Too often, we put our bodyweight on this holy pedestal like it’s the end-all, be-all indicator of whether our nutrition plan is working or not. Now, I'm not saying your bodyweight doesn't matter at all and you should never step on the scale. It's definitely useful to track over time, however, many times it doesn't tell the entire story.
Consider this scenario...
Let's say you've been following your fat loss nutrition plan religiously, but you've barely lost any weight. You're now thinking, "Damn, haven't lost any weight. This isn't working! Ugh!".
However, everyone you know is telling you how great you look, your clothes are looser, you're feeling better, sleeping better, performing better and etc. At this point, you have a strong case to ignore what the scale says for the time being. You are clearly making progress and should keep doing what you're doing. The problem you're facing is that you're using the scale as the sole indicator of success or failure. You need to look at other factors to get a clearer view of what’s happening to your body.
Think about it like this: if you needed to make an important decision, would you rather collect all the facts and information you could or rely on a single source? You would want to get all the facts and see the big picture.
So instead of only focusing on your weight, zoom out to get a crystal-clear view. Here are some non-scale indicators I recommend you consider that will help you more clearly determine if your nutrition plan is working or not.
Energy or fatigue
You have trouble waking each morning. By mid-afternoon, you're riding that struggle bus and ready to call it. You slam coffee just to make it through the rest of your day and if you manage to scrape together enough energy to hit the gym, you're just dragging ass. Then you get home feeling completely wiped with very little energy to give to the folks you love. Sound familiar?
The combination of eating nutrient-poor, processed foods, super-restrictive diets and insanely low calorie deficits have many of you feeling 100 years old when you’re in the prime of your life. Proper nutrition with enough food packed with tons of vitamins and minerals will give your body all the energy and materials it needs to crush life and training. You'll have energy to make it through the day with plenty left over to spend time with your loved-ones. You won't need afternoon naps. You'll rely less on caffeine. You'll feel alive.
Performance & Recovery
You can’t expect your body to perform well in the gym if it’s not properly fueled. Your body doesn’t care what your training goals are. If you don’t give it what it needs, your body is just going to laugh and flip you the bird.
How would you like to feel like you could run through a brick wall and keep going—like that Juggernaut dude from X-Men? When that happens, you know you fueling yourself properly.
For performance and recovery, specifically look at things like:
Feeling more ready and motivated to train
Progression on workouts (getting faster, using heavier weights, or more range of motion)
Workout stamina (can you last and put forth good effort throughout the entire workout?)
These are all good indicators of how your performance and recovery are progressing.
Brain fogginess, irritability, anxiety, low sex drive and lack of concentration, are all indicators that something might be off with your nutrition. Therefore, it’s important to regularly gauge how you feel mentally and emotionally while you’re on some kind of nutrition plan.
Improving your overall mood can include:
having more self-confidence
feeling less stressed or anxious
being happier with your life
wanting to get it on more 😏
being more motivated or ready to do more things
If you’re trying to lose weight and fat, a little hunger is ok, but being hungry all the time sucks. Hanger is very real and frequent bouts of it can quickly put the brakes on fat loss progress. Having no appetite whatsoever is also indicative of a problem.
When things are going well, you’re getting hungry every few hours. When you eat, you're able to choose better food, and you're getting enough food to feel satisfied with your meals. You shouldn't be starving again immediately afterward and reaching for more food. This keeps dietary adherence (sticking to the plan) high which, as a result, promotes further progress towards your goals.
Hours of Sleep & Sleep Quality
The food we eat and our lifestyles directly influence and affect our body and brain chemistry. Too little food, lack of recovery from training, too much caffeine or alcohol can alter your body's normal chemistry and cause a host of problems, including poor sleep. When things are out of whack, you struggle to get to bed. You're "wired, but tired". If you do go to bed, you just toss and turn all night, don't dream, wake up throughout the night and struggle again to go back to sleep. It's no shock, that when morning hits, you struggle to wake up, pound the snooze button and don't feel rested at all.
When you’re properly fed, your hormones and brain chemicals are at their proper levels you can enjoy more hours of high-quality sleep. You’ll find yourself getting more sleep overall and better quality sleep. You'll get sleepy when you’re supposed to, fall asleep easier, stay asleep throughout the night and wake up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on your day.
How you look and how clothes feel
More often than not, the scale may not change much but how you look and how clothes fit will change big time. These changes happen slowly and gradually but are usually very apparent when comparing to when you started.
As you're losing fat, you’ll start to see areas cinch inwards—especially around the waist, hips and thighs. Gentle folds will start becoming less noticeable and gradually turn into more defined lines over time. Clothes that used to be tight will get looser and you’ll need to tighten tour belt just to keep your pants up. If you aren’t convinced, periodically use a tape measure to confirm what you’re noticing in the mirror.
Men especially, as you’re building muscle, you may find that shirts are getting a little tighter because you're making gains to your upper body. Anyone who squats heavy and often knows the frustration of having pants too loose at the waist and tighter around the quads and ass because of the muscle mass you’re building. That's a good thing though!
How do you Keep track all this stuff?
I recommend making a spreadsheet in Google Docs, Numbers or Excel. In each column, put what you’d like to keep track of. You can track daily, weekly, or some things monthly. I would suggest tracking things like energy, sleep hours, sleep quality, mood, hunger, performance, and recovery daily. Things like progress pictures, clothes sizes, body measurements, or anything that doesn’t really change daily too much you can track weekly or monthly. If you’re incredibly technologically challenged, go old-school and get a journal. Each time you make an entry, score or rate yourself on the things you’d like to track.
Make data-driven decisions
With either a spreadsheet or a journal, periodically assess what’s going on to make sure things are moving in the right direction. I suggest weekly. Daily is too frequent since body changes usually take on the order of weeks and monthly is too infrequent. You could have made a change weeks ago that would have kept you on track.
When do you change something, base your decisions on the data! I hear so many people say “I don’t FEEL like what I’m doing is working”. Sometimes that’s you just trying to sabotage yourself. Don’t feel. KNOW. With the data, you will know if something is working and can be more confident in the decision you end up making.
Measure and record what’s important to you and makes sense for your goals. If you don’t care about your performance, maybe you don’t need to assess it. If you’d rather not take pictures, then don’t! Measure what is important for you to see progress and base it off of what you are ready, willing and able to do.
Be consistent. It's not going to help you tracking things when you feel like it or on certain occasions. Whatever you decide to track or rate, set a schedule or routine for assessing and be consistent.
Finally, celebrate any and all progress made off the scale. If you’re feeling better, performing better, sleeping better, and looking better, at that point, who the hell cares what the damn scale says. Embrace and celebrate these off-the-scale victories big or small! They are just as important, and most of the time, more important than what you weigh.
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