It's Jenna J Blog, 8 Ways to Measure your Fitness Progress that have Nothing to do with weight

8 Ways To Measure Your Fitness Progress That Have Nothing To Do With Weight

This post is cross-posted from our amazing sponsored trainer Jenna J. You can find Body Positive trainers like Jenna on our Body Positive Fitness Finder.  Read the original post on Jenna's blog here. 


The other day I was talking with a new client who finally had what I like to call the “eff this I’m done moment”. It’s a magical moment when you decide that you no longer want to spend your life perpetually pursuing intentional weight loss. I had this moment for myself a little over two years ago. Before that, I was spending most of my time and energy tweaking my food and exercise trying to find that “missing piece” that was gonna change everything. Constantly trying to “lose the last 5-10lbs once and for all”. Or trying desperately to hang on to whatever sort of progress I had made by way of food restriction and overexercise. I finally decided to give it all up when I realized it wasn’t “working” anymore.

As it turns out, you can eat all the kale and do all the sprints and still develop health problems.

In my case, hypothyroidism. Which makes it pretty impossible to control your weight (not that it’s all that easy to begin with.) These days, I feel like my purpose in life is planting anti-diet seeds in the minds of everyone I come in contact with. As much as I want everyone to stop making their life’s goal to shrink themselves, I respect that everyone has their own individual journey. Coming to this realization takes time. But when I do encounter someone who is ready to pursue something other than weight loss, I want to have a celebration. It’s way more fun for me as a trainer. So you can imagine my delight when my new client came to me and said:

"Eff this I'm done"

(Keto was the last straw for her.) The next question she asked me was a good one.

"So how do I measure my progress if I'm not using the scale or a before/after photo?"

There are a number of ways you could look at this. The obvious answer being: you don’t. You could just move for the sake of moving joyfully. Which is certainly a wonderful place to be. But I realize that for certain personality types (myself included), that’s just not going to fly, especially not at the beginning. Because when you decide to stop entering your calories into MyFitnessPal or measuring your worth by how many workouts you did, you’re left with a void. A gaping hole in your life. Like what do I do NOW? Sometimes you don’t even know what you actually like to eat or how you like to move anymore.

Giving up the pursuit of shrinking yourself does not mean "letting yourself go".

It does mean letting go of some habits that weren’t as healthy as you might have thought. When it comes to letting go of attachment to your weight, I’m not talking about replacing one vice for the other. I don’t necessarily think it’s any better for your mental health to give up the scale and replace it with the tape measure or selfies of your butt or obsessively trying on clothes from 15 years ago. It could certainly be a step along the way. But when you’ve really had the “eff this I’m done moment” you’ll know because you’re ready to see the potential harm in defining your worth with things like: transformation photos, your waist measurement, your pants size, your body composition, etc. So how the heck do you measure your progress?? I got ya covered:



Think of something that you are currently not able to do, but would like to. Then set out to learn how. For a lot of the women I work with this could be as simple as learning how to start strength training or what exactly to do at the gym besides use the cardio equipment. If you’re more experienced, maybe it’s learning a new piece of equipment: for example kettlebells if you normally use dumbells. Boxing if you’ve always been a runner. Aerial silks or self defense? What do you want to learn?


Try something that scares you a little. It doesn’t have to be as epic as skydiving (though it certainly could be!) The fear of box jumps can be very real for a lot of us. Confession: Even I get a little nervous when I go somewhere new to try a class for the first time. Sometimes showing up is the hardest part. How could you put yourself even slightly out of your comfort zone today? Go do it! I bet it’ll give you a huge rush.


One of my favorite stories of all time is my grandma (Gram) and her “smoking ring”. She wanted to quit smoking and decided to save the money she would have spent on cigarettes. Later she put her savings towards a beautiful diamond ring. I see that ring as a symbol of perseverance and growth. Did you spend a lot of money on a WW membership or a ton of time counting calories? Put that time and money towards something you can get excited about. Not into jewelry? Maybe it’s a vacation? A personal trainer like me??? A new hobby? (In my case, it was my blog!)


Let’s face it. Humans only have so much will power. When your life’s focus is losing weight, it requires a lot of discipline. It takes a ton of mental bandwidth to track steps, macros, inches and pounds, and leaves you little time and energy for other things. If you fear “letting yourself go”, what if you just let yourself go in a different direction? How could you use that newfound brain space to create a new habit? Some of my favorites have been: Starting a meditation practice. Trying to cut back on the mindless time I spend on my phone. Getting more sleep. Reading books for fun.


Often times we pursue “health” from a purely physical perspective. We focus trying to eat “perfectly” or doing what we think is the best kind of exercise. We think that if some is good, more must be better. (False!) Too much of a good thing can be really detrimental to other areas of our health. You could focus on mental and emotional health: how can you reduce stress? Would it help to see a therapist? Social health is fun! Make more plans to hang out with friends. How else can you take care of you?


This is an acquired skill for a lot of people. It’s something that we were born with, easily lose touch with. Especially if you’ve been a lifelong dieter and are used to suppressing your actual needs with rice cakes or raw almonds. Learning intuitive eating is one way you can start to repair your relationship with food. And as much as I hate to sound cliche, yoga can be a really big game changer when it comes to listening to your own body’s needs. However you choose to approach it, learning to tune into your true needs is a skill that takes time and effort. Improving your ability to do this counts as a major win.


One lesson that’s often super tough to learn is that you don’t necessarily need to work harder to see improvements in your fitness. In many cases it’s about working smarter. When you’re coming from a background of working out 24/7, the last thing you need is a challenge to make yourself do more. If you’re like me and have a hard time letting yourself take a rest day, you might find that working on this is something you can count as a small win. Every time you let yourself rest or make some less intense movement choices, give yourself a gold star. For some of us, this can be harder than the toughest workout ever!


Once you’ve learned a new skill, aim to get better at it! While I don’t recommend trading the number on a scale for the amount of weight you can lift, it can be a good stepping stone while you start to work on some of the other ideas listed above. Being able to lift a little more, or feel less winded, or fall fewer times can be a major confidence booster. A few reminders on this one: remember that progress isn’t linear. You will have good days and bad days. You will have days where you can’t do anything at all. Being “better than yesterday ” every day is an impossible myth. Get excited to see yourself make progress and remember that you can always grow in a different direction if you find yourself getting stuck.


I hope these ideas opened your eyes to some new ways to measure your progress that don’t involve being hyper-focused on numbers or your appearance. It might not be the “sexy” choice right now, but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be better for your overall well-being. It will help you to create a healthier and more relaxed relationship with exercise too.
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