Editor’s note: Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up with Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.
What happens when you’re feeling physically good, happy with the progress you’re making in your workouts and healthy diet, but step on the scale to see no pounds lost?
While establishing a consistent workout routine, it’s common to look directly at the scale when tracking progress. But dropping numbers aren’t the only signs of success; There are many other positive signs to look for when it comes to working out.
Weight loss or weight maintenance is associated with improved self-esteem and self-satisfaction, according to some studies. Even without necessarily losing weight, however, there’s evidence that physical fitness training can lead to improved mood and better work behavior.
These non-scale victories are real, and acknowledging them is essential in maintaining a good attitude about working out. Celebrating these alternative milestones will help you stay motivated while achieving your weight-related goals.
Weight loss takes time, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. Next time your eyes wander toward the scale, try paying attention to some of these other indicators of success.
Your pants are looser
Do you have a pair of pants that always feel a little tight? Try those on after working out consistently, and you’ll most likely feel a change in the way they fit. Depending on the areas you’re focusing on while working out, it’s common for pants to feel a little looser when you lose fat and gain muscle.
If weight loss is one of your workout goals, I recommend working on core exercises as well as cardio. After some time, your waistline and stomach area should look more toned and defined. But that doesn’t mean that the number on the scale will change drastically.
Core exercises often lead to muscle growth, which means that you might not see the change in weight you’re looking for right away. However, paying attention to the way your pants fit can say a lot about your progress.
Tighter strap on your bra
If you’re able to hook your bra strap a little tighter than before, you’re probably making progress with your workout routine. Similar to the way your pants fit, bra fit can say a lot about the success of your workout.
Exercises that target the chest area help tone the shoulders and back as well as the pectorals. These exercises can include bench presses, push-ups and chest flies. If you’ve recently incorporated these exercises into your workout routine and see a change in the way your bra fits, you’re definitely on the road to success.
You have more energy
Physical activity has been correlated with increased levels of energy. Some research even suggests that aerobic exercise helps alleviate symptoms of depression. This has to do with an increase in endorphin levels that can result from working out.
Endorphins are hormones that are released when we need energy, so it makes sense that exercise would lead to higher endorphin levels in our bodies. After consistent exercise, a lot of my weight loss clients get hooked on the feeling that these hormones evoke. This is sometimes known as “runner’s high,” and it’s a healthy and empowering feeling.
Exercise can also help you to get high-quality sleep at night. Because a good night’s sleep makes us feel refreshed in the morning, you may feel an extra boost of energy all day.
You have improved endurance
I’ve seen a lot of my female clients improve in endurance after sticking with a consistent routine. It’s common for my clients to struggle to get through their routine at the start of their weight loss journey. However, after some time, I find they’re able to get through the same routine with ease and even more quickly.
Running a mile can be difficult for someone who isn’t used to cardiovascular exercise. But after consistent training over 10 days, running a mile becomes easier and easier. This is because increased endurance helps keep the heart and circulatory system healthy.
Improved endurance makes everyday activities feel easier. Climbing up the stairs and walking around may feel effortless after sticking with a workout routine for some time. This sense of ease, along with the boost of energy you’ll feel as you make progress, is worth more than the number on the scale.
You may be craving less sugar
After working out, you may not be as likely to go for the sugary foods. Exercise releases serotonin, a mood-enhancing hormone. Because a lot of us think of sugary foods and snacks as a treat, they become a way to reward ourselves after a long day.
However, exercise naturally provides us with a mood enhancer that we usually look for in treats. Instead of making ourselves happy through food, exercise helps us achieve those feelings naturally, making it less likely for us to overeat sugary snacks.
That decrease in sugary snack cravings that comes along with increased exercise will ultimately help us achieve weight loss goals over time. If your longing for sugar has decreased since the start of your workout efforts, congratulate yourself on your progress and enjoy the boost in mood you deserve.