When we embark on our health journeys, we are looking for ways to improve our lives. The reasons we want to change may vary from weight loss to competition, but the underlying objective is improvement. Through this, we learn that we can inspire and motivate others; however, for the sake of this article, let’s be a bit selfish and focus on #1—you. Imagine this: You conquered a very dedicated week. Your diet was spot on. The gym feared your sweat and you even avoided happy hour. You proudly skip over to the scale … GULP! You gained a pound. Are you kidding me?! Heartbreaking. But what can you do about it?
Option 1 (this is not an option)
Give up. Right then and there. Hey, what’s the point? You worked really hard and got nowhere; I guess it wasn’t meant to be for you.
Re-evaluate. Well, maybe you could have done more. Maybe it’s water weight. If you find that this second-guessing could do more harm than good, move on to the next option.
Option 3 (recommended)
Drive on. You really feel like you are giving it your best and you understand that results will come. You are not a failure. We’re human, and changes take time. When the scale doesn’t budge or you’re feeling defeated, I invite you to find a few exercises that will help you evaluate your progress.
The exercises you choose should vary depending on your current fitness level, but the idea is to find a base of actions—ideally that demonstrate strength and endurance—that you perform consistently to measure progress. To measure strength, I focus on how many pull-ups and push-ups I can achieve because these numbers are generally easy to compare over time. For endurance, I check on how I fatigue while jogging or cycling. Lastly, I am conscientious about how my flexibility improves. I feel better when I am more limber.
Strength: You want to measure your overall strength. This is something that a number on the scale will never tell you. Find an exercise that you are comfortable performing week over week. Body squats, planks, push-ups, lifting a growing baby, anything! Push-ups work best for me. When I first started, I couldn’t manage one, but now I can do them comfortably. Even when I wasn’t losing weight, I noticed that I was improving in other areas and that kept me motivated to move forward.
Endurance: Jogging always gives a good indication of how well I’m doing. If I am easily out of breath, I will make it a priority to incorporate more running or cycling into my routine. If I’m way off track, I start with more walking and gradually add in running or cycling so that I’m always doing something to improve.
Feeling: Overall, I evaluate my health based on how I feel. If I’ve been lazy or I’m not as motivated as usual, I make steps to get better each day. I can be my own worst critic, so I’ll isolate a few areas where I could focus more—like tracking my calories. By making these habits just a little bit better over time, I begin to feel better. And I like feeling good.
The key to long-lasting health is consistency.
Focus on feeling good and on being happy with the decisions that you are making, and stick with it. Your diet and exercises adjustments will improve a little bit at a time, and you will begin to see change. At the end of the day, it’s not about a number on a scale, the number of marathons you’ve run, or the weight you can lift. It’s about how you feel and the positive impact you can make on the lives of those around you.