Should We Really Measure Progress in Pounds?

Scale_SmallerIt’s been slow and steady so far, but the important thing is that I’m still making progress. And good progress, at that.

Let me  back up and start from the very beginning. I’ve always been an active person. My childhood consisted of riding bikes (daily – no joke), jumping on our backyard trampoline, playing ball, and running around outside jumping hurdles I had constructed out of firewood logs topped with long sticks. These are just a few examples of the ways I stayed active as a kid.

Boy, I wish I still had the time to stay active like I did back then. It was way more fun than structured exercise. Ah, to be young again.

As a teenager, I started going to the gym and working as a waitress (talk about burning calories!). Later on I worked at a physical therapy clinic with a fitness center and read everything I could get my hands on about fitness and nutrition. I loved it and swore I’d never stop working out.

Skip a few years ahead. Enter cubicle work after college. I hated my job and, consequently, stress and depression led to illness and weight gain. By the time I ditched that job eight months later, I had gained around twenty pounds! None of my pants fit and I felt miserable and tired all the time.

After a short stint as a consultant at Microsoft, I got into grad school and sat on my butt for another two years–reading and writing pages upon pages of academic text each week. It didn’t help that I wasn’t particularly fond of the program I chose. More stress.

Off and on, I would hit the gym and/or track my calories. My weight fluctuated, but I never got back down to the size I felt was my “real self” (which is an entire topic for another post). In fact, by the end of grad school, I packed on nearly 20 more pounds.

So. Three years, forty pounds. Yikes.

Now I’m done with grad school, work at a fitness studio, and I’m more ready than ever to get my body in check! But what does this mean, really?

In the past, I’ve fallen victim to the whole “must get skinny” mentality. A slave to the number on the scale. No more.

Yes, I do weigh myself–I’m not gonna lie. But I am using it only as a supplementary means of tracking progress, if that makes sense.

My goal, ultimately, is to build muscle and shape up in a healthy way by eating nutrient-rich foods (and plenty of it) and exercising regularly (more on diet and exercise specifics in future posts). I will measure my progress by how I feel. Let me explain.

When I am staying active and eating right, I feel good–inside and out. I feel stronger, happier, healthier, more confident, and more energetic.

Yes, I have fat to lose, which is why I check in with the scale on occasion. I need to get a sense of proper calorie intake for my activity level and goals. That being said, I don’t need to lose a set number of pounds each week in order to feel like I’m making progress. Why? Because I’m running, hiking, spinning, and lifting…and building muscle! As we all know, pound for pound, muscle is smaller than fat (no, muscle does not weigh less than fat – think about it).

As I’m losing fat, I’m also building muscle, so of course the numbers on the scale aren’t going to be plummeting! I can see my arms becoming more defined, my legs becoming shapelier, my stomach slimming down–I’m making progress. Simple as that. And again, just to drive the point home, I feel great.

Do I NEED to lose all forty of the pounds I gained? Nope. I may lose them all, but I may not. And I’m okay with that. Because I can look in the mirror and see progress. Because I can reflect on my state of mind and the state of my emotions to gauge my progress. Because I don’t need a scale to tell me when I can be happy with my body.

So that’s where I stand on the issue of weighing one’s self and using that number alone to determine progress. Of course, everyone has different goals and everyone is at a different point in their journey to becoming healthy.  Some people may need to see a drastic change on the scale in order to get healthier and feel happier and more confident. I understand and respect that.

For myself, I was just above the “healthy weight zone” for my age and height when I started getting serious about my health again about a month ago. So, I believe that if I eat right and exercise, my body will reach a healthy state without too much scale watching.

What do you think? How do you measure progress? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment!

(Image: iStockphoto)

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