Ep. 74: The Healthiest Ways to Measure Progress

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On today’s show, we talk about how to choose the healthiest way possible to measure progress while you’re on a lifestyle transformation journey.


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Episode 74 Transcription

On today’s show, we talk about how to choose the healthiest way possible to measure your progress while on a lifestyle transformation journey.

Cassy Joy: Hello everybody! Welcome back to the Fed and Fit podcast. I’m so excited to have you here today. If you are a new listener, or you do not follow me on social media or anywhere on my blog, then you may not know that I am actually smack in the middle of the first leg for my nationwide book signing tour for my debut printed book, Fed and Fit! It’s so exciting and humbling, and even in just recording this show, my voice feels a little raw, so I think I’m going to have some tea later tonight to kind of help soothe that. But man, it has been just so great. So much fun. I’m having the time of my life, mostly because I get to see you guys face to face! You know, I try to do my best, if you guys email me or you send me a note on social media. I always do my best to respond because I think that’s really important. There’s nothing worse than sending something out into the universe and it going unanswered! So I feel like we’ve made friendships over the years through the internet, and it’s really great to put faces to names. So thank you for coming out to these events; thank you for all of your awesome questions, and for letting me signs your books! {laughs} It’s been so much fun. And really, ultimately, thank you for letting me be a part of your story. It’s an honor.

If you guys are in any of these cities that we’re coming up to; I’ll go ahead and read them off really quickly so you know where we are coming, and if we’re coming to a city near you, we would love to see you! I’m on tour with my travel partner, Diane Sanfilippo, who just published the second edition of Practical Paleo. And it is just a wonderful resource. Diane and I are having an awesome time touring together. You can kind of get an idea in our talks; we kind of put on, since both of us are certified nutrition consultants, we put on sort of a little mini nutrition seminar. So if that’s something that interests you, this is essentially a way to come out and take advantage of that. Grab a couple of books; maybe one for yourself, maybe one for a friend. Support the bookstores that are hosting us; get them signed. They make great gifts and great holiday presents.

Let’s see; I’m looking at the schedule really quickly so I can tell you guys where we’re coming up next. Let’s see, Monday when this podcast airs, the 13th, oh goodness not Monday. {laughs} my days; oh man. I’m in San Francisco right now, and earlier today, I was telling some friends that I stayed on a houseboat here once upon a time for my sister’s graduation; and they were like, oh from what school? And I said Seattle University {laughs}. I thought I was in Seattle and I was in San Francisco.

Anyways, bear with me. Ok, so we’re going to be at the Desert Ridge Barnes and Noble in Phoenix on the 13th from 7 to 9 p.m., so that’s one option if you’re in Phoenix, Arizona. And that stop is actually going to be myself, Diane, and Juli Bauer, of PaleOMG is going to be joining us. Then we’re going to be at the Half Priced Books in Kansas City from 7 to 9 p.m. on the 15th of September, and actually it will be myself, Diane, Juli, and Liz Wolfe will be there for that one. And then the last event with Juli will be Tattered Cover in Denver on the 16th from 7 to 9. And then Diane and I will be in Boulder, Colorado at the Barnes and Nobles Boulder on the 17th from 2 to 4 p.m.

And then if you are actually in Chicago, I will be; we have a signing on the 20th at the Barnes and Noble Skokie from 7 to 9 p.m. So that will be our signing, but I actually have some media booked that morning; or excuse me, that day in Chicago, I’ll be on the WGN mid-day news at around, I believe the noon hour, making some tasty dishes, so tune in for that. And then our last two stops; we have one at the Barnes and Nobles Paramus in New Jersey on the 22nd of September from 7 to 9 p.m., and then our last stop, at least for this leg for Diane and myself, will be in Austin, Texas at Book People on the 24th from 3 to 5. So if you can make it to any of those, please come out. These are a lot of fun, like I said, and we really have a great time, and I’d love to meet you.

Ok, so I’m going to quickly jump into today’s show. This is something that I think is really important, especially in talking with folks on the book tour. I’m noticing that folks are getting started, and I think it’s nice to really cover this particular topic very thoroughly before people embark on; you know, maybe not before. If you’re even in the middle of it, while we’re getting into the context of a healthy lifestyle transformation.

