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What are non-scale victories and why should they be acknowledged?

During any weight loss journey, especially after weight loss surgery, it can be easy to quickly zero in on one thing: what does the scale say? How fast can I reach my goal weight?

Success cannot be defined only by what the scale reads, especially when your weight may differ depending what scale you use. Think about how you feel when the number goes down: joy, excited, motivated, celebratory. When the number goes up: panic, defeated, angry, negative. This cyclical pattern can present more stress and forgetting about the bigger picture. Non-scale victories (also known as NSV) come in a variety of forms to track progress to help you reach your health goals that have nothing to do with the scale. Simply put, the scale is definitive, objective, and easy to track. Non-scale victories help to diversify goals and celebrate milestones throughout your weight loss journey.

During an initial surgical assessment, I often hear patients say "I can't wait to weigh (x)" or "I'm looking forward to dropping (x) pounds." That's where I jump in and explain NSV. Here are some examples of what I hear patients share after surgery:

  • Clothes fitting loser (specifically bra size and jeans)

  • Off medications (saving money? Another non-scale victory!)

  • Comfortably fit into the driver's seat (thighs no longer touch the car steering wheel)

  • Walk longer distance without shortness of breath (less joint pain? Another non-scale victory!)

  • Ability to keep up and play with grandchildren (that one just warms my heart)

  • Better self confidence to go on a first date

  • Improved relationship with food

  • No longer a "hard stick" when giving blood because focusing on adequate hydration

If you're having trouble stepping away from weighing yourself daily, get your home scale out of sight. Hide in a closet and bring out once a week or biweekly. Don't leave it laying on the bathroom floor where it's convenient to step on before your morning shower. Take that time to acknowledge and pride yourself in achieving a non-scale victory.

As you would track your weight, it's important to track NSV. You could journal, take pictures, share with a friend, or reward yourself. Reward(s) could be buying a new piece of clothing, signing off the computer early for a self-care afternoon, getting a new house plant, or catching up with a old friend.

When I meet with patients, I really don't spend a lot of time calculating weight loss. I want to dive into conversation and learn about all the successes/challenges a patient is encountering after weight loss surgery and offer my advice. If you focus more on non-scale victories, the pounds will naturally take care of themselves. You're shifting your mindset to a healthier you, progressing in daily choices and sacrifices, and building behaviors that are lifestyle changes.

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