With New Year’s resolutions rampant in everyone’s minds, many of us are worried about the number that we see when we step on the scale. After holiday indulging and being away from our normal routines, we have the tendency to feel like we need to fix ourselves. For many years I’ve looked to the number on the scale to measure success in my health and overall self esteem. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that weight is largely just a number and there are many other health victories that are much more worth celebrating.

I don’t own a scale, and I don’t think I will ever feel the need to buy one. I do check in with my weight twice a year at doctor’s appointments, but other than that, it’s something that I’ve gotten into the habit of putting out of my mind. My weight and health has fluctuated drastically in the years since I’ve graduated college, and around five months ago I decided that I no longer felt good about the way that I looked in my clothes and the way that I felt about my body. I’m a fairly active person who eats fairly healthy food and am usually fairly confident about the way that I look, but at the time my self esteem was plummeting, and I decided to do something about it.

Instead of focusing on losing weight, I focused on adding a new activity to my daily routine: kickboxing. The gym that I ended up joining for a year has hour-long classes that combine cardio, strength training, and kickboxing techniques. In the first month of joining, I could feel myself punching harder, getting more flexible, and honing the techniques that I struggled with in the beginning. I was empowered. I felt strong and invincible. And I was having a lot of fun doing it.

Over the next few months of kickboxing, I celebrated many non-scale victories. One instructor at the gym pulled me aside and told me how much progress I had made since joining. That alone felt like a victory; someone outside my core friend and family group who noticed that I had changed for the better. I also feel less winded during the workouts and could do exercises that I wasn’t able to do a few months ago. I have muscles that I’ve never felt on my body before, and muscles that I’ve felt in the past that have now defined themselves again. Some of the clothes that I dreaded wearing 5 months ago now fit me nicely again. I look in the mirror and feel the confidence that I once had lost. My progress with my physical health has encouraged me to eat a little healthier and focus on my mental health through self care. One of the biggest victories that I’ve had is finding an activity that I’m able to stick with and that doesn’t make working out feel like a chore.

I’m excited to continue finding non-scale victories in my kickboxing experience, and if, in a few months, I go to the doctor and see that the number on the scale is lower, I will celebrate. The key to gaining confidence however, is to step away from the scale and focus on the things that make you feel good. If your weight always discourages you, find the thing that encourages you to keep going. Find the things that give you victories to celebrate, whether it’s an activity like kickboxing or yoga, a hobby like crocheting or cooking, or an advancement in your career or education. Look for ways that you have improved after a few weeks of an activity. Maybe you can nail that headstand that you couldn’t do when you first started yoga, or maybe you’ve perfected your recipe for broccoli soup and you want to share it with the world. Not all victories have to be physical, but all of them should give you the confidence and drive to keep moving forward and bettering yourself.

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