The end of the year is upon us and it’s natural for us to reflect on what kind of year it’s been. This year has been one for the history books - so many huge changes to our normal way of life and continued uncertainty moving into 2021.
But with every new year incoming, it’s important to think about those things that went well and those things that didn’t go so well. Maybe you tried a new diet this year and found that it worked temporarily but then you gained all the weight back after being off the diet.
Maybe you started getting into exercise but haven’t seen the changes that you wanted to see. Maybe you have seen some changes and have felt great about doing them on a consistent basis.
Regardless of where you are right now - it’s always good to take a step back and think about those things that have gone right. I want this to empower you, I want this post to be something that helps you to see the positive changes no matter how big or small they are in size.
In this post today I’ll be going over 12 different ways in which you can measure your progress in your fitness and wellness.
You are more than just a number on the scale
If I went and asked 100 people what they thought progress looked like when it comes to health and fitness - I would wager that at least 75% of those people would answer by saying “If I lose weight on the scale, I’ve been successful”. (Totally arbitrary number here but you get the point!)
Ask yourself this - what would progress look like to you?
If your mind goes straight to the scale - let me do you a favor and remind you why this can’t be and shouldn’t be your only measure of success.
If you have been reading these blogs I recently posted about how the scale is not a valid measure of how things are going. I’ll briefly go over some of those points here but for more in depth check out https://www.foreverfitmethod.com/post/how-the-scale-is-hurting-your-fitness-goals
The scale only measures one thing: your current weight. The scale doesn’t let you know if you are carrying more sodium in your body than usual (resulting in a higher number on the scale), it can’t tell you how energized you feel, it can’t tell you that your increase in weight is due to muscle gain.
The scale only gives you one number that is not the biggest determining factor when it comes to health.
Most of you already know that your body weight isn’t the full picture of how healthy you are. Imagine a person who weighs the perfect body weight. Let’s say it’s a 40 year old woman who has had 2 kids and weighs what doctors would consider an “ideal” weight at 135lbs.
Now at first glance you might look at this person, see someone who is thin, wears tighter fitting clothes and assume that this person is the example of health.
However we can’t know for sure the emotional , mental, and true physical fitness of this person. We might find upon further investigation that this person actively starves herself, has a crappy relationship with food, and has low energy throughout the day. She might feel very weak and unable to do physical errands on her own without discomfort and struggle.
Yet for some reason we think that the vision of this person is the picture of health - and that’s only because we equate health with being skinny.
If you are feeling down about your progress - keep reading and try these other measures on for yourself. You will find that you are better than you think, doing things that are in line with your ultimate goal of being as healthy as you can be.
12 ways to measure progress
I’m going to divide these measures of progress up into different categories. It’s important to know that there are different areas of life that you can improve that will have a direct impact on your health, wellness, and fitness. Let’s go over the following categories:
1. You can lift more weight than before - This one is a bit more obvious than the others. At one point you were only able to lift 100lbs for 5 reps, and now you can do 100lbs for 10 reps. For those gym-goers this might seem obvious that you are progressing but I like to take it a step further. This kind of progress is really important because of a few reasons. Firstly, the fact that your body can now control more weight in space shows that you are a more capable person than you were in the past. Secondly, by being able to lift more weight you are building more lean muscle which in the long run will start to develop that dream body you want. Getting stronger is no easy feat, it takes hard work, consistency, and directed attention to do so. Never sell yourself short when considering the changes in your strength.
2. You have a lower resting heart rate - This is for those that wear the apple watches, fitbits or any heart rate trackers. (Can still do this the old fashioned way by counting your pulse for a minute!) Resting heart rate is a great indicator on how well you are improving your cardiovascular health. A lower resting heart rate means that your heart has the ability to push blood around the body more efficiently while doing so with much less beats per minute. Thus, your resting heart rate drops as your efficiency increases. A more efficient system is long-lasting!
3. You recover faster from exercise - This one goes alongside the above mentioned lower heart rate. If you find that you are faring much better with your workouts and are able to recover and move to the next set much more quickly, this is a clear indication that what you are doing is working! This is why doctors perform stress tests - by working to increase your heart rate (walking up an incline) and then looking at how long it takes for your heart to return to its baseline. Ultimately the less your heart has to beat at an intense rate, the better health you will be in! For those who have been working out this whole year - there’s no doubt you have been recovering faster!
4. Your body measurements are changed - So this one is another way to physically see a difference in your body. Weight is one thing, but seeing the changes in your waistline, bust/chest, and hips can showcase that you are in fact getting leaner even if the weight is staying the same. Measurements will change based on how much body fat surrounds the area in which you are measuring. These changes might be very small but we aren’t looking for this big change, but rather those small changes over time. If you find that you lost half an inch on your waist over 2 months - this is progress!!! No matter how long it takes, you are moving in the right direction!
