I have officially been back on the healthy train for two months now. And in those two months I have lost exactly 20 pounds. I have done this largely as a result of following a Whole30 lifestyle.
However, Whole30 is not really concerned with weight loss. In fact, if you follow the rules, you should not weigh yourself at all while participating in Whole30. So I packed away my scale the first time I completed a Whole30 and I think it was the best thing I could have done.
Numbers on a scale do not define success.
But numbers get people’s attention. Numbers get my attention. I will say over and over again that a number does not tell the whole story, but it does contribute to the story.
That 20 pounds that is off of my body, that’s 20 pounds that my joints had to carry around every step I took. That’s 20 pounds that was eating up my energy and the resources I was putting into my body to fuel it. That’s 20 pounds that I no longer have to account for in my daily life. That’s a big deal!
So how do we come to a healthy balance of knowing the scale isn’t everything and knowing that it does mean something?
For me, a lot of it comes down to goal setting. If all of my health goals are based on numbers going down on a scale, then yes, I will be super concerned with those numbers and base my view of success around them. But if we can expand our goals, I think we start to achieve balance.
How do I set healthy goals?
1) I define my “why”
Why do I want to lose weight?
I want to have energy to live my life. I want to work throughout the day without a 3 o’clock pit of despair (my totally non-dramatic way of describing what usually happens to me mid-day). I want to have energy to play with my kids when they get home from school. I want the energy to cook a healthy meal for my family. I want to be able to keep my eyes open to enjoy my husband after the kids are tucked in at night.
I want ALL DAY energy!
I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I’m not talking about wearing a specific size, just to feel like I can move and sit and live life in comfort.
I want to fit into small seats. This became a big motivator for me on one of our flights a year ago. As I buckled the seatbelt around me, I realized I was dangerously close to not making the “click”. Around the same time we started our first Whole30, we also booked a dream vacation for our family the next year that would require me to be able to fit into rides and buckle safety belts. That vacation is still four months away and continues to be a big motivator for me.
I wanted to heal some health problems I was experiencing that I was pretty certain were linked to my diet. I made a list of all the things that felt slightly off—or even way off! Many of these issues have cleared up at this point, and that’s great! But I keep a running list of things that may or may not be related to what I put into my body.
And most importantly, I want to gain a healthy perspective on my body. As a Christian, I believe this body that I live in is important. I believe God created it in His image. I believe Christ died for it. I believe the Holy Spirit indwells it. I believe my physical body is important to God. And I believe that I can take care of this body as an act of worship to Him.
Looking at this list, I have quite a few “whys”.
Maybe you have one big one. Maybe you have more than me. But have you ever sat down and actually written them out? Can I encourage you to do that right now? Open a note on your phone or grab a pen and a piece of paper.
Actually take the time to physically define why you want to lose weight or get healthy.
2) I set measurable “non-scale” goals
These goals relate directly to my reasons I set out for wanting to be healthy.
My Why: I want to work throughout the day without a 3 o’clock pit of despair.
The Goal: Eliminate my afternoon cup of coffee.
While I cannot physically measure my energy levels, I can know weather I got to the end of the day without multiple cups of caffeine. (This is a goal I’m still working on by the way.)
My Why: I want the energy to cook a healthy meal for my family.
The Goal: Cook 5 meals at home this week.
This is measurable. It gives me some room to have left overs a few nights or go out if it’s just one of those days, But it sets the goal to eat at home which usually means healthier meals. Right now I probably cook six meals a week on average. It’s something that I actually enjoy and try to make a priority.
My Why: I want to feel comfortable in my clothes.
The Goal: Be able to easily button my jeans the first time I wear them after washing.
You know what I’m talking about here. There’s that false sense of excitement you get when you think your jeans are getting too big and then you wash them and suddenly “they shrunk in the dryer”. Yeah, it happens to all of us.
My Why: I want to gain a healthy perspective on my body.
The Goal: Memorize scripture that relates to this area.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is a great place to start:
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Write verses on notecards and tape them around your house, screenshot verses and make them your phone background. Do what you need to do to keep this journey in an eternal focus.
I won’t go through all my goals, but I think the picture is clear: Turn your vague “whys” into measurable goals that don’t mention numbers or require stepping on a scale.
3) I don’t tie my scale goals to a calendar date
I wanted to lay all that out first, but I also want to be honest that I do set scale related goals for myself as well. But I don’t link those goals with a certain time frame.
For example I don’t say, I want to lose 50 pounds by summer. I can control what I put into my body and how much I move my body, but I cannot control how quickly my body responds to that. So if I say I want to lose 10 pounds a month and I only lose 8, that’s failure. And losing 8 pounds should never be considered failure!
So instead I usually write out my weight descending 10 pounds every line.
For example, if your starting weight was 200 pounds, you would write:
And then I come up with a reward for each milestone.
This reward is not linked to seasons or clothes. So I don’t say I’ll buy myself a pair of flip-flops when I lose 20 pounds, because I might reach that in December. I don’t say I will buy myself new jeans when I lose 30 pounds because I might need new ones when I lose 15 and they still fit the same after I’ve lost 30. The number on your scale does not equal your body composition and does not predict the areas you will lose weight in.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Some rewards I have set in the past include: a manicure/pedicure, new book, sunglasses, massage, or a new piercing. They could build up to something big like a weekend away. I think it’s important to think of these rewards ahead of time and have them in mind.
I set my rewards at ten pounds because I have a larger number I want to lose. (Also my rewards usually cost money, and I need time to save up that money in between rewards.) But if you have a smaller amount you want to lose, set your rewards every five pounds or every two pounds. Or reward yourself every week that you stick to your healthy eating plan weather you lose weight or not.
Just please don’t reward yourself with junk food. That makes no sense.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I found myself at one point deep in grief and heavy in weight gain. Since that point about a year ago, I have lost almost 50 pounds. That’s incredible! But it has actually been such a long year of back and forth, that I did not even realize that until I just looked back at my notes from when I first started and wrote out my goals and rewards.
Again I will say, write these things down.
You think you will never forget how you feel or that number on the scale right now. But you will. When you start changing your habits, you start creating a new normal, your body starts feeling different, and you forget that it used to hurt to move that way. Your scale gets stuck at a new weight and you forget that it used to be stuck much higher than that.
Nothing is as encouraging and motivating as remembering how far you have already come.
And if you haven’t even started yet, let me encourage you with how far I have come. I haven’t arrived where I want to be yet, but that’s okay—it’s not a race, it’s a journey. It’s not about weight, it’s about health. It’s not just about physical health, it’s about total health. And I’m committed to continue on this journey. Even if it’s a year before I lose another 20 pounds, that’s okay.
The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
Subscribe at the bottom of this blog to continue on this journey with me, and then tell me your ‘why’ in the comments below. I’d love to hear it and gain some encouragement from you as well.