Health is about so much more than the number on the scale.

By Julia Malacoff
September 10, 2018

While the scale can definitely be a useful tool in weight management, there are so many other things that matter when it comes to your health. (That's probably why so many women are taking the "don't know, don't care" approach to the scale.)

But even if you do weigh yourself now and then, it's undeniable that there are other health "wins" that can be more meaningful than your gravitational pull on the earth (aka your weight).

Enter: Non-scale victories (NSVs). What are they? Well, they're all the victories-big and small-that happen when you take care of your health that are totally unrelated to your scale weight. And those? Well, they're seriously inspiring.

Here, 11 women share the NSVs that changed their lives for the better.

I got healthy without medication.

"After attending the health fair at my office, I was told I have high cholesterol and should start taking medication to manage it," says Ashley LaMar, a 36-year-old who lives in Missouri. "I didn't want to be dependent on a medication for my health when I knew natural changes to my diet and activity level would achieve the same end result if I put in the work. Three months after our health fair, my cholesterol is under control and I'm healthier than ever-and I never needed to fill a single prescription."

I stopped playing the numbers game.

"I recovered from an eating disorder 20 years ago, so my freedom today as a 40-year-old woman comes from not caring about the size of my clothes or weighing myself, but by feeling healthy, strong, and confident in my body and my mind," explains Kelley Kitley, who lives in Chicago. "I finally love myself!" Part of feeling healthy and strong comes from revamping her exercise routine to better serve her. "As a retired distance runner, I've found an easier, softer way through yoga and cross training."

I gained muscle definition.

"I began to notice serious upper-body definition-at age 63," says Gail Conidi, a SHAPE Goal Crusher who lives in Illinois. "Anything is possible if you work hard and persist!" (BTW, here's why some people have an easier time toning their muscles.)

I returned to hiking after major surgery.

"My NSV was when I was finally able to strap on my baby and go for a hike," says Jennifer Rohe, a 31-year-old based in Washington. "Last November, after the birth of my daughter, I developed a condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy, which resulted in me having to get a heart transplant in January. With the help of physical therapists and cardiac rehab, and now working out at least five times a week, I went from not being able to stand by myself to hiking miles with my little girl on my back."

I lost inches, not pounds.

"I've been working out and eating healthy for over 25 years and always getting on and off the scale," explains Miriam Amselem, a 52-year-old who lives in Florida. "But when I incorporated lifting weights into my weekly routine, I noticed the scale number going up, while my measurements were going down. My clothes started fitting better, and I lost two dress sizes. To me, this is a huge victory and that's why I no longer trust or need to look at the numbers on the scale."

I kicked a toxic relationship-with food.

"For years, I had a love/hate relationship with food that was largely dictated by the number on the scale," says Dayna Kurtz, a 42-year-old based in New York City. "What I learned, finally, is to place my focus more squarely on how I eat rather than simply what I eat. I began to eat more mindfully, limiting other distractions and placing my attention on the meal in front of me. Mindful eating helps keep my weight in check more easily, and brings more joy and contentment to my relationship with food." (Related: Here's How to Make Mindful Eating a Regular Part of Your Diet)

I set a state record in powerlifting.

"But that's not the real victory," says Jessica Parker, 26, who lives in North Carolina. "I stopped comparing myself to others. Instead, I started being proud of myself, loving my body, and most importantly, loving myself. I started lifting because I didn't like the way my body looked. I was focused on losing weight and 'toning.' That changed very quickly, because powerlifting changed the way I thought. I became capable. I became strong. I threw away my scale and I never looked back." (Related: This Woman Swapped Cheerleading for Powerlifting and Found Her Strongest Self Ever)

I gained muscle and confidence.

"Finally getting multiple pull-ups and being happy with weight gain because it was muscle-a lot of it!" says Taylor Winkelman, 34, a SHAPE Goal Crusher based in Washington, DC. "Being functional for my sport (trapeze), is so much more important to me than a number on the scale."

I felt excited to work out.

"Some of my biggest NSVs so far are seeing the difference in my endurance while working out and even in everyday activities," says Giuliana Morgillo, 25, a SHAPE Goal Crusher based in New Jersey. "I can do so much more now than I could three months ago! And feeling the big difference in my clothes. I'm overall happier and more excited to go to the gym!"

I enjoyed the view.

"I love to hike, but when I was not in shape, a lot of the most gorgeous hikes were out of my league because they were strenuous," says Susan Atkinson, 34, a SHAPE Goal Crusher based in Nevada. "Now, I've nailed four long, strenuous hikes and the reward at the top is even more than I imagined it to be!"