Measure-Your-Health2

174,203 Ways to Measure Health (Besides the Scale)

It’s hard to find hard-and-fast statistics on this one, but we’re pretty sure that most U.S. households have at least one bathroom scale. One Canadian study reports that 40% of people weigh themselves daily, and another reports that a full 75% of regular scale-users are women. That’s millions of bare feet stepping cautiously onto millions of scales each and every morning, leaving millions of people to judge their personal worth by that digital number staring accusingly back at them. And regardless of how they actually feel, the majority of those people will be crushed, jaded, frustrated, embarrassed, angry, and dejected when they step back off; their sense of self-worth skewed by what we believe is a mostly useless measure of progress.

Break Up With Your Scale

We’ve written about the dangers of the bathroom scale before. We’ve ranted and raved about how it’s not only an ineffective indicator of your health improvements during the Whole30®, but ultimately detrimental to your psychological (and often physical) health. But while many of our readers proudly announced the ditching of their scales, just as many tell us they still need their scale to tell them whether or not they were making headway in their march toward better health. 

We’re here to tell you (again) that there are better ways to gauge your health than how much weight you’ve gained or lost. Want to know if you’re getting healthier using something other than the scale? Try these.

Physical (Outside)

  • Clearer skin
  • No more under-eye circles
  • Improvement in rashes or patches
  • More youthful appearance
  • Longer, stronger nails
  • Brighter eyes
  • Fresher breath
  • Whiter teeth
  • Flatter stomach
  • Leaner appearance
  • Clothes fitting better
  • Less bloating
  • Stronger, shinier hair
  • Glowing skin
  • More defined muscle tone
  • Less dimpled skin
  • Friends say you look younger
  • You feel more confident naked

Physical (Inside)

  • Healthier gums
  • Less swollen, stiff  joints
  • Less painful joints
  • Fewer PMS symptoms
  • A more regular monthly cycle
  • Increased libido
  • Less stomach pain
  • Less diarrhea
  • Less constipation
  • Less gas
  • Less bloating
  • Improved “regularity”
  • You don’t get sick as often
  • No more seasonal allergies
  • Reduction in food allergies
  • No more migraines
  • No more asthma
  • No more acid reflux
  • No more heartburn
  • No more chronic pain
  • No more chronic fatigue
  • No more tendonitis/bursitis
  • No more shoulder/back/knee pain
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol numbers
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved blood sugar regulation
  • An improvement in your specific symptoms or condition
  • Reduced or eliminated medications
  • You heal more quickly from injury or illness

Mood, Emotion, and Psychology

  • You’re nicer
  • You’re more outgoing
  • You’re more patient
  • You’re more optimistic
  • You laugh more
  • You’re generally happier
  • You’re less stressed
  • You respond better to stress
  • Your kids say you’re more fun
  • No more mood swings
  • No more anxiety
  • Improved behavior (kids)
  • Fewer tantrums (kids)
  • Improved depression symptoms
  • Improved bipolar symptoms
  • No more sugar cravings
  • No more carb cravings
  • Improved body image
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved self-confidence
  • You’ve ditched your bathroom scale for good

Brain Function

  • You think more clearly
  • You have better concentration
  • You remember things more easily
  • You are more productive
  • Your focus is improved
  • Better memory/recall
  • Faster reaction times
  • Improved ADD/ADHD symptoms
  • Improved OCD symptoms

Sleep

  • You fall asleep more easily
  • You sleep more soundly
  • You stay asleep longer
  • You no longer need an alarm clock to wake up
  • You awaken feeling refreshed
  • You no longer need a mid-day nap
  • No more snoring
  • No more night sweats
  • No more sleep apnea
  • No more restless legs

Energy

  • Your energy levels are consistently high
  • No more mid-day slump
  • More energy to play with your kids
  • More energy to exercise
  • More energy to socialize
  • You no longer need to eat every 2 hours
  • You no longer get cranky if you don’t
  • You can go hours between meals and still feel okay
  • You no longer need sugar or caffeine to prop up your energy

Sport,  Exercise, and Play

  • You started exercising
  • You became more consistent with exercise
  • You can go longer, harder, faster
  • You can lift heavier things
  • You hit new “personal bests” in the gym or at your sport
  • You recover more effectively from exercise or sport
  • You have the confidence to try something new
  • You’re more coordinated
  • Your balance is better
  • Your throws and catches are more accurate
  • You feel more playful
  • You’re outside more