5. Your clothes fit better - This one takes it one bit further than the above example - how you fit into your clothes will immediately tell you how your progress is going. We all know that feeling of putting on an old pair of pants only to feel squeezed by them. Even if it’s a size you normally wear, a small change in either direction will be noticed right away. Have more space in your shirt? Feel like your pants are going to fall down? Well then, these are big indicators that what you are doing is working! By noticing those small changes when you wear your typical work gear - you give yourself the necessary bump in confidence to be able to continue down the path that is working well.
6. You have more energy - Have you found that when you wake up - you jump out of bed ready to take on the day? Do you feel differently in the middle of the day after lunch, avoiding that late afternoon crash? Do you have more energy to do activities on the weekend? All great indicators that your body and nutrition are in a better place than they were in the past.
7. You are eating more vegetables - There isn’t enough time in a day to speak about all the benefits of getting more vegetables in. They provide excellent nutrition with a variety of micronutrients and vitamins. Vegetables can help fill you up while also keeping your calorie count lower for the day. If you’ve recently incorporated more vegetables into your diet - this is a win! Even by just adding ONE extra vegetable per day into your daily eating will result in change over time. Not only are you creating a healthy habit of increasing vegetable intake but you are also getting more familiar with new foods. When a food becomes familiar and part of your routine, it’s far more likely that you’ll actually LOOK for those foods and enjoy them just as much as other favorites. Who knows, maybe broccoli can become your favorite food! (Or maybe that’s just a pipe dream!)
8. You enjoy food more, including treats - Food not only provides energy for your body but it provides comfort. Many people who have dieted in the past have come to the point where there are those “off-limit” foods. When you begin to accept the fact that no one food is going to make you fat, you are accepting the reality of what food does for you. Breaking this diet mindset is a tough one and not something that can be taken lightly. However if you find that you are feeling less guilty and enjoying food more, this is awesome progress!
9. You are more mindful of how food makes you feel - The simple fact of just taking notice of how different foods make you feel is a step in the right direction. Even if you change nothing about what you eat, the fact that you begin to listen to your body will have long-lasting impacts. For example if you begin to recognize, “hey when I eat that ice cream at night, the next morning I feel really lethargic.” This helps to bring the awareness to you which in turn can help pave the way into understanding exactly what it means to have foods that nourish your body. Using a food journal is a sure fire way to SHOW yourself what it is that is going on. This helps to control that out of control eating, the mindless snacking, and the feelings of guilt when eating something you deem unhealthy.
10. You handle stress better - When you aren’t consumed with what your weight looks like on the scale (among other things) - you can start to become better at managing your own stress. This can be outside of the fitness and nutrition world - by being more mentally and emotionally fit you might have found that when a stressful event comes into your life - you handle it effortlessly. Looking back on your past you might see how things might have brought you down and left you out for the count for days, even weeks. Now more than ever is emotional and mental health super important - celebrate the fact that you can handle things better, allowing you to focus more on the solutions to problems, rather than the stress that is invoked during these times.
11. Your relationships are better - Another one that isn’t specific to nutrition and fitness but is still vitally important. I believe that if you can approach your relationships in a more objective, empathic, respectful way you will see improvements with those around you. Creating stronger bonds with those people who are important to you is a HUGE factor when we think about where we want to improve. When you become the best version of yourself, you can bring this version to your relationships. Don’t scoff at the fact that you can now have deeper and more meaningful conversations with your kids, spouse, or friends.
12. You are getting better sleep - Sleep is such an underrated facet of our lives. Rest and recovery play a huge role in how you progress, get stronger, lose weight, and get lean. For many people sleep is an interrupted mess of a time that leaves you feeling tired and exhausted before your day even starts. Once you start eating better and moving the body on the regular, your sleep should improve. Once your sleep improves, your mental and emotional health also improve. Sleep can be an amazing catalyst for change. If your sleep is either longer, more consistent, or less interrupted this is a sign of progress!
Progress takes time - celebrate it when it happens!
After reading through all these factors - how many have you improved upon this past year?
Even if you can only say and admit that you improved in only ONE aspect of this the entire year - that’s ONE thing better than the year prior. I would bet however, that if you were working on your fitness and nutrition you can probably say you’ve gotten better in many of these choices.
If you can improve only ONE of these every year, for the next 12 years you would have made life-changing progress. Literally your life will be different and new opportunities will present themselves to you.
It’s important that as we approach the end of this year we reflect on those things that went right. There’s no need and no reason for you to look at what you’ve done and be critical about how you are no good.
Being critical of yourself will not help you reach those goals - being cognizant and honest with what HAS worked will propel you to get more of that in your life.
Look - no one is perfect. We can’t always have everything we want in the moment. It takes time, dedication, consistency and awareness to become your ideal self. Honestly I think that’s what makes Humans so great - we always strive for better. No matter how big or small those goals are - we have this urge to DO SOMETHING better than the day before.
So next time that you start to think about how you are out of shape, you feel like crap, you don’t look the way you want...remember to come back and think about those things that you have improved. Be your own cheerleader and be proud of the progress you have made.
If you are reading this now - you’ve willingly chosen to educate yourself on different ways that you can measure progress. Just this fact alone gives me hope that you will find many other things that may be small, but do in fact show you that progress is happening.