There’s a huge sense of accomplishment in being able to say, “I’ve lost 120 pounds.” There’s a whole different sense of accomplishment when you get to live the results and rewards of being healthy. The life I’ve gained from losing weight makes the number on the scale the least exciting thing about it. I’m able to be so much more intentional, present and involved in my own life. I’m doing things and having experiences that, at one point, I never thought would be able to do.
Non-scale victories are ways to measure progress aside from the reading that your scale gives you in the morning. After all, your value as a person, your experiences, success and the light you bring to the world can’t be measured by this.. And the way you feel about yourself shouldn’t be either. Separating success, failure, worthiness and all of the other feelings that come with the scale is made easier when you have non-scale victories that show us that we’re still making progress even if the scale isn’t moving. Non-scale victories also help us to shift our focus from numerical values of how we perceive our bodies to finding value in our bodies because of the things they enable us to do. They’re things that are worth celebrating because they mean you’re moving towards your goals regardless of your body’s overall mass.
Some of the things on my list may seem simple and not really all that exciting. They’re things that people who have been doing them all of their life take for granted. But for people like me who’ve been obese since childhood these things mean that a whole new world has opened up. These things meant that my body was transforming into a strong, capable, healthy one. The scale didn’t tell me I was those things, my experiences did. They’re “I did it!” moments that were the positive reinforcements I needed to my drive to keep going.
Once I realized that my weight can’t hold me back from living my best life anymore, I carped the diem out of these last two years. Even from the beginning, I started taking advantage of every opportunity I could to do things finally. Now I’m showing you what my top non-scale victories were.
1. Seeing My Collarbone for the First Time
This sounds silly, but I know a lot of people can relate to this. I’m not aiming to ever be able to see every bone in my body, but seeing my collarbone for the first time in a picture was, well, awesome. I was 30 pounds down and I remember the exact picture I was so elated over. I can’t remember the last time I had seen or felt my own bones on my own body.
As I continued getting healthy other things surprised me too, like the first time I was leaning against a wall and realized my shoulder hurt. Or the first time I was told I had a bony butt, the first time I could wear a regular sized bracelet, the first time I realized I could see my knuckles in my hands, the first time I could feel my hip bone.. You get the point. None of these things happen when you’re extremely obese and they’re all brand new experiences.
2. Getting to Hike and Enjoy it
When I was about 40 pounds down, I was physically fit enough to go hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park. Before I made my health a priority, I avoided physical activity at all costs. Vacations were not spent exploring the outdoors. Hell, even when I was home I wouldn’t go places unless they had a parking lot because I didn’t want to walk more than I had to. It was painful and uncomfortable. My back, ankles and knees would hurt after a few minutes. There were so many opportunities I missed now that I know how much I love being outside and how spending time being active in nature makes me feel.On this trip, I felt so great about how I was doing, had so much energy from the way I was eating and, for the first time, and truly enjoyed moving my body. If I would have listened to the scale, the number I was at at this time probably would have told me that I was still too heavy to hike. It was a huge non-scale victory to do something my body felt capable enough to do, regardless of how much I weighed.
3. Sizing Down in Scrubs
At my heaviest, I stopped being able to fit into my size 3x scrub tops. They became way too tight around my stomach and my arms. The seams would dig into my upper arms and leave marks. I had to start wearing plain colored t-shirts and men’s 2x zip-up sweatshirts from Old Navy. My pants were 2x and tight.. And we all know scrubs aren’t meant to be skin tight.The coolest thing was seeing my scrubs gradually start getting looser and looser. My coworkers would comment and tell me they think it’s time for new scrubs or tell me I could use what I’m wearing as a tent if I went camping. I’d constantly have to yank my pants up and retie them as tight as I could. Then when I had enough of that, I’d size down and start the process of watching THOSE get looser and looser all over again. It was crazy satisfying going from not having any in your closet in a size that fit you to not being able to keep your britches up.