Food

  • You have a healthier relationship with food
  • Reduction in disordered eating habits
  • You practice mindful eating
  • You have learned how to read a label
  • You know which foods make you more healthy or less healthy
  • You have learned to eat to satiety
  • You have learned to listen to your body
  • You have abandoned yo-yo dieting forever
  • You have abandoned the idea of a weight loss quick-fix forever
  • You’re no longer afraid of dietary fat
  • You learned how to cook
  • You don’t use food for comfort
  • You don’t use food as reward
  • You don’t use food as punishment
  • You don’t use food as stress management
  • You are no longer a slave to sugar and carbs
  • You know when you’re hungry and when you’re just craving
  • You have fewer cravings
  • You have coping strategies to deal with cravings
  • You naturally have more variety, color, vitamins, and minerals in your diet
  • Food no longer has unwanted “side effects”
  • You can eat less healthy food without guilt
  • You can eat less healthy food without remorse
  • You can eat less healthy food without binging
  • When you do indulge, it’s deliberate
  • When you do indulge, you enjoy it

Lifestyle and Social

  • You have new healthy habits to pass down to your kids
  • You are more knowledgeable about nutrition
  • You have learned how to shop locally and eat seasonally
  • You have new cooking skills
  • You have a whole new Good Food recipe repertoire
  • You have learned how to make mealtime prep organized and efficient
  • You’ve made new like-minded friends who support your eating style
  • You have learned how to maximize your food budget
  • You spend less money on medical bills
  • You know how to create a health goal and stick to it for success
  • You have new, nicer food vocabulary
  • Your healthy eating habits brought your family closer
  • You are part of a new community
  • Your kids have the best school lunches
  • People ask you what you’re doing differently
  • People come to you for advice on how to change their lives

Build Your Own Scale

We could probably inventory a million different ways that doing the Whole30 and continuing to eat good food will improve you physically and psychologically. There are likely things that have changed for you that aren’t on our list, so we encourage you to make a list of your own.

Write down all the ways that the dietary and lifestyle changes you have made have transformed your health, and keep that list somewhere you can easily reference it. Put your new “scale” on the bathroom mirror and, as you are able, add things to it. Reassess your progress if you’re noticing your list getting shorter rather than longer. Use it as an honest, accurate, detailed gauge of your wellness and ditch that useless hunk of metal on your bathroom floor once and for all.

Have we missed an important health marker on our list? Make it 174,204 and share your health measurement in comments.

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Comments

  1. Tianna says

    This list makes me sad. I have so many friends and family that could be so much healthier than they are. Especially my parents. I want them around as long as possible, but I know there’s no convincing them. Any of my own progress is a result of my “youth” and “generally good genes”.

  2. Jane Coaston says

    The body image one – not so much. I still want to be thinner, thinner, thinner and still have no self-confidence. I didn’t think paleo/the Whole30 was supposed to fix that, and now I feel…meh.

  3. natalie says

    Im with you Tianna. i want so badly for my family to get on board but conventional westernized ideas have them stuck in a rut! Im going to keep trying! Dont give up on them keep encouraging change and stay positive!

  4. Tianna says

    Thanks for the encouragement, Natalie. Here’s to hoping one day they’ll see the light…as corny as that sounds haha. Good luck :)

  5. says

    When it comes to health, skinny doesn’t mean healthy. There are plenty of thin sick people out there. Think of ways to increase your health, not treat your ailments.

  6. says

    Years ago I got rid of the scales, and only went by my clothes and by measuring my body same time each month. I got more satisfaction from that than jumping on the scales everytime I passed the bathroom. Now my family have bought digital scales and I jump on and get the down feeling because Ive put on a couple of grams of weight. The internal feelings of being whole9/paleo out weighs(ha ha)
    the scales any day.

  7. says

    I needed this so badly. I have not been on the scale in a couple of weeks, but I am nervous that I did not meet my goal weight, and I probably didn’t, but guess what it really doesn’t matter if I look good, right?

  8. Naomi says

    One of the many benefits I experienced after dropping over 125+ pounds was that I no longer suffered with acid reflux or heartburn! What a relief to not wake up in the middle of the night (or not be able to go to sleep) gagging on burning acidy fluids!

  9. Derik says

    I agree with Tianna & Natalie as well. The “Wonder Bread” generation is tough as nails to crack. Although through very persistent borderline nagging, and leading by self example I’ve started to see mild changes in their lifestyle habits. They might be our parents but its time for the new school to educate the old school! Best of luck to all of you!

