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Tracking Your Numbers

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I can’t tell you how many times after I started my own healthy living journey I would step on the scale and the minute the number was not what I expected my motivation began to falter. For me, the scale became the be-all-end-all to my success. However, having vowed that I would never diet again, I looked to other benchmarks to help me measure my success.

If you do not currently track these numbers, now may be the time to do so, especially when you are struggling to get those last few pounds off.

  • Blood pressure Blood pressure is the amount of pressure against the artery walls. The systolic reading, or top number, is the amount of pressure within the arteries when the heart contracts in order to pump blood to the rest of the body. The diastolic reading, or bottom number, represents the relaxation phase. Both cardiovascular and strength training exercise has been shown to reduce one’s blood pressure. Here is a link to help those with high blood pressure learn how to integrate exercise into their lifestyle which will hopefully help bring those numbers down.
  • Cholesterol levels By following a well-balanced diet and getting in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week, one may significantly lower his/her total blood cholesterol levels. Exercise has been shown to raise HDL, or good cholesterol, while lowering LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  • Resting heart rate The heart is the most important muscle in the body, therefore when we make our heart stronger via exercise it does not have to work as hard. One sign of an increase in cardio-respiratory fitness is a drop in resting heart rate. To take your resting heart rate, count the number of beats for one minute upon awakening and before any movement. Take your measurement for at least 3 days and then take the average--this is your resting heart rate. For many endurance athletes, such as marathon runners or tri-athletes, when their resting heart rates begin to elevate over a period of time this could be a sign of overtraining.
  • VO2max AKA maximal oxygen consumption responds quite quickly to cardiovascular exercise. VO2max is the highest amount of oxygen consumed during exercise. The higher the number the more cardio-respiratory fit you are. Performing both aerobic and anaerobic activity can increase/improve this number.
  • Body composition For many active individuals body composition can be a better indicator of our fitness quest than the number on the scale. Because muscle tissue is a much firmer, denser tissue compared to fat tissue, you may not see any movement in the scale, but your clothes may become looser fitting.
  • Waist to hip ratio The waist to hip ratio measures your fat distribution--in other words where you store your fat. Studies have shown that those individuals who carry a larger percentage of fat in the abdominal area are at a greater risk for developing diabetes and heart disease versus those who store their fat in the buttocks, hips and thighs. Here is a link to SparkPeople’s Waist to Hip Ratio Calculator. The lower this number the lower your risk for developing heart disease and/or diabetes.
  • Blood Sugar With the rising rate of type II diabetes, many of us need to closely monitor our blood sugar (glucose) levels. Exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity so that the glucose can be ushered into the cells and used for energy. Keeping our blood sugar levels within a normal range can help offset the risk of developing type II diabetes as well as cardio-vascular disease.

    While these numbers won’t do much for how we look, they do have a tremendous impact on our health and how we feel. So the next time you step on the scale, remember that is just one number of many that we need to be mindful of.

    Do you measure your progress by the scale only? Have you been monitoring your success by tracking other numbers? Have you seen these numbers go down as you reclaim your health?

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See more: health changes


I do use the scale but also my blood pressure which is coming down nicely since being on spark. Thanks Report
I am type 2 diabetic. I track my blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. You have to know these numbers if you want to stay healthy. The scale even if you do not like the numbers is your friend. Keep it handy. Report
i am on the scale pretty regularly as well & yes this is what makes me fall off the wagon. i really need to start measuring more often to keep myself motivated. i also do check in with the dr & my blood pressure is completely under control now due to my new lifestyle change & do not have to take any pills! so thanks for the reminder Report
I am on the scale daily and weigh in and measure at Curves every month Report
I use the scale as my main monitor of my progress, but I also use my measurements and test results that my doctor had ordered for me. We just bought a blood pressure machine so will now be keeping track. I want my numbers down. Report
Thanks for putting all of the essential information in a single place. I have saved it to my Favorites. When I tell people I am a type 2 diabetic they are surprised when I tell them I know most of the above listed numbers they are equally surprised. I really wish the schools would at some point address this issue. So many adults are oblivious to these numbers till they get the shock your Blood pressure is too high, or your cholesterol is too high. Children are getting their BP checked ot the Dr's office these days. That is long over due. They will be more aware of their numbers and hopefully that, along with better nutrition education might help curb the obesity epedemic we have today in children. I am going to print this article because many of my friends with elevated BP have no idea how to take their BP the DR says go to the pharmacy and take your BP, Not too many of them do that till they have to pick up an RX. Now with delivery that does not get done. Happily the cost of equipment for home monitoring of BP is affordable and more seniors are doing this. That encourages knowledge about their bodies which in turn equates to awareness of changes that need to be addressed. We all have to take an active part in knowing about our bodies maintenence needs as well as we do our vehicles. That will be a great day. Pat in Maine. Report
Before joining SP i always used the scale as my one source of whether or not I was making progress. I had no patience and of course never lost weight becauseI would give up...what's the point? Now I absolutely know that even when the scale is not moving, I am doing healthy, positive behaviors every day. I have more patience and would not ever think of giving up or going backwards. Report
I have seen my cholesterol go down to where it should be. Report
I totally agree that it's important to "know your numbers"! My numbers are in recommended ranges and yes, they do get skewed when I'm heavier.

Thanks for the reminder that health is about more than the weight on the scale!

