While the sclae is one way to measure health and measure progress, it’s not the only way to measure health and measure progress. So, instead of focusing solely on the scale and fluctuations in your gravitational pull, learn how to set health goals that don’t involve a scale or your weight at all.
A few weeks ago I shared a post about weight loss and why there are so many other things to focus on when it comes to eating well or working out. Although the scale can be a powerful and motivating tool for some, for others (myself included) it can cause added stress and anxiety to a situation that should not be stressful at all. I am a firm believer that weight plays a limited role in a person’s health and that your weight and shape do not define who you are. In fact, when you are working on eating better or exercising more, some of the biggest achievements occur off of the scale. So instead of getting obsessed with the number on the scale, throw the scale out and focus on these non-scale health goals instead.
Non-Scale Health Goals
When it comes to your health, your energy levels, mood, and habits are some of the biggest (and most important) signs of progress.
1. Make More Home Cooked Meals
One of the simplest non-scale health goals you can focus on is committing to cooking more of your meals at home from scratch. This is a goal that anyone can set, and one that I often set with my online coaching clients. By taking the time to cook more of your meals from scratch you omit (by default) a lot of processed foods and food additives, and gain a better understanding of the food you are eating. Plus, the more frequently you cook from scratch, the easier it becomes and the more tools you add to your toolkit for the future. You don’t need to know how to make a ton of different home-cooked meals to get started, you only need a few recipes you can rotate through. But be realistic, if you currently rarely cook from scratch set an attainable goal of 1 or 2 meals per week, and as you progress and sharpen your skills you can add more and more to the goal.
2. Read the Ingredients on Everything you Buy
The key to eating well is actually really simple, eat real food. However as our lives become busier, more and more people are opting for the convenience of pre-made foods or products. Unfortunately, many of these “convenient” foods come at a cost, namely in the form of food additives and added sugars. Even items claiming to be “high-protein”, “high-fiber” or “gluten-free” are not always healthy options! Although most people can recognize the obvious sources of sugar in their diet (such as soda, sweets, and treats), it is the accumulation of hidden refined sugars in many of the other foods we eat that can really impact us negatively. In order to ensure that you are successfully cutting down on sugar in your diet, it is vital that you read the ingredients list on every single product you buy. Your cereal, your granola bar, your salad dressing – literally everything. If it seems overwhelming to make all these changes at once, don’t sweat it, just address them one at a time, because the removal of hidden refined sugars is one of the greatest changes you can make for your health.
3. Spend More Time Outdoors
These days, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day hustle; wake up, drive to work, sit in the office, drive home, hang out and go to bed. Unfortunately, more often than not people spend little to no time outside on a daily and weekly basis. Research shows that time spent outdoors is great for not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Remember, something is better than nothing, so a commitment to spend 15 minutes outside on a daily basis can do wonders for your health. Perhaps that means walking to work, sitting outside on your lunch break, or taking a walk around the block after dinner every night.
4. Pack Your Lunch for Work
Eating lunch out every single day is not only not ideal for your health, but it can also get really expensive. Just $10 per day adds up to $200 per month which could buy you a whole bunch of other more beneficial things. Taking the time to prep your lunch is a small but impactful action in helping to make your health a priority. Time permitting, meal prepping is a great way to ensure that you have healthy lunches for the week ahead and dinner leftovers are a great option too, however, if neither is an option I’ve got 5 simple no-cook lunch ideas that are well-balanced and can get you out the door in no time.
5. Sign-Up for a Fitness Class or Event
It’s easy to tell yourself you are going to go to the gym 5 days this week, but it’s also really easy to not go when the time comes if you have nothing holding you accountable. As you are learning and trying to improve your health habits you need to be kind to yourself and you need to be realistic with yourself. If you are currently not exercising at all, commit to a simple goal, don’t sign up for a half-marathon. Regardless of where you are in your journey signing up for a group class, group workout or a specific event like a run is a good way to hold yourself accountable. Plus, it gives you something to work towards as opposed to just working out because you are “supposed to”. What that specific goal is is totally up to you! It can be running your first 5km, doing your first push-up, or simply being able to take the stairs or go for a walk with breathing heavily.
6. Eat at the Dinner Table (without Electronics)
Although people talk a lot about what to eat for a healthy diet, how you eat it is also very important. Taking the time to sit down at the dinner table (or any table) will help you be more mindful of what you are eating, help slow down the process, and help you recognize when you are actually full. Eating in front of the TV, your computer, or your iPad or phone has been shown to make people more distracted which leads them to eat more. Eating while sitting down without electronics enables you to be more mindful of what you are eating and also helps to support optimal digestion.
7. Wake Up Earlier
In addition to diet and exercise, sleep is one of the most impactful practices for health and wellness. Sleep is the only time during the day when your body is able to go into recovery mode, literally repairing your cells and tissues, so ensuring you are getting adequate and optimal sleep is ideal. Although many people will wait until the last minute to wake up, hitting the snooze button multiple times, waking up even 10-15 minutes earlier can have a great positive impact on your day. It allows you to slow down in the morning, take your time, eat breakfast and start your day with less stress. Plus, a goal of waking up early tends to force people to get to bed earlier (because staying up late to watch TV is less than ideal for sleep and health), and the more you practice waking up earlier the easier it gets the better your sleep will be.
8. Eat More Vegetables
When beginning to make changes in your diet, it’s always easiest to start small and focus on adding more good habits first, as opposed to looking at it from a negative perspective and focusing on all of the things you need to remove. By simply focusing on small non-scale health goals of incorporating more fresh vegetables into your diet, you will eventually have less and less room for the stuff you need to remove. The best thing to do is simply to focus on the vegetables you enjoy and find ways to eat more of them; perhaps it’s adding them to dishes you already eat, or trying a different cooking method (FYI – roasted, stir-fried, and baked are all just as good as steamed). Even if at the beginning that means adding a side salad next to your fettuccini alfredo, eventually you will begin to enjoy and crave your vegetable intake more and more.
9. Avoid the Afternoon Crash
Although the afternoon crash is common for many people, it is in fact not “normal” and shouldn’t be something that happens on a regular basis. Typically, when this moment hits most people will reach for a sweet treat or an extra coffee to keep them going which, in all honesty, is not an ideal solution. These reasons for the 3:00 pm slump at work are plenty, however, some of the most common include consuming too much sugar at breakfast, drinking too many coffees in the morning, or simply not drinking enough water throughout the day. Additionally taking a little time to get outside and get fresh air (see #2) can help to invigorate you and boost energy and mood for the rest of the day.
10. Aim for Consistency, Not Perfection
Regardless of what your non-scale health goals are, an important goal to always keep in the back of your mind is that it is best to aim for consistency, not perfection. We are our own worst critics and often as soon as we slip up on a goal we set for ourselves, a case of the “f*$! its” sets in and we let everything else go because we made one tiny little mistake. The truth is, health is not picture perfect no matter who you are. In fact, that’s not even the point. The goal is to create habits and lifestyle changes you can maintain and feel good about, so you need to give yourself a little grace and a lot of love in the process.