non - scale victories infographic

Non-Scale Victories to Celebrate Your Health Beyond Weight [List of 50+ Examples]

Are you tired of measuring your health and success solely by the numbers on a scale? You’re not alone! 

Shifting focus from weight to non-scale victories can radically transform your perspective on health and self-worth. 

In this comprehensive guide, we explore non-scale victories and why they are important. Additionally, I provide over 50 empowering examples and explore how to set your own non-scale goals.

Let’s dive in!

Non-Scale Victory Meaning 

Non-scale victories focus on how you feel, health markers, and how your body functions rather than the number on the scale, body composition, or appearance.  

Non-scale victories celebrate the positive changes you experience, such as having more energy, improved strength, better sleep, less anxiety, improved digestion, etc., as a result of adopting healthy habits.

While some consider how clothes fit as a non-scale victory (citing that muscle takes up less space than fat), it’s not considered a non-scale victory. It’s a more nuanced topic that I’ll delve deeper into later in this post. 

Why are Non-Scale Victories Important?

While weight loss goals are often the norm (or even celebrated), they come with risks that can undermine our health and goals. Non-scale victories can help us shift our focus to something more sustainable.

1. The Misconception of Weight and Health

Health is a lot more complex than weight alone.

People often conflate weight with health. The idea is: 

“If I lose weight, I’ll be healthier and feel better, and if I gain weight, I’ll be unhealthy.”

In reality, you can’t tell someone’s health or how they feel by their weight. 

Health behaviors, such as eating a more nutrient-dense diet, incorporating regular movement, attending to mental health needs, doing regular preventive health checkups, creating a better sleep schedule, etc., have a much bigger impact on health outcomes than weight alone. 

Weight loss as the primary goal can create problems. 

When weight loss is the main objective, it can be difficult to acknowledge positive changes in health behaviors or improvements in health markers if the weight loss isn’t happening. People might get discouraged and give up on these healthy habits because they feel like “they aren’t working” even though they’re actually beneficial.

Weight loss as the sole goal can also obscure the true purpose of healthy habits. 

For example, if the ultimate goal is to improve health, and weight loss is seen as the only way to achieve that, it can lead people down unhealthy paths. They might resort to using unregulated supplements, following extreme diets and exercise routines, purging, or even smoking cigarettes to try and force weight loss. Obviously, these behaviors all lead away from improved health, but it can be easy to get swept into a weight loss fad under the guise of health.

2. Weight Loss Doesn’t Work Long-Term for Most People

Weight loss is unsustainable long-term for a majority of people.

While it’s hard to know the true statistics (given the complexities and ethics of this type of research), some weight loss programs have reported a long-term (2- 5 years) success rate of only ~5% (1, 2). More optimistic researchers have suggested a long-term (1 year – which is not long-term, IMO) weight loss success rate closer to 20% (3). 

Why don’t you ever hear about this? 

Diets are a business. 

The weight loss and diet industry was valued at a staggering $192.2 billion in 2019, and it’s projected to continue increasing (4). 

Weight loss may happen initially, but after time, it becomes unsustainable, making you believe the diet was successful and it’s your fault it didn’t work… you just need to try a little harder next time. 

When a diet fades into obscurity after failing to deliver long-term results, it often reemerges with a new name, a fresh coat of marketing, and promises of revamped methodologies. 

Each rebrand offers a renewed sense of hope, which generates lots of $$$ for the companies packaging these diets. With before-and-after pictures, success stories, and ‘new science,’ they create powerful allure…  the idea that maybe this time, things will be different.

This recurring pattern benefits the diet industry, ensuring a constant influx of consumers.

The diet industry exploits insecurities, promises unattainable hopes and dreams, and consistently repackages the same promises to keep people coming back—what a business model!

3. The Risks of Weight Loss 

While we often hear warnings about the dangers of weight gain, the potential downsides of weight loss are rarely discussed. There’s also a misconception that these risks only affect people with a lower BMI, but they can affect people at any weight if they are undernourished. 

Dieting for the goal of weight loss often leads to disordered eating (5). In fact, one study found that dieting was the most important predictor of developing an eating disorder in teens. Teens who dieted moderately were 5x more likely to develop an eating disorder, while people who dieted extremely were 18X more likely to develop an eating disorder compared to non-dieters (6).

