We all know about the number on the scale. Some of us have been watching it for years (and years and years and years). This, however, is perhaps the most fickle of the measurement family. It is the one we have been told we need to take notice of for so long, and yet it is the worst measurement of health and fitness in a human being.
The scale only measures a small part of our bodily health- our weight- and unless it is combined with a complete medical understanding of our personal musculo-skeletal structure it will never be the most helpful tool to use by itself. That scale can’t tell us how our physical fitness, mental health, and lifestyle have improved, or how our other health conditions have disappeared. All it does is sit on the floor and tell us that we haven’t done a good enough job at something in which all the other areas of our life are telling us we are succeeding at brilliantly.
We have been conditioned to believe that one piece of feedback from the scale is more important than the hundreds of other pieces of combined feedback from our family, friends, clothes, mirrors, health professionals, and acquaintances. Why do we keep doing it? There are far better indicators of success; things which give us much more encouraging evidence of the amazing job we are doing at pursuing health and improving fitness.
The following tools and records are all things to help us chart different measurements which are very helpful both in the short-term and in the long run over our ketogenic journey. They are useful in all situations, whether you are pursuing fat loss, the reversal of a health condition, or for athletic and/or functional performance. These tools are body measurements, medical records, photographs, and functional fitness measurements, all of which can be very important.
Use a tape measure to record the loss of centimetres (inches) around your waist, neck, bust, under bust, both upper arms, wrists, hips, both thighs, calves, and ankles or any area in which you'd like to see changes. You can also use your clothes as an indicator of changes to your physical size. The fact is that changes to clothing size often come before any major movement on the scale, and is a leading indicator of fat loss.
You may find that having saggy, baggy elephant pants is exciting when you realise you’ve baconed your way out of a larger size into a smaller one! Buy a goal size article of clothing and use that for your daily motivation. Your fantasy "Jessica Rabbit" dress, perfect sized jeans and shirt, a work uniform in the size you want to get to, an outfit for your favourite leisure activity, or that suit you wore to your Formal (Prom) would all serve as goal items and/or indicators of tremendous progress. You might also find that you go down a shoe size (yes, this happens). The bottom line is that having a physical measurement or clothing size to aim for is a much better goal than a scale number.
Journaling Medical Symptoms
If you have a recorded medical condition, you will be familiar with being asked to note your symptoms in a journal or chart over a period of time so that your medical practitioner can increase their accuracy in diagnosis. This is also a helpful way of charting our healing progress! Having a record of symptoms and their reduction is amazing motivation. A simple journal, with dates and times when you noticed something new or when something has disappeared is a valuable tool, not just for your own encouragement, but also if you are visiting your medical professional. Accurate notes are evidence!
Photographs are an incredibly useful tool. It’s immediate and gives a record over time with a visual impact that written figures cannot always convey. Photographs may be a contentious or embarrassing thing for you now, but if you are chasing weight loss as part of transitioning into a ketogenic lifestyle, you will want those first photos no matter how much you may hate the idea of them at the moment. Think about all the progress photos you have seen. Yours may inspire someone else! If you prefer to keep them private, that's OK. One day, you’ll be looking back on where you have been and realise that you are an inspiration to yourself, and you are worth every second of that first photograph.
Even if you are not chasing weight loss, we encourage you to take those first photos. You may see changes in your body that you never thought were possible. Changes in the health of your skin, your hair, your body fat percentage, your posture, are common, but may only be truly noticed if you have record of yourself "before." If you have an auto-immune condition (or any condition in which change comes more gradually), there may be subtle changes that you don’t notice in your clothes that you do notice in a photograph.
Functional Fitness Measurements
Functional fitness covers all those things that we need to do every day to live our life in its fullest capacity. Whether it’s as simple as tying our shoelaces (which isn’t always simple) to lifting heavy things like rounds of wood for the wood pile, or playing with the kids, or bringing in groceries, or successfully managing the stairs, we can move a lot in our normal day and changes to our ability to perform these regular tasks can make a huge difference in our quality of life.
Consider taking notes about things that you struggle with now, things that you would love to do, and things that you can do now that improve or get easier over time. It’s amazing to be able to have these Non-Scale Victories (NSVs) and celebrate them; to be able to chart progress and remind ourselves where we’ve come from and where we want to get to. This also goes for you athletes out there. You are already timing and recording and working towards your personal bests. Keto is a proven athletic performance enhancer, so don't forget to watch for and note performance improvements.
Putting It All Together
All of these different types of documentation add up to a significant amount of evidence that is totally unreliant upon a weight number. It is useful not only for us as individuals (keeping us grounded on those days when that lying, cheating scale says rude words), but also on those occasions when we are called upon to explain our ketogenic lifestyle. Being able to share proud moments with friends, family, and other ketonians not only helps to build us up, it helps to encourage other people, too. It also helps us spread the word as our ketogenic lifestyle becomes a ground-swell movement. The more testimonial evidence we can provide, the better support we can give to the doctors and researchers who are working and advocating within the scientific communities to reverse the adverse effects of the Standard Western Diet.
If you do check the scale frequently, it’s a good idea to use at least two of these other types of measurement tools as your primary progress charts. They will give you a better indication of where you are really at with your overall body size, as well as your health and fitness levels. When you see the numbers on the scale, these other indicators make it so much easier to accept whatever it tells us. On those occasions you see the numbers flat-line or if you’ve gained muscle and they go up, it doesn’t impact your mental health because you know better than to trust the scale as the only indicator of fat loss.
Your experience cannot be refuted. Your pictures, measurements, and documented health improvements cannot be dismissed as a lie. They are your experience, your testimony. Collectively, they are our experience, our testimony. You are part of a movement that is correcting a serious wrong in the world of health. Ditch the scale and keto on!