I was also so self-conscious about having to put on isolation gowns at work. If you work in a hospital, or have even gotten near one, you’ll know how many patients are in isolation precautions from some antibiotic resistant strand or another. When I put on these gowns and moved around in them, I’d hear them rip in places, most often under the armpits or in the neck and shoulder area even though they were one-size-fits-all. I stopped tying them in the back to allow myself some extra space to move around. The isolation gowns made me painfully aware of how big I was while I saw all of my healthy coworkers being able not only tie them, but to wrap the ties around again to tie them in the front of their bodies. It’s not even a big deal and there’s no real reason to do it, but it was a sort of novelty experience when I realized I was able to do it. It was a tiny little non-scale victory that was just an, “oh, that’s pretty cool!” moment.
4. My First Half Marathon
Running my first half marathon was the most exhilarating experience ever. It was 13 miles of internalizing how amazing my body is, how far I’ve come and how proud of myself I am. Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of accomplishment I didn’t know I could feel. It was such a major non-scale victory to me because it said so much more about my determination and dedication than my weight did.
5. Fitting into a dry suit
Previously, I was never able to do things that required wearing provided clothing or had a weight limit. Standard issued, one-size-fits-all things weren’t large enough for me. This is often an extremely embarrassing situation for overweight people. It’s mortifying to be excluded from doing something in front of a whole group of people because you’re too large. It kept me from experiencing a lot of things and pushed me further into allowing myself to sit on the sidelines of my own life.
A huge non-scale victory for me was when I was able to easily fit into the dry suit required to dive or snorkel through the continental divide that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The water comes directly from a glacier and is 2 degrees Celsius. It’s also a long swim in extremely deep water. Because of this, participants must be in good health and physical conditioning. There’s a ton of required pieces of clothing swimmers are required to wear – 3 layers of dry suit material, 2 types of gloves, 2 layers of special headgear, really tight water seals around the neck, etc. All of this equipment was provided by the company.. And I was able to wear it.
It was after the whole experience as I was removing all the gear that I recognized how awesome it was that I was just able to do that. It was the most incredibly beautiful and once in a lifetime opportunity and I just did it. I realized that if this was a year earlier, I wouldn’t have had that experience. It was such a rewarding non-scale victory because the health I had worked for, not just the number on the scale I’d achieved because of it, is what allowed me that unbelievable experience.
6. Seeing My Family Get Healthier
Although my Nana would disagree, she’s getting better and better with age. While I was getting healthier, she had joined a gym with her sister and was investing in herself more. My Dad’s weight, diabetes and blood pressure was out of control and despite walking 10+ miles a day, he wasn’t losing weight. He asked me to go grocery shopping, give him resources and support once he saw how the changes I’ve made were affecting my own health. My Mom just finished her first Whole30.
I didn’t tell or even ask them to do any of this. My results, energy level, new lease on life had done the talking for me. I’ll never be one to badger people into making better decisions when it comes to their health because I know that I needed to be ready and get to that place for myself too. So being a part of the reason that the people I love are making healthier choices is one of the best rewards that there is.
My Grandpa is still eating a mini apple pie every day but I have hope. 😉
7. Rock Climbing & Kayaking for the First Time
Having all of these new things to try that I couldn’t before has not only been fun, but it’s helped me learn more about myself. I’m able to explore new hobbies and activities that I never could do when I was extremely heavy. Rock climbing was one of those experiences. I never would have been able to haul all 300 pounds of myself up a huge wall. It was super rewarding to not only do something for the first time, but also be able to keep challenging my body in new ways to see what it’s capable of. Kayaking is something I always wished I could do. A few summers ago I looked up the weight limits and saw that it was 250 pounds. I was well over that. In Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, summers are spent on the water. All of my friends would go up north or spend the day on one of the many lakes within Minneapolis to kayak. I’d often drive by a lake and see tons of people out soaking up the sunshine and getting in a good arm workout, feeling bad for myself because it’s something I don’t get to do because of my size. Once I was below the limits, getting to do this for the first time was one of my favorite things that happened that summer. I knew I would love it and I was right. I was instantly hooked and go all the time now.
