The scale is a powerful tool. When you’re losing weight, it’s oh-so-satisfying to see those numbers go down. But when you’re fresh off a wedding weekend with your college friends in Cabo, stepping on the scale can feel like a form of self-induced torture. (No matter how hard you tried to resist those extra servings of guacamole.)
Luckily, you don’t need the scale to dictate whether your weight makes you worthy of a celebration. Instead, try these 12 tests and tricks to assess your off-the-scale victories — and jump for joy accordingly.
12 Non-Scale Ways to Track Weight Loss Success
1. Track a healthy habit.
Your weight isn’t the only thing that’s a-changin’! Instead of just keeping track of the pounds you’re losing, try keeping a record of all the awesome things you’re adding to your life. “Pick a healthy habit, like eating vegetables with every meal, and track your consistency,” says Brynn Putnam, founder of Refine Method in NYC.
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2. Take progress photos.
Yup, it’s selfie time. Take a photo of yourself — ideally wearing the same outfit, standing the same way, and in the same place — once a month or every few weeks. “This will help you see the changes you might not notice when you’re looking at yourself every day,” says Daily Burn Senior Fitness/Nutrition Coach Chris Mosier. And consider ditching the term ‘before’ and ‘after.’ “Fitness is a lifelong process,” says Mosier. “Saying ‘before’ and ‘after’ implies we’re done. But we’re always improving.”
3. Check in on your skin.
Forget BB creams and freaky-looking facemasks: One of the best ways to get a natural-looking glow is to just exercise and eat well. “People look their most attractive after a workout,” says personal trainer and creator of HIIT! IT Daphnie Yang. “Working out out makes you sweat, which [helps] detoxify the body, ultimately leading to improved skin.” (Just be sure to shower as soon as possible after a major sweat session to avoid pore-clogging buildup.) After a few weeks of exercising and eating a plant-heavy diet, you’ll likely start to notice major improvements in your skin.
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4. Take an everyday activity assessment test.
If you walk up a flight of stairs regularly — the subway steps, for example — check in every few weeks to see how the ascent feels. “I encourage my clients to focus less on the numbers on the scale and more on how they feel,” says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD at the Clinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Dubin Breast Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute of The Mount Sinai Hospital. “Eating real, whole foods and exercising regularly often translates to having more energy throughout the day and less crashing in the afternoon or evening.”
Check in with yourself when you’re doing the things you already do every day — like playing with your kids or walking up that flight of stairs — and compare how you feel today to how you felt a month or two ago. When you reach the top of the flight and you’re not winded or don’t have to stop and “check your phone” (translation: pause to catch your breath), you’re doing it right!
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5. Embark on a benchmark test.
“Benchmark testing consists of doing a challenge and marking down your results, then returning to that challenge in four weeks to retest and see where you’re at,” says Mosier. It can be anything from seeing how many burpees or squats you can do in two minutes to seeing how fast you can run a mile. (Or, and yes we’re biased — trying the challenges in Daily Burn’s Black Fire videos.) “It’s a great way to see progress over time,” says Mosier.
6. Step into your old jeans.
“It’s possible to reduce your body fat percentage and weigh the same, especially if you’re losing fat and gaining lean muscle.”
We all dream of the day we can finally fit back into those jeans we’ve held onto since college (they’re still in style, right?). “If you no longer have to do ‘the dance’ to zip your pants or you recently had to invest in a belt for the first time in years — those are amazing signs of progress,” says Hogan. “Feeling more comfortable in your clothes or going down a size is even more important than the scale, because they’re more accurate signs of fat loss versus the fluid shifts you can see on the scale.”
7. Sit and rise.
The Sitting Rising Test (yes, it’s a real thing) will measure your mobility and balance. The goal is simple: Get down and up from a seated, cross-legged position with minimal support. “To get a perfect score on the SRT — 10 points total — cross your feet and lower down to a seated position, then stand back up without losing your balance or touching the ground for support,” says Putnam. “Each time you touch the ground with your hand, arm, knee, or side of the leg, you lose one point. You also lose one point each time you put your hand on your thigh for support. If you lose your balance on the way down or up, subtract half a point.” Your goal is to get a final score of eight or more points. (It ain’t easy!)
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8. Set a scary goal.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? Commit and start working toward it. “Sign up for a race or try a 30-day plank challenge,” says Jenn Seracuse, Director of Pilates at Flex Studios in NYC. “It’s a built-in timeline and goal, and you can’t help but track your progress while you train.” Signing up for a race comes with tons of victories along the way, like speed improvements and distance accomplishments, too — so be sure to track it all!
9. Phone a friend.
“It’s often harder to recognize and acknowledge positive changes in ourselves than in others,” says Putnam. “Appoint a friend or loved one to be your ‘Compliment Czar,’ and set a daily, weekly, or monthly time to give each other positive feedback.” Keep it totally positive and constructive (no fat talk!), and graciously accept each others’ praise.
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10. Work out with a heart rate monitor.
The great thing about working out with a heart rate monitor is that you can check in regularly throughout your workout (by connecting it with your fitness tracker) or you can just pore over your stats when the workout’s over. “You can see how you stack up from one class or workout to the next over a period of time,” says Seracuse. “Whenever I track a workout, I always want to push a little harder the next time to make it better than my last.”
11. Assess your sleep.
When you’re expending extra energy working out and putting better foods into your body, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep. “Remember when you were a kid and your parents used to tire you out at the playground, and then you’d sleep, literally, like a baby that night? Same thing,” says Yang. Most fitness trackers measure sleep quality, so you can easily make a connection between your workouts and diet and the shut-eye you’re earning.
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12. Measure your body’s other numbers.
If you’re a numbers person, consider tracking your body fat percentage or measurements. (Here are the five best ways to measure body fat percentage.)“It’s possible to reduce your body fat percentage and weigh the same, especially if you’re losing fat and gaining lean muscle,” says Mosier. “While calipers or body composition scales may not be 100 percent accurate, they’ll give you an idea of your progress.” Or consider whipping out the tape and picking a few body parts to measure. “You can generally measure wherever you want to lose weight — waist, hips, upper thighs, etcetera — and take your measurements every month to track inches or centimeters lost.”