  10. Jayne says

    To anyone who is trying to convert parents, cook for them!
    Mine were non-believers and would argue with me for hours, but I started taking my daughter to their house for dinner and cooking and eating there (which they appreciate very much), and they have both started losing weight and talking about how good they feel. My dad’s arthritis is much more manageable, and my mum’s been so much happier and more positive in general. Now they both really believe that real food isn’t the pasta and bread and frozen meals, and even last night they were telling me excitedly about a tv show called 4 Corners that was all about the link between autism and gut bacteria :)

    On another note, I decided to give up alcohol for my health. I was having wine with dinner just about every night :| ! But since I stopped, I haven’t been able to sleep properly…. I find it hard to fall asleep and then I’m pretty restless throughout the night and wake up several times before morning. I feel great in every other way, but just wondered if that was normal? It will go away right?
    If anyone knows what I’m talking about that would be a great help

  11. JenLambert says

    Jane-I gave up alcohol in Feb of this year and I experienced the same thing and other “side-effects” like crazy dreams. It gets better. A lot better. 6+ months without alcohol and I can’t imagine drinking now. Ps. I was a nightly wine drinker, too.

  12. Kristin says

    Love this, except for “You’re more outgoing”. No need to make the 20-30% of us who are naturally introverted feel that there is something wrong with that.

    • Rachael P says

      I see their point. I have always been what you might call “naturally introverted” but it’s hard to separate that out from a lifetime of feeling less energetic and more inhibited than my peers. At my highest weight, I was all but reclusive. Since changing my health, I find myself more and more inclined toward social interaction and less drained by it.

  13. says

    I totally agree with your article. There is so much more to being healthy than just weight. So many are slaves to the scale. Weight is only one aspect. Nice article

  14. Becky says

    Kind of TMI, but one marker of health for me has been improved elmination. I finally figured out that I’m intolerant of dairy. I’m no longer constipated. No more hemmoroids. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

  15. says

    @MJ: That’s the first time I’ve heard the “mosquito” one! Interesting – and convenient for summertime!

    @Tianna & Natalie & Derik: I know firsthand how frustrating that is. You can only be a good example, and hope that when they’re ready to make some changes, they’ll come to you for help. Be ready… and until then, keep taking good care of yourself, so that you’re in a good position to help others.

    Also, if you subscribe to the Whole30 Daily, we have two entire days devoted to sharing the message of health and the Whole30 with family and friends. Day 28’s email may prove especially helpful.

    @Jane: This is something that food alone often doesn’t resolve. We have a complex and long history with our own bodies, and sometimes psychological issues run deep. For me, focusing on exercise (whatever that looks like – weightlifting, walking, swimming, yoga) helped me to see my body as something other than “skinny” or “fat” – but for the capable, fit, healthy person I really was. I hope you continue down this path of healthy eating and lifestyle, and use our Whole30 Forum for support and encouragement. There are others right there with you.

    @Dr. Mark: Spot on again! This is the message we continually try to get through to our readers, but you know how hard it is to change perceptions set by the media and society in general. Thanks for dropping in.

    @Brenda & Kati & Joe: You’ve got it! How you feel and other measurements of HEALTH > the scale. Well done.

    @Lauren: It doesn’t matter if you feel good about how you look, and if you just plain old FEEL GOOD! That little number doesn’t define you – don’t let it have that much power!

    @Naomi: Fabulous! (And congratulations – those are some major accomplishments.)

    @Jayne (& Jen): Great idea! Showing family and friends how delicious and satisfying healthy food can be is a great non-threatening way to introduce them to your new habits. As for your sleep being disturbed, alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but it does smuck with normal sleep patterns and blood sugar regulation throughout the night. I’m not surprised that you are experiencing a re-shifting of sleep patterns now – consider it a healthy transition! Stick with it and be patient, you should be sleeping better in another few weeks, as Jen has attested to. Practice good pre-bed habits too – the Whole30 Daily addresses this on Day 6.

    @Becky: That’s a common benefit – you just “go” better! I think we called it “more regular” above – same concept. Happy to hear you’re feeling better!

    Melissa

    @Kristin: Sorry if that one rubbed you the wrong way. Not everyone will relate to all of these, but many Whole30 participants told us that they were less self-confident before the program – and after, they felt more sure of themselves, which led to more confident social interactions.