8.Wearing a Tank Top & Swimsuit in Public
I honestly do not remember the last time I wore a tank top or swimsuit in public before. It’s been years. I didn’t even own a swimsuit when I was at my heaviest or at all until I bought the one I have now. You can be any weight to wear either of these two articles of clothing and I love seeing people embrace their bodies at any size by doing so.
But for me personally, this made me extremely uncomfortable in my skin.. And extremely uncomfortable in warm weather. I constantly was trying to hide my body. Everyone would always ask me, “Aren’t you hot?!”, and I would always tell them I was fine. I spent years being silently miserable in the summer when I was outside or avoiding leaving the indoors to do anything. It also means I sat out of a lot of fun things that my friends did that involved water, like going to the beach.There’s no weight restriction for wearing tank tops or swimsuits in public so this was a non-scale victory for me because I finally was confident enough and okay with me enough to do it. It had nothing to do with the number on the scale determining how I felt about myself and everything to do with me determining how I felt about myself. So, so rewarding to do something that I once would never, ever in a million years been comfortable doing.
9. Wearing a Winter Jacket for the First Winter in Years
Just like always being too hot in the summer, in the winter I basically froze to death. Finding a jacket that fit me was next to impossible. The one I did own was a size 3x from the men’s department at Fleet Farm because women’s jackets were hard to find that large and the ones that I did find didn’t fit me very well. My arms were always too big for any jacket sleeves. I was always envious of my friends who had cute winter coats, dress coats, snowboarding jackets, etc. I never wore the jacket I owned because I felt like it made me look huge and because sitting down in it was difficult. So I went without. I remember many times at outdoor events when I was miserable in just a sweatshirt.
10. Wearing a Dress for the First Time, Second Time and Third Time Ever.
When I was heavy I would always tell my friends, “I don’t wear dresses”, that I don’t like them or that they’re not my style.
All while wishing I could be that girl and being jealous of the cute dresses they wore on nights out, to events or just on nice summer days. I never could do that because of how I felt about my body. I never went to my high school proms or junior high dances because the thought of wearing a dress in front of all of my friends and peers was the most mortifying, anxiety and embarrassment inducing thing ever.
When all of my friends went out, I was the only one not wearing a dress. I always felt out of place. I didn’t own one and hadn’t worn one since I was probably 10 years old or younger. I never fantasized about my wedding dress and when the topic came up with my friends, I would hope none of my friends would ask me to be in their weddings.When I was around 50 pounds down, I was feeling so good about myself that I wore a dress for the first time in my adult life. I still wore leggings and a sweater over, but it was a huge victory for me still. I felt so beautiful that night in my dress and just remember having such a fun evening without one worry about what I looked like. Since then, I’ve worn dresses on a few more occasions. They’re still a little difficult for me to shop for, but I enjoy that I’m in a place where I’m confident enough to wear them after all of these years of avoiding things that show my shape.
11. Not Being Able to Carry the Weight I’ve Lost
This is a non-scale victory for me because it was a realization of how much healthier I am now. The fact that I can’t even carry the amount of weight I was forcing my body to carry every day was really gratifying. I realized as I lugged a 60 pound backpack how hard I had been on my body for years, carrying twice the amount of that backpack. I was headed down a path towards many health complications simply because I packed on so much weight onto my frame. As I struggled to carry around that backpack, putting it down every chance I got, I physically felt how hard I had been making my body work. Feeling the *literal* weight that I carried around that’s now gone gave me the awareness of the seriousness of what I put my body through and then the sense of relief knowing that I’m reversing any future health issues.
There’s so many more experiences that I’ve had throughout this journey that are non-scale victories than just these ones. Things like fitting on an airplane, taking my dog for long walks, not being uncomfortable in a backseat, not snoring anymore when I sleep, riding roller coasters.. I could go on forever. These are just a few of my favorite memories that being healthy has helped me to make.
What are some of your non-scale victories or what are some that you’re looking forward to?