Woman cooking in kitchen; measure weight loss success without the scale.

Skip the scale: 5 ways to measure weight loss

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Let’s be honest. We depend on the scale a lot to track weight loss. For some of us, there’s even a magic number that we’re constantly chasing.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking could be blinding you from celebrating other wellness milestones that you’re crushing. Use these tips to help track your improvement without stepping foot on the scale.

Focus first on fat loss, not weight loss

Your total body weight is a reflection of water, bone, muscle, organs, and fat weight combined. So when people say they want to lose weight, they most likely mean they want to lose fat.

“Think of the scale as a barometer of what is going on with your body, but understand that it is just one of many things that we can be paying attention to,” says Kyle Oholendt, MD, internal medicine physician and pediatrician on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center.

Build SMART goals

Dr. Oholendt recommends setting up SMART goals that focus on other ways of measuring success. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Think of what you can realistically achieve over the next three months, for example. Consider looping in your doctor to make sure you’re not pushing yourself toward an unhealthy goal.

Here are some ways of measuring success that might inspire your SMART goal:

Check how your clothes fit. It’s often the first thing you’ll notice. Are your jeans looser around the waist? Can you fasten that belt a notch tighter?

Take tape measurements. This simple tool will help you monitor where you’re slimming down or bulking up.

Snap progress photos. Take a photo of yourself routinely; the subtle changes in your body will reveal themselves over time.

Increased strength or endurance. For example, if you’ve been strength training and can now complete an extra set or have mastered an exercise that you’ve struggled to do (we see you, pull-ups), those are achievements to get excited about.

Higher energy levels. Are you less groggy in the mornings or more alert during the workday? Pay attention to how your body feels — maybe taking the stairs is no longer a daily struggle.

“I want patients to feel empowered and not rely on the scale to set their self-worth,” Dr. Oholendt says. “The goal is to become healthier, so every time you reach a milestone, celebrate that success, no matter how small.”

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