So, we’re going to talk today about measuring your progress in the healthiest way possible. What do I really mean by that? We’re going to talk about measuring your progress. Do we jump on a scale? Do we take before and after measurements? Do we take photos? Or do we just take notes on how we’re feeling? So I’m going to talk about those options, the pros and cons, and then the best practices if you choose one of those four.

Before we get into those, I really want to say that the most important key in all of this is for you to know yourself well. Right? Audit yourself before you even choose one of these things. Because there’s no one right fit for everybody, and it’s up to you to determine what is the best fit for you. So if you know that maybe you’re a person who can become easily obsessed with the scale and a number that you might find on that scale, then I suggest avoiding the scale. If taking before and after photos just feels completely; I don’t know, I’m going to use the word humiliating, but that’s only because I have been there, and that’s the reason I did not take before and after photos. Well then I can sympathize with that as well; empathize. Oh my gosh, I get confused on which word to use! Sympathize and empathize. My sister is always correcting me.

Before and after measurements; I think that there’s a time and a place for those, which we’ll talk about in the notes on how you’re feeling. So know yourself well before you choose one of these methods. And if you choose all of them, that’s fine too, but just know that what you want is for whichever option you choose, you want it to be the most empowering option. You want it to really support your lifestyle transformation; not dictate it. This is really just; these before and afters, measuring your progress, are really just meant to support and encourage you. And if at any point you feel bogged down, or discouraged by them. Like if you hop on a scale and you see that it’s gone up 1 pound, you know, from yesterday and that discourages you and makes you more inclined to go ahead and order that sugary artificial ingredient filled latte and a cinnamon roll the next morning because the scale was up by a pound that morning, then that’s not a very great encourager, and I would say that you need to nix it. Especially if you’re looking for long term success.

So that’s kind of what I’m talking about here. Whether it’s good news, or bad news, or just news; what I really want you to get to is I want you to get to the point where these progress markers, these measuring, these before and afters; I want them to just be news for you. I don’t want it to feel good, necessarily. I mean, it can be encouraging, but I don’t want it to be the only source of encouragement, right? And then I also don’t want it to be bad news constantly. I don’t want you to think that the numbers aren’t moving fast enough. So I think it’s an important topic to tackle, and I’m really going to break it down into these four options. But think about it while we’re talking today, and think about what might be best for you if you’re trying to pick something right now.

Ok, well number one. Let’s go with the first one; the low hanging fruit. If you can’t tell, I kind of have a negative bias towards it a little bit, but I want to talk first about the scale. The bathroom scale, the doctor’s scale; all those scales that tell us how much we weigh. And that’s really how much do we weight on planet earth, {laughs} if we really want to get geeky about it.

Ok, so the pros of using the scale, one of the pros of using a scale is that it is a relatable universal number that you can write down and track. So I’ll give scales that; I’ll give them that one. The cons of the scale are that weight isn’t everything, and I know so many of you listening know that. You know that weight is not everything. A person with a lot more muscle than fat content is going to weigh more, but they might actually take up less space on earth. So you know, it’s all a matter of how efficient is the material in our body.

I actually; to tell you the truth, when I had my major transformation about 5 or 6 years ago, it’s kind of a blur a little bit, but when I had my major transformation when I went paleo, took myself on as my first client, and gathered a lot of lessons learned, the ones that I talk about in the Fed and Fit Project; when I went through that, I lost 10 dress sizes, you guys. That’s no joking matter. My joint pain went away, and the fog, my outlook, and my energy lifted. And those were all huge and tremendous. And to be honest; so I might have gone from a size 12-14 to a 2-4, but I really only lost no more than 5 pounds. I really don’t think I lost more than 5 pounds. And part of that is because I lost a lot of inflammation, my body was very inflamed, and as soon as I reduced those inflammatory foods for me, then my body calmed down a lot and lost inches that way. But I also built muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat. I may have lost some body fat, but I built more muscle, and so my body just moved; it transformed on the inside, and I got smaller and leaner, but the scale didn’t change at all, and if I was only measuring my success by the scale, then it would have been unsuccessful. So weight is not everything.