Other potential consequences of dieting for weight loss include:

  • Adaptive thermogenesis
  • Thinning hair
  • Decreased immune system functioning
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Poor sleep
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Menstrual cycle disturbances
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Overvaluation of body weight and shape
  • Fatigue
  • Body composition changes
  • Weight gain
  • Social isolation
  • Micronutrient deficiencies 

4. Physical Appearance, Body Image, and Self-Objectification

It’s okay to want to change your appearance; most of us do in our appearance-obsessed society, and it would be unrealistic to say not to care at all. 

The problem is when it displaces other needs and goals and distracts from true healing.

The Myth of Weight Loss as a Cure for Body Distress

Many people believe that losing weight is the key to feeling better about themselves and more confident in their skin. This belief is largely due to societal beauty standards, weight stigma, and weight bias.

While weight loss might provide a temporary sense of control, external validation (praise, compliments), or fitting into narrow beauty standards, this relief is fleeting. 

Dieting creates a false sense of progress because body image actually has very little to do with how the body actually looks.

 It’s a bandaid, not a cure. 

You can improve your body image without changing how you look, and similarly, you can change how you look without changing how you feel about your body.

When you solely focus on weight loss, you neglect the internal work that leads to lasting change. 

The Connection Between Body Image and Healthy Habits

Body image and how we treat ourselves are deeply intertwined.

When you focus solely on weight, you’re trying to change the body from its current state into something “better.” 

Being so focused on external factors (the number on the scale or physical appearance) and believing your body isn’t good enough as it currently is can contribute to a negative body image and self-objectification (meaning you view your body as an object for the viewing pleasure of others and believe your value comes from how their body looks over how it functions and feels).

The way we feel about ourselves influences the way we eat and move our bodies

Negative Body Image and Health Behaviors: When you feel bad about your body, it’s hard to care for it and stay consistent with healthy behaviors. Poor body image is a risk factor for depression and anxiety, eating disorders and disordered eating, risky behaviors to change body (steroids, smoking cigarettes, diet supplements or medications, fasting, overexercising, etc.), reduced quality of life, poor academic or work performance, low self-esteem, isolation, etc. (7, 8, 9, 10 )

Positive Body Image and Health Behaviors: Conversely, when you feel better about your body (or neutral about your body), you’re more likely to treat it well and take care of its needs. This is associated with increased physical activity and Intuitive Eating and reduced disordered eating, dieting, and cigarette and alcohol use. Additionally, it is associated with higher self-compassion, life satisfaction, and happiness and decreased negative emotions such as depression (11, 12).

4. The Power of Intrinsic Motivation 

Psychologically, the quality of motivation is more important than its quantity. Motivation can broadly be categorized into extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, which occurs on a scale (13, 14). 

Extrinsic Motivation: Short-Term Gains, Long-Term Challenges

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors, like:

  • Changing your appearance (losing weight, building muscle)
  • Seeking approval from others (doctor’s orders, partner’s expectations)
  • Avoiding negative feelings (shame, rejection)

While extrinsic motivation can get you started, it often fizzles out. Here’s why:

  • Focus on the External: Extrinsic motivators often create a disconnect from the activity itself. You’re focused on the outcome, not the experience.
  • Negative Associations: Extrinsic motivation can be linked to shame, pressure, and anxiety. This can lead to negative feelings about exercise and healthy habits.
  • Fleeting Results: When the desired outcome (weight loss, praise) isn’t achieved quickly, extrinsic motivation can wane, leading to inconsistency and quitting.
  • Disordered Eating: In some cases, extrinsic motivation to change appearance can lead to unhealthy eating habits as a quick fix.
  • Exercise Avoidance: The shame and anxiety associated with extrinsic motivation can lead to avoiding exercise altogether.

Intrinsic Motivation: The Fuel for Long-Term Success

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s about connecting with the inherent value and enjoyment of an activity. Intrinsic motivation focuses on:

  • Values: Aligning exercise with your core values (e.g., keeping up with grandkids, exploring new places on adventures)
  • Health Benefits: Understanding how exercise improves your physical and mental well-being (cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety)
  • Positive Feelings: Enjoying the way exercise makes you feel (improved mood, energy levels, strength)
  • Enjoyment of Movement: Finding activities you genuinely enjoy, like dancing, hiking, or team sports

The benefits of intrinsic motivation go beyond consistency:

  • Increased Satisfaction: When you’re intrinsically motivated, exercise becomes a source of enjoyment and satisfaction.
  • Rest When Needed: You’re more in tune with your body’s needs and listen to the signals to rest and recover.
  • Positive Body Image: The focus shifts from appearance to appreciating what your body can do.

