The Remarkable Power of Non-Scale Victories (NSVs)

Tired of your weight fluctuating? The number on the scale does not define you. Non-scale victories are a better and more positive approach to weight loss.Tired of your weight fluctuating? The number on the scale does not define you. Non-scale victories are a better and more positive approach to weight loss.

Accepting Yourself Naked: Non-Scale Victories

Continuing on the theme of Accepting Yourself Naked, today’s topic is non-scale victories or NSVs.

NSVs are wins and accomplishments that have nothing to do with what the scale says. They can be large or incremental.

They aren’t about how much you weigh, they’re about how you feel about yourself. And for that reason, non-scale victories are great benchmarks on the journey to success.

Take weight loss as a goal. No matter how hard you work, your weight may not go down in a straight linear fashion. The scale likes to play a little game of up and down. Weight fluctuations aren’t uncommon.

Lots of things influence weight. The scale may not go down (or up, if that’s what your goal is) from day to day or even week to week. Because maybe you had too much salt last night, or haven’t pooped yet today, or your hair is wet.

Or Uranus is in a triangle with Taurus. You know, whatever.

It’s about the long term trend.

Why Non-Scale Victories Matter

Non-scale victories are about the bigger picture. The scale is only one component of a much larger master plan. It’s merely one data point for measuring success. And it is by no means the most important one!

NSVs show progress in a way the scale can’t. They’re about gaining confidence. The number on the scale is just that: a number. It’s not a definition of happiness or success.

So put more emphasis on the non-scale victories. Achieving them is both easier than chasing a number on the scale, and they provide better metrics for happiness.

Types of NSVs for Fat Loss

My personal goal is to lose fat. I’m using the phrase “fat loss” because I’m not looking to just lose weight. I want to be strong, not skinny! My goal is to lose the fat by gaining strength. The weight will change, maybe. But for me, the bigger impact will be how much stronger I become.

With fat loss come the following types of NSV:

Looser clothing and accessories.

Body recomposition is when you lose fat but gain muscle. People commonly think that “muscle weighs more than fat.”

That’s not true.

5 pounds of fat is equal to 5 pounds of muscle. Just like 5 pounds of feathers equals 5 pounds of bricks. But the fat (and the feathers) take up a lot more space (or mass) than muscle (or bricks). So the scale may not have changed, but suddenly your jeans are less tight. You melted off some fat! But maybe your butt and thighs are meatier (because of all the deadlifts…?). More muscle + less fat = same weight.

But you’re back in skinny jeans!

The same principle applies to jewelry or belts. If you wear a ring, it’s not unusual to notice that it suddenly feels looser. Maybe it even starts to slip off more easily. Or your watch needs to be a little tighter. How great does it feel when you go down a notch on a belt?

All of these are wins.

Exercise becomes easier

This particular NSV is very telling. As cardiovascular health improves, exercise becomes easier. A flight up the stairs doesn’t wind you. Your mile time becomes slightly faster. Your runs get longer, or you spend more time on the treadmill. You can row for longer distances.

With this category of victories, you’ve probably gained some other less visible but no less important benefits. Like lower blood pressure, and a lowered risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes!

That’s kind of a big deal. According to the CDC, 1 out of 4 people in the US die of heart disease every year!

Beating back the risk of a painful death is a huge NSV.

Strength gains

This is another NSV that is a much better metric than the scale.

If you’re a lifter, a major non-scale victory is adding weight to a lift. This is especially true if you’ve hit a plateau.

I remember being stuck at a 195 pound deadlift for a long time. I just couldn’t get past that plateau. When I finally did, 6 agonizing weeks later, it felt like I moved a damn mountain!

That was a monstrous NSV!

There are other strength gains, too. Maybe you can hold a plank longer. Or you’ve mastered a yoga move. Can you carry your kids/groceries/books for longer periods of time? Move boxes? Has your posture improved?

Strength gains rollover massively into real life!

Measurements decrease

This is my favorite side effect of body recomp, probably because it means I can make smaller clothes!

Taking measurements of key areas on your body is a much better measurement of fat loss than the scale. As your muscles grow and the fat melts away, your body mass gets smaller. Remember 5 pounds of muscle will take up less space than 5 pounds of fat, so the area you’re measuring should shrink EVEN IF THE SCALE DOESN’T CHANGE.

Because I sew, and patterns are based on certain measurements, I always have mine on hand. I keep tabs on my high bust, bust, waist, stomach at belly button (not the same as my waist, since I’m short waisted), and hips at the fullest part of my butt.

Doing the research for this post, I actually learned that I have larger hips than both Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez. Talk about a strange but satisfying NSV. I’ve been working on my glute muscles, so my flat butt can perk up. Which means my hip measurement might continue to increase.

I’m really excited about that!

Other NSVs

There are also non-scale victories that seemingly have nothing to do with weight loss/gain. But the confidence that comes from the loss/gain, could actually propel these achievements.

Getting a new job, a raise, paying off a credit card, winning a debate, these are all reasons to celebrate. Maybe you decided to enter an art piece in a show when you were once convinced you weren’t “good enough”? That is an example of huge personal growth!

Personal NSVs

In the first installment of Accepting Yourself Naked, I wrote about my goals for this year, and how I’m training for strength over weight loss. Which is good because I actually gained 30 pounds (13.6 kg) last year. I really didn’t want to gain that much weight, especially after I had lost 20 pounds (9 kg) the year before. But with that weight gain came the following NSVs:

  1. My “fat” jeans now require a belt. Yes, I weigh more, but my pants are looser!
  2. The shape of my legs is changing. They’re starting to show that indentation between the muscles. I can see the outline of my quads even when I’m not flexing!
  3. I added those 30 pounds PLUS another 100 to my deadlift. In January 2018, my deadlift was 125 pounds (56 kg). In October I pulled 250 (113 kg) and in December 2018 I got to 255 (115 kg). I’m on the road to a full 3 plates! (That’s 315 pounds or 143 kg.)
  4. I’m no longer “afraid” of certain weight benchmarks. 225 pounds (102 kg or 2 “plates”) used to feel like a mental block. Almost like a hurdle I had to get over to continue to get stronger. It’s heavy, no doubt. But mentally I was putting additional weight on the bar out of fear. 185 pounds used to be my mental stumbling block. Now it’s just the weight I have to start using a hook grip at. I’ve added 40+ pounds to my mental toughness.

So I’ve got “bigger,” but I also got immensely stronger. Because I’m no longer measuring progress by what the scale says, I’m happier and more confident.

And that’s the entire purpose of a non-scale victory.

How are you measuring success? What are some of your NSVs?



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Feb 5, 2019 10:07 pm

This is a great post. I know I sometimes get caught up in what the scale says even though I know I shouldn’t. I need to pay attention to how my clothes fit instead. Thank you for posting this!

Emily Adams
Feb 6, 2019 2:17 pm

This is so important. I stopped weighing myself for the most part because it was making me crazy. Now I’m measuring body fat percentage (need to get below 35) and things like being able to do an unassisted pull-up as my NSV.

Feb 6, 2019 2:40 pm

Congrats, sounds great. I do like the idea of having personal goals, not necessarily weight loss, monetary etc. but to measure once success against goals that make sense to oneself, and unashamedly embracing these without being pressurised by the media, friends, etc.

Enrique Pasion
Sep 3, 2019 3:34 am

I do appreciate you for sharing these insightful and compelling points of views on Non Scale Victories or NSVs. I do agree with most all your points. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

Fitoru fitness
May 16, 2020 3:39 am

That is truly remarkable! I believe non-scale victories are important. Here’s to more success!