By now, you’re either conquering a list of New Year’s resolutions, aiming to get back on track, or ignoring the concept altogether. Regardless, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is something most of us aspire to, simply because it feels better. And whether we like it or not, traditional measures like weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels remain a popular way to gauge our health and fitness.
For some, stepping on a scale and seeing the numbers spelled out can be effective for keeping weight on track, but it’s also potentially dangerous for those who struggle with mental health, body image issues, or diagnosed disorders. Plus, some people simply aren’t fans of measuring goals this way, or only step on a scale at the doctor’s office for a yearly check-up.
According to Thumbtack Personal Trainer Kaitlyn Noble, there are a number of alternative habits that can ensure your weight is manageable and, better yet, keep you happy and motivated.
Jot down these daily to-dos and get ready to live your best (and healthiest) life—no scale required.
Think Nutrients, Not Calories
Leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes are just a few of the healthy bites that should have prime real estate on your plate; about half of it every meal, to be exact. “Our bodies think in nutrients, not calories,” says Noble. “By ensuring that we are flooding our body with the minerals and vitamins it needs, it will feel satisfied with less food.”
This one’s a no-brainer, but as most experts preach, proper hydration is crucial for metabolic function, glowing skin, and digestive function. One of the many benefits is reduced belly bloat. “Aim for at least half of your body weight in ounces each day, plus more if you’re exercising,” says Noble.
Increase “Natural” Movement
Although dedicated exercise time—like going to the gym or doing yoga—is a great idea, simply moving around throughout our day is arguably more important. “If you study the healthiest and leanest cultures around the world, you’ll find very few clocking hours in a gym,” says Noble. “Instead, their work is physical, they stand often, and they spend more time outside moving around. Aim for a bare minimum of 10,000 steps a day, but more is better.”
It’s a relief to see more influential brands and people promoting healthier self-image ideals, but it should be a way of life for all of us. Noble says, “Regularly shaming ourselves diminishes long-term motivation to look after our bodies. By building a healthier dialogue with ourselves, we’ll boost confidence and create a desire to make better choices.” (Pro tip: If you spend a significant amount of time on social media, start by following inspirational ladies like these.)
Get Eight Hours of Sleep
“Lack of sleep affects everything from hormone production to appetite and fatigue,” all of which can lead to weight gain over time. If you want a closer look at the quality of your snooze fests, consider downloading an app like Sleep Cycle, which measures the amount of “deep sleep” you’re actually getting.
Keep Stress in Check
We know it’s easier said than done, but don’t sweat the small stuff! “Chronic stress can cause adrenal issues, which can result in blocking your body from losing weight and even cause you to gain,” says Noble. “Meditation with an app like Headspace is a great way to practice mindfulness and calm the mind.”
Treat Yourself in Moderation
What’s work without a little play in between? While having a strict and healthy diet is obviously beneficial to maintaining a healthy weight, Noble notes that it’s OK to have your cake, too. “This may seem counterintuitive,” she says, “but loosening the reigns and indulging from time to time can prevent the desire to binge on forbidden foods.”
Noble also says that instead of counting every calorie or macronutrient, write down your foods with a different goal in mind—how the food made you feel. “Over time, you’ll notice patterns, like certain foods making you tired or cranky, and the motivation to make better choices will come from your own intuition, instead of a prescriptive one-size-fits-all approach.”
Sometimes it’s less about changing the foods you eat and more about shifting how you eat the foods already on your menu. “Slow, down, chew every bite carefully, and set aside all distractions like television when you eat,” says Noble. “You may notice you’re full before your plate is empty, or that you don’t actually enjoy the taste of a processed food you thought you loved.”