List of 50+ Examples of Non-Scale Victories 

non-scale victories infographic

Physical Health Improvements

  1. Lowered blood pressure.
  2. Improved cholesterol levels.
  3. Better blood sugar readings.
  4. Increased stamina during physical activities.
  5. Enhanced flexibility.
  6. Improved digestion. 
  7. Less joint pain.
  8. Stronger grip strength.
  9. Improved breathing or respiratory function.
  10. Decreased resting heart rate.

Dietary Changes

  1. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
  2. Drinking more water daily.
  3. Successfully reducing caffeine intake.
  4. Cutting down on alcohol.
  5. Cooking at home more frequently.
  6. Developing mindful eating habits.
  7. Enjoying a new recipe.
  8. Listening to and honoring hunger and fullness cues. 
  9. Eating all foods without guilt. 
  10. Learning to read nutrition labels.

Fitness and Endurance

  1. Increasing distance on a walk, jog, or run.
  2. Completing a fitness challenge.
  3. Increasing the weight lifted at the gym.
  4. Trying a new sport or activity.
  5. Improved performance in a specific sport.
  6. Being able to exercise without feeling exhausted afterward.
  7. Increased number of push-ups, sit-ups, or other exercises.
  8. Faster recovery time after physical exertion.
  9. Consistency in workout routines.
  10. Mastering a yoga pose.

Mental and Emotional Health

  1. Increased overall feelings of happiness.
  2. Less anxiety in everyday situations.
  3. Improved stress management.
  4. Better coping strategies.
  5. Higher self-esteem.
  6. More patience and calmness.
  7. Reduction in mood swings.
  8. Less reliance on comfort eating.
  9. Fewer depression symptoms.
  10. Feeling more optimistic about the future.

Lifestyle and Other Benefits

  1. Sleeping through the night without waking up.
  2. Falling asleep faster.
  3. Waking up feeling refreshed.
  4. Reducing or eliminating the need for sleep medications.
  5. Not needing a nap during the day.
  6. Going to events with food without anxiety
  7. Feeling confident in food choices when going out to eat
  8. Less binge eating
  9. Appreciating your body for what it can do
  10. Focusing less on appearance and more on function
  11. Improved concentration and focus.
  12. Feeling mentally sharper.
  13. Reduced feelings of brain fog.
  14. Improved academic or professional performance.
  15. Developing a style that reflects your personality.
  16. Being in more pictures without the fear of how you’ll look

Why The Fit Of Your Clothes is Not a Non-Scale Victory

While some people include how your clothes fit in non-scale victories (citing the reason being that muscle appears different than fat), I don’t classify this as a non-scale victory because it’s still related to appearance and keeps you focused on external variables such as how you look.

Bodies change throughout life. How your clothes fit today is different from how they fit 10 years ago, and that’s OK. Instead of trying to fit your body to your clothes, it’s more important to buy clothes that fit your body and are comfortable. 

How to Set Non-Scale Goals

When you start a diet, weight loss usually isn’t the *true* end goal. 

Hear me out: It’s not the weight loss that people are chasing. It’s what being in a smaller body brings – such as acceptance, improved health, increased desirability, etc. 

Reflection:
If a genie magically appeared and could grant you the body you want, what does that bring you? Write down or envision all the outcomes of being in a different body (with no judgment, just observation). This will look different for everyone. Some possible outcomes may be:

  • Improved health
  • Improved confidence
  • Increased belonging or acceptance 
  • Improved fitness
  • Less joint pain
  • Less oppression or weight stigma
  • Increased knowledge about nutrition, health, fitness, etc. 
  • Increased energy
  • Development of discipline 

Action Steps: 