I also think another con of the scale is that because it is so highly accessible; because they’re so cheap, and they take up so little space, and they’re just so easy to put into our bathrooms, it becomes easy to obsess over using it every day. So if you know that you’re the kind of person that likes to hop on the scale first thing in the morning, and somehow your identity and how good you feel about yourself is tied to that number that shows up on that scale, then I want you to walk into your bathroom, the next time you’re home, pick it up, and go put it in the garbage. Or donate it to Goodwill; that’d probably be a better option, or Salvation Army; whoever. The church; I don’t know. Whoever you want to donate it to. But get it the heck out of your house and out of your life, because you do not need some essentially arbitrary number telling you how good you should feel about yourself.

So, that is my honest opinion about the scale. Now what are some best practices to using the scale, if you do choose to use it and rely on it? I’m going to be really, again, I’m going to be very stark here. I think the best way to use the scale is to use it when you go to the doctor, and that’s it. That’s it. That’s the only reason you really need to use the scale. If you’re trying to lose major body weight; we’ve got a huge transformation to go, we’re looking to lose 100, 50 pounds, whatever it is, then maybe step on one, if you’re really just looking, let’s say your body has already changed and you’ve measured that in other ways, and now you’re curious to know what the number is. When you know that there has been a significant change because you have significant weight to move, that may be appropriate. But again, you could wait until you go to the doctor for that number; it’s not going to dictate a whole lot more after that.

The only other time that it would make sense to use the scale is if you are a weight lifter; I’m thinking of, for example, power lifters, Olympic lifters, if they’re trying to fit into a certain weight bracket, then they need to lose certain pounds. That’s very; that’s a very specific reason. They’re not looking at that number trying to fit into a weight bracket because they’re identity is associated with whether or not they weigh 125 pounds anymore. That’s ridiculous.

And in case you guys are curious; I will be totally transparent with you; I do, I wear a size 2-4 dress depending on the brand, and I weigh, I’m pretty steady at about 135-136 pounds. So you know, I remember in my teens and twenties, my early twenties, thinking that I really needed to weigh 120 pounds. For whatever reason, that was the magic number. What I remember hearing that petite healthy women weighed. And I kind of obsessed over that number for a while, and I just want you to know that there’s a lot of freedom in knowing that you can just feel good and let that be your measure of success. It doesn’t even have to be about the pant size, and I’ll get to that in a little bit. But weight is not everything.

Ok, next up. Another way to measure your success would be before and after measurements. So I’m talking about whipping out the tape measure from the sewing kit, wrapping it around your waist, and your hips, and your thighs, and your arms, and your bust, and whatever else you’re looking to track. So the pros of before and after measurements is that they can be pretty eye opening, and they can encourage progress while changes are happening. So this is; measurements, I think, are probably a little bit more accurate than the scale if you’re actually looking for something like this. So, when I had my huge change, the biggest change for me, the biggest transformation for me as far as all these markers go, aside from how I’m feeling, was in the size of my body. The inflammation, and when that reduced, those numbers changed significantly. My waist and my hips changed significantly.

So, that’s a good one. The cons, of course, of body measurements, before and afters, are that they can be a source of obsession once again, if you are inclined to obsessively measure yourself. So know thyself, here. If you know that you’re going to obsessively measure yourself, then don’t even start. Don’t even start. And just know that even if you had an indulgent night out; let’s say you went out with some girlfriends or some friends from work or something like that, someone had a birthday, and you had some pasta and you split a bottle of wine with somebody and you had a great time. Your tummy might be a little inflamed the next day and you might feel puffy, and jeans might feel a little tighter, and those measurements are going to be different that day. Your body measurements are going to be different. So give yourself some time to heal.

If you’re looking for a measurement that’s going to show progress, then don’t measure until you know that you’ve given your body a chance to de-inflame. So that’s just some best practices there. I also recommend doing them, these measurements, at least 28 days apart from one another. The Fed and Fit Project, at the quickest you can work through it, is 28 days. So that’s 4 weeks. So I don’t think you should; I don’t think folks should be measuring themselves any sooner than that because if the results, the progress if any is going to be pretty minimal. What you want, if you’re looking to just; whether you’re looking just to document it to document it to share with other people, which is a really great reason to do measurements, which is honestly, I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself in that department on the next option, but if you’re looking for numbers to be able to share your progress with others that’s a good time to do it, would be a good 4 weeks afterwards.

