like blood pressure and blood sugar are improving.
When those numbers change, it can boost your resolve. It can also reassure you that the changes you’ve made are improving your health.
In fact, a study based on the National Weight Control Registry showed that medical concerns are highly motivational. People who lose weight because of a health concern often lose more weight at first and keep it off over time.
13. You have new sources of social support
Partnering with a friend, a therapist, a support group, a nutritionist, or any number of other personal and professional helpers may make it easier to reach your health goals.
You may have noticed, for example, that you’re more likely to take a walk if a fitness buddy is waiting outside for you. Or you may find it’s easier to keep a food journal if a nutritionist gives you weekly feedback.
Choose your support carefully. You want people on your team who are genuinely interested in your well-being.
14. Your plate is a thing of beauty
If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, your plate is probably bursting with color. Red peppers, leafy greens, deep orange sweet potatoes — colors so bright and bold you may feel compelled to join the millions who photograph their food before diving in.
Take advice from the pros: Adjust the lighting, simplify the background, add tasteful accessories, and choose a dramatic angle to accentuate your beautiful and healthy meal.
15. Your wallet doesn’t miss the drive-thru
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American household spent roughly $67 a week on eating out in 2018. This included restaurants and fast food.
If you’re doing more meal prep and less eating out, or if you’re eating more whole foods and fewer processed ones, your budget and your body may both be getting healthier.