  1. These are just some possibilities. Write down all your desired outcomes, rank them from most important to least important, and choose your top 5. These are your true goals. And all of these can actually be pursued without waiting for weight loss.
  2. From your list of 5 reasons, brainstorm achievable goals to reach your desired outcomes. For example:
    1. Outcome: improved cardiovascular endurance. You actually accomplish this through cardiovascular activity, not weight loss. Even people in a smaller body can become deconditioned, and the way to improve cardiovascular fitness is the same regardless of size: start slowly increasing your cardiovascular activity (with clearance from your MD if necessary).
      • Example Goal: go for a 20-minute walk on Tuesday and Friday evenings after dinner around the neighborhood. 
    2. Outcome: improved health. Health can be pursued at any size regardless of weight changes. People of any size can incorporate more fruits and vegetables, reduce or seize alcohol, cigarettes, or drug use, engage in more movement, attend to mental health, build social connections, etc.
      • Example Goals: Add a serving of vegetables to dinner 3 nights this week and schedule an appointment with a therapist this month. 
    3. Outcome: reduced joint pain. Joint pain is caused by SO many factors and is incredibly complex. People of all sizes can experience joint pain, and there are many effective treatments that do not involve weight loss. In fact, weight-bearing exercise and lifting heavy weights are often recommended to smaller-bodied people as a way to strengthen joints and reduce pain – so why would heavy weight lifting improve joint strength for a smaller person, but being in a larger body is “bad” for joints? (hint: weight stigma in healthcare)
      • Example Goal: Schedule an appointment with a weight-inclusive physical therapist who can create an exercise plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Weight is not a behavior. Focus on the behaviors that lead to your desired outcomes.

Need help on this? Working with a weight-inclusive dietitian can help!

10 Non-Scale Goal Ideas to Get You Started 

  1. Increase Sleep Quality: Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night by establishing a regular sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
  2. Improve Body Image: Practice body appreciation exercises and challenge negative thoughts about your body.
  3. Manage Stress: Develop healthy coping mechanisms like journaling, meditation, or spending time in nature.
  4. Improve Cooking Skills: Learn how to cook a few healthy meals you can easily incorporate into your weekly routine.
  5. Daily Physical Activity: Take a 20-minute walk every evening after dinner for the next week
  6. Increase Social Connection: Schedule at least two social activities per week for the next month to enhance social well-being and reduce feelings of isolation.
  7. Regular Movement Breaks: Take a five-minute movement break every hour during workdays for the next two weeks
  8. Increase Vegetable Intake: Include a serving of vegetables with dinner every night this week.
  9. Increase Water Intake: Set a goal to drink a certain amount of water each day and carry a reusable water bottle with you.
  10. Cut Back on Alcohol: Swap your nightly glass of wine for a non-alcoholic beverage. 

If Not Dieting for Weight Loss, Then What?

You may be thinking, if not dieting, what is there?

….Because if you’ve been presented with dieting and weight loss as the solution to all your problems your whole life, it can be hard to see any other way.

Intuitive Eating: an Alternative to Dieting

Are you ready to give up dieting and start living a healthier and more liberated life? 

Intuitive Eating is an alternative to dieting that can help you achieve your goals and live in alignment with your values. 

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, weight-neutral approach to eating that works to heal your relationship with food and body image. 

There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating that work together to either help cultivate attunement or remove barriers to internal biological cues (hunger and fullness cues)

Instead of a goal of weight loss, like diets, Intuitive Eating is about health gain. 

Weight loss diets use restrictions and rules to change your body into something “better” and are typically driven by self-loathing and shame. 

In contrast, Intuitive Eating is about tuning into your body’s internal wisdom to honor, nourish, and respect your body and is driven by self-compassion and values.

Intuitive Eating helps you to:

  • Enjoy your favorite foods without feeling guilty
  • Feel more in control around food
  • Find your stable weight and support a healthy metabolism
  • Stop binge eating
  • Learn to deal with emotions like boredom and stress without turning to food
  • Stop skipping events where food is served
  • Improve digestion
  • Have more energy and focus
  • Spend less time thinking about food, weight, and diets

….and so much more!

Interested in getting started with Intuitive Eating?

Free Intuitive Eating Guide image

Final Thoughts 

I hope this post provided some clarification and motivation on setting some non-scale goals and celebrating all your non-scale victories along the way!

If you’re interested in learning more about body image or Intuitive Eating, be sure to check out some of these other blog posts: 

If you’re looking for personalized support,  I offer one one-on-one body image and Intuitive Eating counseling services to help you find food freedom and body confidence. My one-on-one services are tailored to your specific needs and concerns. We work to develop a plan together that will help you achieve your goals and fit into your life. Whether you’re looking to break free from the diet cycle, overcome emotional or binge eating, or start treating your body with respect and kindness, I’m here to help!

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