  16. Erica says

    I want to second the mosquito comment! A friend mentioned the other night (after we’d been sitting outside together for several hours) that she was covered in bites. I had zero…and realized that I haven’t had one mosquito bite all summer!!

  17. says

    Great idea creating a concrete list of things to look for outside of weight. Normally, we just say that ‘you feel better and have more energy’ but it’s much better to actually give solid points on how exactly you might feel better and signs to look for to verify that things are in fact improving. After all, as you say, health is about much more than weight.

  18. says

    @Kristin I relate, as I’ve always been introverted, but also, since getting my health in line and specifically getting strong, I have noticed myself becoming more comfortable with being outgoing. I’m still relatively introverted, but compared to myself before, I’m a party animal :)

  19. Michael says

    Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Whole 30 and feel better than I’ve ever felt in a long time; however, I do think the scale can be an invaluable tool for those of us who have very specific body composition goals IF (and that’s a big IF) used correctly. When used in conjunction with a body fat caliper, the scale can help you determine whether you’re gaining/losing muscle and gaining/losing fat. For example, if you weighed 150 lbs 2 weeks ago, and get on the scale and still weigh 150 lbs, you may feel discouraged if your goal was to lose bodyfat. But, what if you GAINED a pound of muscle, and BURNED a lb of bodyfat? Then, that’s a 2 lb swing in the right direction even though the scale showed no gain nor loss! You would only know that (for sure) by measuring your BF with calipers (you need the weight from the scale to complete the calculation). This is a convenient method of tracking progress as more formal methods of BF testing are simply not practical or cost effective on a weekly basis. I wouldn’t advise doing this more the once per week as your weight can fluctuate (wildly) throughout the day and week. Also, it should be done at the same time each week so you get consistent data.

    I simply use the scale for feedback, not to judge myself. We have to get control over the scale just like we’re doing with our food. It’s a good tool if used correctly.

  20. Martin says

    I totally get what Melissa and Dallas are trying to say here, and I 99% agree. My 1% difference is that I think you should be able to get on a scale and not have what you see destroy you, or use it as the primary measurement of your health.

    Aren’t there studies (there’s at least one) that found 75% of people who maintained a significant weight loss weighed themselves at least once a week? I know it’s a slippery slope to total “weighing myself 10 times a day”, but maybe we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water here?

  21. Tricia K says

    I know I have read it somewhere on your site/blog but I would love more information on LDL & HDL after Whole 30 – can you direct me to any good posts? Especially in regard to numbers going up or down due to Whole 30 or Paleo diet. I’ve searched but I’m not finding anything specific – thanks! Love your book & program!

  22. says

    @Martin and Michael, I think you’re both just continuing our discussion in a really helpful, productive way. It’s not the SCALE that’s the problem – that’s just a hunk of metal. And yes, the scale can be used in a healthy, productive manner. But when it’s not (and it’s so often not)… that’s the problem. We’re not suggesting that everyone everywhere never get on a scale. I own one, and weigh myself once in a while. But the number doesn’t make me happy or sad, it doesn’t ruin or make my day, and it’s not an obsession. It’s just a tool. And until it can be just a tool for you, don’t get on the damn thing. That’s all we’re saying. And for some people, the addiction/emotional issues connected to the scale and body weight may mean you never get on a scale ever again. And that would be okay, too.

    @Tricia: Cholesterol is a hugely complex issue. We talk a bit about cholesterol in our book, It Starts With Food (http://bit.ly/whole9iswf), but we can’t address specifics of cholesterol and the Whole30 in any article, as there are a million variables that depend so much on the individual. Chris Kresser has some good, basic series on cholesterol – maybe that could get you started?

    Melissa

  23. Kat says

    I just finished a Whole 30 on June 30, and the scale said I lost no weight! I was SO bummed. But there was evidence that my body had changed… all my clothes fit better… I went to the store and my goal size fit comfortably. A friend even told me I looked really fit – I haven’t worked out in months! So yes, keep your eyes on the prize – better mental and physical health. I have since laughed off the scale episode and I’m still eating great because of how it makes me feel…. wonderful.

  24. L Wood says

    A few sleep changes for me — I don’t know if it’s Whole30, but I think it might be! I don’t have to prop my head up as much at night when I sleep (was coughing in the middle of the night even when I wasn’t sick). And I don’t have anxiety dreams anymore– my dreams have a happier, lighter feeling to them. Going along with that, my face doesn’t feel tired in the morning from jaw clenching all night.