SALT LAKE CITY — It’s that time of year when people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and what they want to change or improve in their life for the next 365 days. Many people choose to live healthier as part of their goals, which is an excellent choice. A healthy life boasts many benefits, physically, mentally, emotionally, and more.
More specifically, a lot of people aim for weight loss as their goal. While weight loss is a fine goal, there are more ways than the scale to measure your health.
Weight is often used as a measure of health by way of body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of your weight compared to your height. While BMI can be a tool for health measurement, it is often criticized for its flaws and its accuracy has been questioned by many. Some of the reasons include that it doesn’t take into account body fat versus muscle mass, age, sex, or bone density. For example, professional athletes often have high levels of muscle mass, leading to a higher body weight than the average person. This higher body weight may put them at an “overweight” or “obese” BMI, even though they are probably healthier than most people.
Focusing on the scale can also take away from other non-scale victories. When the number on the scale isn’t budging, many people get frustrated. Becoming obsessed with the number on the scale and weighing yourself every single day, or even multiple times a day can make your journey to health discouraging if it isn’t going the way you desire. Weight tends to fluctuate daily — even up to 5 lbs. a day is considered normal. This natural weight fluctuation is due to various factors, such as fluids, food, exercise, medications, bowel movements and more. Don’t let these perfectly normal weight fluctuations get you down.
Stop focusing so much on the scale this new year and instead measure your journey to health by other determinants of wellness. Here are just a few ways to measure your health without the scale.
Notice how your clothes fit
Paying attention to how your clothes fit and feel on you is a great way to measure health without stepping on the scale. If you catch yourself having to tighten your belt another notch or feel a bit more room in your shirt than before, then there is progress right there! Even feeling more confident in your clothes, even with the slightest change in how they might fit can make all the difference.
Check in on your goal progress
And I don’t mean the number on the scale goal. Weight loss is not an actionable goal. When I talk about an actionable goal, I mean something that you are actually doing each day to work towards better health. This could be choosing more whole grains over refined grains, putting away your phone and other electronics at least an hour before bed each night, going walking for 20 minutes four to five days a week, or swapping in some water for the soda you usually drink each afternoon.
Whatever your actionable goal was, check in on it. How are you doing? If you are killing it, keep on keeping on! If you are struggling, assess why and figure out a way to get back on track or adjust the goal to something a little more realistic.
Evaluate your stress levels
As you’ve been working to become a healthier you, has it also improved your stress levels? Take the time to sit and really think about how your stress levels have been lately. If you feel more at ease or less anxiety than before, then great! However, if you feel more stressed it would be a good idea to find out why. If you trace your stress back to dieting, exercising or your new health routine, it might be a good idea to rethink your wellness path and find a more enjoyable one.
Assess your sleep
Most adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Just as important as the amount of sleep is the quality of your sleep. If you are tossing and turning throughout the night or still feel tired after a full night’s sleep, then you are not getting the quality of sleep you need. On the other hand, if you wake feeling refreshed and energized, that’s a good sign that your health and wellness goals are taking you in the right direction.
Pay attention to everyday tasks
If everyday tasks were, well, a task for you before, pay attention to them now. Does sweeping the floor still cause your breathing to become heavier? What about walking up the stairs? Take note of how you feel while performing your usual daily tasks and if they seem easier or more effortless.
Notice your overall energy levels
In addition to performing your everyday tasks, evaluate your overall energy levels. If you previously experienced a slump of fatigue in the mid-afternoon each day before, do you feel so now? Are you able to play with your kids after getting home from work instead of having to take a rest on the couch? Take note of your overall energy levels throughout the day as a good measure of your health.
Check in on your endurance
Physical endurance is a common goal, but is sometimes overlooked when focusing on the scale. Even if your goal isn’t to run a marathon, you can measure your endurance through simpler means. You can start as small as you need to, such as noticing how you feel when walking to get the mail from your mailbox. It could also be bigger, such as going from only being able to walk to the end of your street and back to now being able to walk a 5K. Being able to carry those heavy bags of groceries with less effort is something else you might notice. No matter your starting point, any improvement in physical endurance is something to be proud of.
Consider your digestion
I know digestion isn’t the hippest thing to talk about, but it is certainly an important part of your health. Having regular bowel movements is a good sign that your body is working properly and is healthy. Many factors play into your digestion, including the food you eat, the fluids you drink, exercise, stress levels and more.
Get your bloodwork done
If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, or even if you went previously but your bloodwork was less than stellar, it might be a good idea to get your labs drawn again. Lab work such as cholesterol, blood glucose, or a basic metabolic panel can give you a good picture of your health without ever stepping on a scale.
Measure your water intake
Water is the main fluid you should be drinking day in and day out. If you have cut back on sugary beverages and are now drinking more water, that is an excellent achievement. Even if you don’t drink soda or other sugary drinks, but simply don’t drink very much water, you can start today. Drinking a glass of water with dinner or keeping your water bottle on your desk always filled with water is a great way to keep you hydrated.
Gauge your peace with food
This can be a tough one to comprehend for some people, especially if you are a chronic dieter. What does it mean to be at peace with food? Being at peace with food means not worrying about every little calorie that passes your lips. It means there are no “good” or “bad” foods, but simply food. It means truly listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues when eating. It means eating a wide variety of foods that nourish your body and make you feel good. If you feel more at peace with your food choices, rather than having an internal struggle of what you should or shouldn’t eat each meal, then you are certainly on your path to wellness.
About the Author: Brittany Poulson
Brittany Poulson is a Utah registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She shares her passion for health, food and nutrition on her blog, www.yourchoicenutrition.com, where she encourages you to live a healthy life in your unique way.
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