Beyond the Scale: Why Focusing on Weight Alone is Sabotaging Your Health Journey
Improving overall health is commonly associated with losing weight, but unfortunately, healthcare professionals and individuals tend to solely focus on the amount of weight lost, or lack thereof. This narrow focus can create difficulties and frustrations when trying to achieve better health.
A narrow focus on weight as the sole measure of success can be counterproductive, potentially leading to disappointment and giving up. Instead, research has demonstrated that it's vital to shift the focus away from the scale and appearance and towards positive behaviour changes and non-scale victories to achieve long-term success (1). Also, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, weight or body mass index, are not always accurate indicators of health (2). By solely concentrating on weight, individuals may overlook other crucial aspects of health, such as physical activity and a balanced diet. Small weight fluctuations are normal and expected, so it's crucial to consider the bigger picture of health rather than weight alone.
To achieve and maintain good health, it is crucial to adopt sustainable positive behaviours. Minor alterations to one's eating and exercise habits can lead to significant weight loss and improved health over time. You can attain remarkable results gradually by implementing small changes, such as substituting processed meat with whole plant-based foods for one meal daily and reducing sedentary activities. It is not only more gratifying to take pride in your positive choices each day rather than waiting for a specific weight goal, but it also helps sustain your motivation."
Achieving non-scale victories, such as enhancing health, boosting energy levels, uplifting mood, and building self-esteem, can help you maintain weight loss. Studies suggest that individuals who prioritise non-scale victories are more likely to sustain their weight loss long-term (1). Hence, by concentrating on multiple factors that determine health and well-being, you can not only enhance your overall health but also lose weight sustainably.
Below are some ideas that you can choose from when you consider how you are going to assess your progress:
- Can you move your body with more ease?
- Are you stronger than you used to be?
- Are you feeling more confident to wear certain clothes?
- Do you feel more comfortable in your clothes?
- Do you have more energy?
- Are you sleeping better?
- Are you able to focus better?
- Do you feel happier or more content?
- Are your medical markers (e.g. blood pressure or blood tests) better?
- Have you increased the variety of whole foods you are eating?
- Are you consistently meeting your movement goals?
- Do you feel that the choices you are making are in line with what you value?
- Are you behaving like the person you aspire to be?
Think about something that is important to you and take some time to reflect on it regularly. This could be a quick five-minute reflection each night before bed or a longer consideration on a Sunday morning. Don't forget to write it down.
- Poulimeneas D, Anastasiou CA, Kokkinos A, Panagiotakos DB, Yannakoulia M. Motives for weight loss and weight loss maintenance: results from the MedWeight study. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2021 Jun;34(3):504-510.
- Tomiyama AJ, Hunger JM, Nguyen-Cuu J, Wells C. Misclassification of cardiometabolic health when using body mass index categories in NHANES 2005-2012. Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 May;40(5):883-6.
- Duvivier BM, Schaper NC, Hesselink MK, van Kan L, Stienen N, Winkens B, Koster A, Savelberg HH. Breaking sitting with light activities vs structured exercise: a randomised crossover study demonstrating benefits for glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2017 Mar;60(3):490-498. doi: 10.1007/s00125-016-4161-7.