Ok, so the next one up is before and after photos. Before and after photos! So this is another way to measure your progress. The pros are that they can be pretty eye opening, and once again they can be encouraging to remind you, especially when your progress slows down, of how far you’ve come. It’s pretty significant. It strikes a really deep chord in me; again, I like to be an open book with you guys. In getting ready for the book tour, I’m working with some folks who are really talented at public relations, and they were asking me if I had any before photos, because I’ve talked about my story a bunch but I don’t really brag; I talk about it here, and I talk about it on tour. But I don’t have a blog post on my transformation yet, I need to, and I don’t post about it on social media near enough; and one of the reasons is because I didn’t really take very many before photos. Because when I wasn’t feeling well, and I wasn’t feeling like myself, there wasn’t this promise of a healthy lifestyle available to me at that point in time. The paleo lifestyle wasn’t necessarily a thing. There was a paleo diet, and then I had to figure out how to turn that into a lifestyle for myself.

I was still lost in the diet world, and I was tired of not having progress, and I never, ever thought that I would be where I am today. Never thought that this really would be my profession when I made the changes for myself at that point in time; so I hid from the camera! I don’t have photos; I don’t have very many photos. And the ones that I do have that are probably the most eye opening of when I was at my most unhealthy are terrible quality, because a friend took a picture of me while I was walking down a hallway and I didn’t know they were taking a picture of me. So I remember I was showing Diane some of the ones I was able to dig up for those public relation folks; I was showing Diane Sanfilippo some the other night, and she was like; that doesn’t even look like you. And it really doesn’t.

So I think before and after photos can be really eye opening. And the reason I bring that up; it’s a pro, and it can be encouraging after you’ve made progress. So let’s say you’ve gone 30, 60, 90, 120, a whole year. I meant those as days; then you go 6 months and a whole year later. You take progress photos at those major milestones in your journey, and then you sit them side by side comparison with your very first one. Because it’s so easy to look in the mirror when you’re in it. When you had that night out with your friends, and you had the pasta and you split the bottle of wine, and maybe you had a bite of cake. It’s so easy to look in the mirror and think, “Well, I just threw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m right back to where I started.”

We as human beings are really hard on ourselves, and I think that having those before pictures and being able to look back on where did we actually start? Where actually did this journey start? And having that visual reminder is really powerful. Because even when I feel like; oh man, I’m trying to think of a more recent example. It’s been a while because I’ve been really, really steady, and I attribute a lot of that to just sleep and hydration and working out and eating; I mean, eating foods that work for me and my body doesn’t feel like a diet anymore, but I have had some fluctuations and of course those old demons surface when I’m looking in the mirror sometimes, because I had my own body image issues. And maybe that’s a conversation for another time that we can definitely talk about; but looking in the mirror and hearing those demons tell me that I’m kind of back to where I started, and it’s just, it’s not true. And it takes looking at those real before pictures to know that it’s not true sometimes. So I want that to be a source of encouragement for folks.

I don’t think that taking photos every day, or every week is actually healthy. Again, I don’t want us to go down that obsessive rabbit hole, so that would be one of the cons is that before and after photos. In addition to a rabbit hole of wanting to take them often and looking back on yourself; another huge con, and again, this is a major know thyself moment, right. If this is something that you know you’re not going to do well with, then don’t do it. Don’t even mess with it. But a potential con of before and after photos is that it can feed a negative body image. So a pro is that depending on who you are in your perspective and your overall mindset at the time, one of the pros is that it could actually help promote a healthy body image, right? It could tell you that you’re actually looking great. You can quiet those demons down.

Now on the flip side, if you actually do have some body dysmorphia going on, and what you look in the mirror is not actually what you see, and if you look in a photo is not actually what you see; you think you see something different. If your body dysmorphia is that severe, then I would avoid photos. I would avoid them. If it’s going to promote more negative self talk, then don’t do it. But if it’s going to promote positive self talk, then go for it. So that’s kind of photos in a nutshell.

