If you’re on a weight loss or fitness journey and are part of any sort of online support, you’ve heard – well, actually you’ve seen – the term “NSV.” A non-scale victory is any positive change you’ve noticed that doesn’t directly relate to the scale. It can be a dress fitting better, zipping up that old pair of jeans you couldn’t squeeze into a month ago, a compliment from a co-worker. It can be making good food choices at a barbecue, drinking all the water, staying away from fast food, throwing away the Halloween candy – anything that doesn’t involve that dirty rotten liar of a scale.
Because the scale can be a bitch. I don’t own one, and I’ve said before that I truly don’t believe I would have continued this healthy lifestyle, wouldn’t have made it a lifestyle, in fact, if I’d been weighing myself from the beginning. I stand by that statement. For women, at least – I’m not a man and my husband subsists on pizza and tacos yet maintains a steady weight of 143 so he’s no help, and yes, that is fucking infuriating, thank you – the scale is designed to beat us. It’s counterproductive. When I did Weight Watchers successfully, I lost somewhere between two and four pounds a month. Which is great. But here’s the thing – it took me months to realize I was actually losing consistently. I pulled out my old book just for shits and giggles and took a look at my stats over the course of a month. After I regained consciousness at realizing how much heavier I was now than my starting point ten years ago – it’s totally normal to gain sixty pounds even though you haven’t had kids, right? – I still had to take another look at the numbers.
The first week, I was down one pound. The second, I had gained four. The third? Down seven. Then the fourth, back up three pounds. So for the entire month, I lost a grand total of one pound. But I rejoiced at the seven pound loss, despaired at the gains. I changed things around every week based on what the scale said. When I had lost, I tried to keep doing what I was doing, but could rationalize that extra low-fat chip or bite of pizza. When I gained, I not only beat myself up, but tried to cut calories more, which resulted in the inevitable “I’ve been good all week I deserve a cheeseburger,” meal. Rationalization is never a good thing, and the scale makes you rationalize both good AND bad, which is super counterproductive. And when your hormone levels and cycle can give you up to a ten pound swing like mine does two weeks out of the month, there’s no way to beat it.
So I only weigh myself occasionally. As I don’t belong to a gym, my number on the scale isn’t very definitive; I weigh myself every couple of weeks or so, when I happen to be at someone else’s house. So it’s even more of a swing; different time of the month, different clothes, different scales, the whole thing. The overall trend, however, is consistently down, other than one time when I weighed at two different places within a week.
All of that being said, however, I’m still human. It’s not like I’ve become some person completely immune to wanting to be near my high school weight, and I do get discouraged occasionally – usually right after one of those scale encounters – because with all of the changes I’ve made, I feel like it should be more. This feeling is exacerbated because this time around, I really am doing the right thing, I really have made this a lifestyle as opposed to a diet. I don’t count calories, I don’t count points, I don’t even really count carbs. I eat a lot of the same things, so I have a general idea of where I’m at, and if I make something new, I run it through MyFitnessPal just to make sure I’m not way off on the nutritional info. (Sidenote? It is astounding how much food knowledge I have acquired. Apparently actively trying to lose weight for your entire life does have some advantages.) I eat about 90% clean and allow for a little wiggle room and the occasional treat, but for the most part? I’m healthy as fuck.
So after weighing in at my parents’ over the weekend, I was a little disappointed to see no change from the week before. It’s been almost six months – with all of the changes I’ve made, how have I only lost 15 pounds? And right here? Is where the NSV’s come in.
At this time last year, a Sunday might look like this: Get up around nine or ten, either eat a plate full of some delicious, macaroni-and-cheese-based leftovers or head to McDonald’s for my favorite, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal – large, naturally – and lay down on the couch. This was ostensibly to watch a movie or some TV, but within a half hour, it was a nap that might last until noon or one. It’s Sunday, right? Day of rest and all that. Then we would sit outside and maybe barbecue, have some beers, and I would spend a good portion of the time hoping that no one suggested going anywhere because it was so hard for me to walk. (I also suffered from self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, which has since disappeared.) If we needed anything from the store, I would beg and barter with my husband and friend to go so I didn’t have to, because it took me so long to walk there and back and carrying anything more than myself up our stairs exhausted me. Then I’d eat a big old dinner – baked potato soup being my favorite – and immediately fall asleep. This was normal.
Can I tell you about this past Sunday? This past Sunday, I woke up at eight. I brushed my teeth and washed my face, grabbed my backpack and keys, and headed out on my bike. I rode three miles to the beachfront, then biked the lakefront path another two or three miles before realizing that the gale force winds that were making my ride enjoyable were going to make it equally unenjoyable on the way back. I turned around and the wind was so strong I could barely make the pedals move, but I powered through and rode all the way back. (It sucked. So much.) Then when I got home, I made myself a protein shake and headed back out on the bike to the store. Did I mention I live on the second floor and have to haul the bike up and down the stairs? In the past, that alone would have made me not willing to go anywhere. Sunday, I not only carried mine up and down twice, but – for reasons too stupid to explain here – had to haul my buddy’s bike up the stairs as well. His bike is approximately as big as me and is apparently made of solid steel. I’m pretty sure it weighs at least a ton. In the afternoon, we went to a festival, and while I certainly indulged a bit, I did it while standing, never once having to sit down and never once having to ask everyone to slow down walking because I couldn’t keep up. I was so happy.
It’s these everyday things that make me realize how far I’ve come. Not a number on the scale. If I could magically be at my “goal weight,” but have to eat and feel the way I did last year, I wouldn’t do it. And that? Is the biggest victory of all.
Except these pictures. These help too.