Staying motivated when the scale barely budges

I got so many compliments on my January review (thank you!), I thought I’d share what exactly I do to track and why I do it.

It’s no secret. Weight loss for me is slow at best. Although I lose my first 50 lbs within the first year, I was known as “The Half Pound Girl” at Weight Watchers because I regularly struggled to lose more than half a pound, even when I stayed completely on track with points and exercised faithfully.

Even now, after working with a nutritionist and stepping up my game when it comes to workouts, I struggle. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), I’m insulin resistant and as such I get to be one of a growing number of Americans described as having metabolic syndrome.

Because of this slow weight loss and health obstacles (plus the annual injuries that try to knock me off my game), I need to find non-scale ways to stay motivated. So here’s what I do:

Focus on practicing good health habits. For me, the following habits are essential both to weight loss and overall good health:

  • sleep 7-8 hours daily
  • drink at least 6 glasses of water
  • consume 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies daily
  • monitor sodium levels and try to keep it under the recommended limit of 2400mg
  • limit alcohol (seriously: I’m lucky if I have one drink a week. And by 1 drink I mean a pint of beer or a 5oz glass of wine.)
  • have a balanced diet (snacks and breakfast balance carbs and protein, lunches and dinners consist of 1 serving of protein, 1 serving of healthy carbs and 2 servings of veggies/produce). I strive for 50% of my calories coming from carbs and 25% each from protein and fats.
  • Drink green tea daily. Am I convinced it increases metabolism? No. But it saves me the 40 calories of fat I’d consume if I had a cup of coffee with 2 tablespoons/1 serving of half and half. I limit my coffee to one large cup in the morning and only occassionally have a second cup in the afternoon.

Pick a fitness challenge annually and commit to training for that event throughout the year. In 2008, I took a 2.5 hour spin class (note to readers: I used to always say 90-minute spin class and only recently realized that it was a 60-minute spin class followed by a 90-minute spin class). Last year, I walked the Breast Cancer 3-Day. This year, I’m training for a sprint triathalon. The purpose of these challenges is to keep myself motivated, choose a specific fitness (typically endurance) goal and try something new.

Buy one fabulous dress annually. Even if you only get to wear it once. This totally goes against good financial logic and my practical sensibilities, but there’s something incredibly valuable about having one stunning outfit that you love and look good in. For the record, there’s only been one dress that I’ve worn just once.

Track your progress. On my monthly calendar, I use a highlighter to draw a slashmark through each day that I work out and I also write in what specific workout I did. I also track my weight weekly and track my food intake. I do monitor calories and various nutritional statistics with my food journal, but pay close attention to whether I’m consistently eating quality foods, including little indulgences (typically 50-100 calories of high-quality chocolate daily) and consuming enough minimally processed foods (fruits and veggies, beans and whole grains).

Make a soundtrack for your life. I rely on my students, my boyfriend, NPR and XPN to expose me to totally fab music that I can include in my workout mixes. Having good tunes is critical to my success at the gym. This is almost an obsession for me. In fact, earlier this week, I had a dream in which I went to the Saturday morning spin class and learned that due to snow, the instructor was a no show. I volunteered to teach the class. I actually heard the music in my dream and it’s now inspired me to create a new playlist this Saturday, when we are expected to get a blizzard and when spin class may very well be snowed out! Not only do these mixes work for my treks to the gym, but they keep me inspired, motivated and energized during the work day.

Fall in love with food again. I did not pay attention to quality of food when I was fatter. Now, largely because I do restrict my calories, I want every bite I eat to be at least good, if not excellent. Last night, I joined friends for happy hour and ate a tuna appetizer that overwhelmed me with it’s complexity, incredible flavor and perfectly balanced tastes. THAT is what good food is all about. The dish wasn’t about a perfect balance of sugar, fat and salt. It was about sweet, spicy and savory. The dish was seared tuna with cucumber, microgreens, fresh shitaake, a sweet rice wine vinegar, chili aoli, wasabi and toasted pumpkin seeds. It was easily under 250 calories. Being able to fall in love with food again lets me know that my taste buds have grown as my waistline has shrunk and it also makes me feel good to eat in a way that properly fuels my body, has good health benefits and tastes indulgent.

Have non-weight/fitness-related goals. It’s important for us to recognize that we are more than our weight or weight loss. We are complicated, interesting, passionate individuals who have lives beyond the scale. My goals include financial security, career exploration and living creatively. This is what keeps me balanced.

Additionally, I recently decided to change how I respond to people when they say “You look like you lost weight!” I used to tell them whether I did or not. When I was losing weight, it was exciting to say “Thanks! I’ve lost X pounds.” But after 2 years of saying “Noooo… I’ve plateaued” or “Noooo…. I’ve actually gained 5 pounds” I’ve decided to respond with “Thanks! I’m training for a triathalon!”

So what do you do to stay on track when the scale doesn’t cooperate?

“Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength, not my weakness.”

~ Amos Bronson Alcott (teacher, philosopher & father to Little Women author Louisa May Alcott)


3 responses to “Staying motivated when the scale barely budges

  1. Love this!!! on many levels! I’ve been trying to do many similar things and most people just think I’m nuts because they don’t think I need to loose any weight – I don’t think I need to loose any weight either but people seem to undervalue how important it is to feel good about yourself and how important it is to be healthy not just a be a weight – I want to continue to feel good about myself and to keep my body healthy and strong. Thanks for some new ideas for keeping the motivation us and thanks for being inspirational too. 🙂

  2. I love the fabulous dress suggestion! Can I couple it with the suggestion that we buy one fabulous pair of shoes each year? I really think I need both 🙂

    I think your list is great, even if you put weight loss aside. The more we take care of ourselves, the better we feel. It’s as simple as that.

  3. @Rose-Anne: I guess I misspoke. I definitely haven’t put weight loss on the side. It’s something I strive for and work towards daily, but I’ve struggled with actually seeing scale results for all that hard work, so in order to stay motivated I HAVE to look at other ways I’m succeeding.

    I love, love, LOVE the shoe idea! Especially since I have a few pairs of shoes that are actually too big now. Who would’ve thunk my feet would shrink a bit!?

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