LIFESTYLE

5 Ways To Measure Your Health And Fitness That Have Absolutely Nothing To Do With Scales

Bin them.

16/01/2017 17:18 GMT | Updated 16/01/2017 17:39 GMT

In January, we’re inundated with so many weight loss messages that even the most confident among us can feel under pressure to lose weight.

But being healthy is ultimately about feeling healthy - it has very little to do with a number on a scale.

So instead of getting hung up on what you weigh, why not resolve to monitor your health and fitness in a more positive light during 2017?

Here are five ways you can track your progress after throwing those bathroom scales in the bin. 

1. Energy 

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According to dietician Dimple Thakrar, spokesperson from the British dietetic association, taking note of whether you feel sluggish or full of beans can be a key indicator of your overall health. 

“Energy levels both low and high can be a symptom of blood sugar levels dropping and sudden rises,” she tells The Huffington Post UK.

“So tiredness, fatigue, lack of motivation and concentration often occur if we are running on empty.”

She adds that a lack of energy can be caused by not eating for over four hours or by missing complex carbs, such as wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice, from our diet.

“Carbs are the main and preferred fuel for the brain and our bodies. So in today’s trends of following low-carb diets, people often complain of lack of energy and low mood,” she says.

“That is because it is like running a petrol car on diesel. The car is not going to go very far with the wrong fuel for the job.”

She says the key to maintaining a high level of energy is eating three regular balanced meals that are evenly spaced throughout the day, which contain complex carbs, protein and plenty of vegetables and salad, plus two small, healthy snacks between meals.

2. Sleep

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If you’re unable to get a good night’s sleep, it could be a sign that you’re not experiencing peak health and fitness, says Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy.

“Sleep is affected by our physical, psychological and mental health. If our sleep patterns alter then it is important to have a look at what might be going on in our lives,” she tells HuffPost UK. 

“Are we dealing with higher levels of stress than we are used to, are there any other physical symptoms such as sweats, headaches, weight loss?

“If you are concerned speak to your doctor who will be able to advise on the best course of action.”

She says you can take positive steps to improve your quality of sleep in 2017 by avoiding alcohol and stimulants such as cigarettes, chocolate and drugs before bed.

She also advises not eating late in the day and keeping well-hydrated.

“Clear your head before bed,” she says. “Listen to soothing music and, importantly, leave your phone downstairs.”

3. Mood

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According to Dimple Thakrar, mood is very closely linked to healthy eating and fuelling your body correctly, therefore if you’re in a good mood it can be a reflection of good health.

“There are key nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and linseeds for example, that benefit brain function,” she explains.

“However, no one food will contribute to improved mood. It is about following a healthy diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables, having wholegrain cereals regularly and ensuring meals are balanced and eaten regularly throughout the day.”

In contrast, feeling in a bad mood or on a short fuse can be a sign you need to make some lifestyle changes.

“Losing your temper can occur if blood sugars are running low and the key to managing or avoiding this is to ensure meals are eaten regularly that contain high fibre and wholegrain complex carbohydrates, like granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice,” she says.

“This in turn will not only regulate your blood sugars, but ensure you get all the essential nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins, and folate, for optimum brain function and mood.”

If you’re feeling low you could also try to up the amount of exercise you do in order to release more mood-enhancing endorphins.

4. Skin

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Dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass describes skin as a “mirror that reflects what is going on inside your body”.

“It is the biggest organ in the body and one of the easiest to examine,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“It should therefore come as little surprise that it can be the first place that indicates all is not well inside.”

With hundreds of different potential skin problems, Dr Glass says there are multiple signs on your skin that may indicate you’re not experiencing peak health. Two of the most common problems are pallor and itchy skin.

“If your skin is pale you may be anaemic,” he says.

“This is best shown on the mucous membranes e.g. your eyelids, but can also be elsewhere on your skin - pale palms of the hands in small children may also suggest the child is anaemic.”

He adds that itchy skin can be an indicator that there is a problem elsewhere in your body.

“If your thyroid function levels are too low your skin can be dry and itchy. Low thyroid function may also cause hair loss,” he says.

“Other possible causes of itchy skin include abnormal liver or kidney function, low iron levels and rarely, certain cancers of the blood can cause your skin to be itchy.”

If you notice a persistent complaint, visit your GP or a dermatologist.

5. Strength 

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Leo Savage, personal trainer at Third Space Tower Bridge, says gaining strength gets you one step closer to discovering your physical potential while positively enhancing your mental strength.  

He points out that strength training can help you gain a leaner physique, boost metabolic efficiency and reduce fat to change your body composition, but won’t necessarily help you lose weight. 

“Muscle is more dense than fat, [leading to] the perception that it weighs more than fat,” he says.

“In truth, the same weight of muscle will take up far less space than fat and is a lot leaner and firm. Lower body fat contributes to a far more efficient body.”

He points out that staring at the scales will not offer a fare reflection of your composition, as scales can’t differentiate between fat and positive muscle gain.

“As you exercise more and become stronger, inevitably you will gain muscle and lose body fat,” he says.

“This may or may not make a difference to your overall weight on the scales, but will make a difference to your physique.”

Savage recommends completing squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses to increase your strength. 

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