Deb Report
I measure progress on the scale & with how my clothing fits. I do not do measurement because I did not get a baseline set at my start date. Report
I measure my progress on the scale and when I have to buy smaller clothes. Report
I watch the scale, but I am now going to start tracking Blood Pressure. I have an appointment with my doctor for my check up and have all the blood work done so I will have a baseline to start with and watch my numbers improve as the numbers on the scale deminishes. Report
Thanks. I too get quickly deflated by the number on the scale. Good to know I am not the only one and glad to have some ideas for other things to consider. Report
Thanks for the information - my numbers are all fairly good, but the scale is never where I think it should be - Report
I weigh daily and check measurements weekly. It can be discouraging when the numbers go up, but sometimes the measurements reflect progress even when the scale doesn't. Report
I measure my waist and hips and found it decreases even though my weight doesn't change much. I know I have gained muscle which accounts for the weight not changing much. Hopefully this will change soon. Report
I weigh every couple of weeks or so (That way, I don't get disappointed if the weight doesn't change one week.). I also check my blood pressure often (mine seems to run a little low...). My doctor usually checks the others about once a year. So far....great. :) Report
i truly hope people read this article close and take it to heart, literaly! Right now i'm on light duty @ my work and am working very closely with the site nurse. she has been a great inspiration we keep each other in check and encourage each other with whatever small progress we make. She's in charge of putting up info on the bulletin board for health topics. the topic coming up that we are working on is blood pressure and hypertension. I've read and studied so much information for her i am well educated now! and when i saw this article i was pleased to see it and felt i had to comment. good luck to everyone! Report
I measure my progress by the scale but also by measurements, & how I fit in my clothes,& my appearance. Luckily, blood pressure,& cholesterol numbers have never been an issue for me, though it has been for many members of my mom's family. I get a physical yearly,& get my TSH levels checked because of hypothyriodism. By exercising consistently , & overall healthier eating I keep myself healthy,& my weight stable. Report
Hello and thanks for the blog. I only wigh in once a week. A few weeks ago I was feeling like I had not lost a pound and the scale was not moving. Yet I decided to measure my body after weighing in and that is when I found out I had lost 4cm at the waist and 3 at the hips. I was thrilled! Suddenly thescla was not so interesting anymore and it definitely did not matter what it was saying. I had other evidence to support my efforts. Report
The scale seems to give more immediate feedback, which helps with motivation. Sometimes waiting for the other numbers to change feels like forever! Report
I know these other numbers are important. A few years ago I reached a plateau in weight loss, so I attempted to track some of the above numbers. Unfortunately, I found that I was trying to be more active and really trying to not to focus on the scale, but not many of the other numbers changed either. Cholesterol, BP, and body comp either did not change or got slightly worse. My weight wasn't changing either. Of course, I wasn't tracking my nutrition at all as I had never heard of SparkPeople. As a result, I got frustrated and gave up.

As of the start of this year, I was back at square one with my weight, and my cholesterol had climbed again. I heard about SparkPeople from a friend at work, and so I set goals and started tracking my diet. So far, I've lost 17 lbs and I am almost halfway to my first weight loss hurdle! For the first time in my life, I can say with confidence that my diet is balanced! I had no clue before. In a month I will go back into the Dr. for blood work. I hope to have positive results there too. I know that I will plateau out again eventually, but now I have SparkPeople to help me decide the next lifestyle change that I need to make (exercise, diet, sleep, etc.) in order to get past it. Report
What's in a number.Just watch your intake, and if the clothes feel alittle looser than I think people shouldn't be obesse with the scale. Report
I do not depend on the numbers on the scale to give me accurate responses. When my clothes are looser, and I have more energy, then I know that what the scale says doesn't have to put a damper on my day!! Report
I'm working on changing the mindset that the scale is everything. I know when I'm feeling good, strong, toned I have more confidence. I need to remember that it's not just about the scale. Report
I still watch my scale results, but have added lost inches and that has made me very happy. I am getting stronger and my slacks are looser and even if I'd like the number of the scale to go down faster and lower, I am very pleased with my increase in strength and well-being. Report
My numbers are all pretty good except for my weight. Report
I do weigh myself each day and was discouraged-no,MAD!-when it wasn't moving! But I have learned at SP that loing INCHES can be just as SATISFYING,if not more so and losing high CHOLESTROL NUMBERS is even MORE SATISFYING than the rest b/c it increases my life ,however long God gives me. So ,weight loss means more than the scale going down to me. :) Report
Rationally, I know that other things besides the scale count. But it's hard. Report
I have been very affected by the scale up and down from day to day. Even when I followed a healthy diet, exercised, and met all my goals and the scale goes up, I am unhappy and get the "why should I continue" attitude. This article is great and I'll put it in my favorites as a reminder of how to measure more global progress. Report
Thanks...This is so true...I feel much better already about myself thanks for the article Report
all of the above! plus my looser pants! Report
Good article! Report
My blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, blood sugar, and waist-to-hip are really good. My weight and body composition, unfortunately, are not... and of course, the last two are the only things noticeable to other people, and that is what we get judged on... Report
I wrote a comment on the next blog, and it ended up here. I see the lady below me did it, too. How weird. Report
An amazing program and much overdue--kudos to Jamie and let's hope this makes a difference. We need it to!!! Report
With the help of SparkPeople I have learned to look at other areas of my overall fitness and health being to see results instead of when the scale doesn't seem to move. I used to rule my whole existence to the scale and talk about obession and depression being best buddies. I refuse to travel that road again- as long as I make it my choice to live a healthy lifestyle the rewards will come and last for my lifetime. Hopefully I will "spark" a few people along the way! Report
I dont go with just numbers, but also how with how I feel also. I do rely on the scales probably a little too much...causes for depression when it goes Report
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