Some best practices, again, do them if you need that kind of encouragement, do them if you know that it will promote positive self talk, and then I would say don’t take them any sooner than 30 days later from your beginning, and then after that I would say 3, 6 months, and then one year later would be even better.

Ok, and then the last option is the most benign; it’s definitely my favorite. If you are working within the Fed and Fit Project as written in the Fed and Fit Book and as will be shown in the Fed and Fit Project online; and if you’re curious about the Fed and Fit Project online, that’s going to be kind of the main community hub. It’s more; it’s more support for people who are walking through the project and trying to figure out their ideal; their perfect lifestyle for themselves. The Fed and Fit Project online is going to be really that resource. We’ve got a bunch of videos and bonus resources and a community forum, so you can sign up for when that opens at FedandFitProject.com. Go ahead and sign up for the wait list there.

But anyways, if you’re familiar with the Project, you know probably what I’m going to say next, is that one of the best ways to measure your progress; healthiest ways to measure your progress, is to take notes on how you’re feeling. Literal, actual notes. So the pros of this is this is probably the quickest way to see progress. And quick progress is really encouraging; that’s why we get; that’s why the old psychology of diets is to quickly get on the scale because we want to see quick results because that could quickly encourage us. The scale often lies, though, as we know that now, and it’s going to fluctuate, and it’s going to go up if we’re a little bit stressed or maybe are dehydrated, or just had food that didn’t necessarily agree with us.

So notes on how you’re feeling is actually the best way to mark progress. You know, it might be a little rough at the beginning if you’re starting a paleo lifestyle for the first time, but as soon as that cloud starts to lift and your mental clarity comes back; you know, that’s a huge note of progress. And you could write that down and reflect on it, and know that things are moving in the right direction, so that’s really great.

I would say a con for taking notes on how you’re feeling could be that it’s difficult to measure against any other non-fluid variables. It’s very up to you; you can write about whatever you want to write about; which can be a pro and a con. I put it in the con category just because it could be difficult to share that with others. It’s very easy to share numbers, and it’s very easy to share photos with other people, but sometimes it can be difficult to say; well, my quality of sleep was way better and I was able to concentrate better at work. You know, those aren’t; sometimes those can feel less significant. When in truth; truth be told they’re not. I think those are the most significant pieces of this whole thing. If you’re doing this for yourself, then this is definitely the way to go.

Best practices are to; I think it’s to write these down daily. In the Project; in the Fed and Fit Project, I have these written, I call these lessons learned, and I encourage you to write down at days’ end, whether you journal all of your meals, none of your meals, how much you slept, and how much you drank water, I think it’s important at the end of the day to write down three major lessons learned. And these can be; I learned that if I get 7.5 hours of sleep as opposed to 7 hours of sleep at night, then my energy levels are so much higher throughout the day. You know; those kinds of lessons learned. Those are huge; that’s progress. That’s really great news. That’s really wonderful information, self reflective information to have about yourself, and you should be encouraged by that, that you’re on the path to feeling your best. So that’s really; in order of priorities, those are, the middle is kind of off a little bit, you can choose which way you want to go with those, but the scale, before and after measurements, before and after photos, and notes on how you’re feeling are kind of the options that you have at your disposal. I’m not going to tell you that any one of them are absolutely wrong. I think there’s a time and a place for all of them, but I really think that if you’re looking for ultimate encouragement, I think that taking notes, writing down lessons learned, and determining when you’re really feeling your best is going to be a really healthy, really safe bet.

So, I hope you guys liked today’s show. Be sure to follow along online, of course, and across all social media so you can see what we’re doing on the Fed and Fit/Practical Paleo book tour. And thanks again for listening for today’s episode. Remember I’ve got a full transcript on https://fedandfit.com. If you prefer to read something, or you miss something and you want to share with a friend, it will all be there on the website. Thanks again for listening; I’ll be back again next week.

Meet the Author
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Cassy Joy Garcia

HOWDY! I’m Cassy Joy and I am just so happy you’re here. I’m the founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Nutrition Consultant here at Fed and Fit. What started as a food blog back in 2011 has evolved now into so much more.
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