How to know your plan is working

Aug 7, 2019

 by Debbie Basom

When the scale lies:
Better ways to know if your nutrition plan is working


How can you know if you’re making progress toward a body transformation goal?

For starters, spend less time on the scale. Instead, focus on these superior progress indicators.


I’d been working with my nutrition client, Mary, for all of 1 week when she told me that she finally felt full!

At our first consultation, she handed me a food journal full of low-fat, low-calorie, pre-portioned, packaged meals — heavy on carbs and chemicals, light on real food and flavor. Recently, she had also added prepackaged protein drinks and bars — and was getting nowhere.

We agreed on the following plan: Over the next week for at least 3 meals, she’d eat a fresh dark green salad topped with chicken, avocado, and an olive oil dressing. Real food.

The very next week she reported: “This is the first time I’ve felt full but not stuffed in years.”

Yes!  That was it.


Major progress even though we hadn't weighed to know if she had lost a pound.


Our bodies are complex. They change in many ways — ways that are often intangible or subtle. We feel and function differently, though we can’t always say exactly how.

Long before we lose any weight, small signs of progress begin to bloom.

They make us feel like we can persist through the toughest times of changing our habits, or learning new skills, when it seems like the fat will never come off and our muscles will never grow.

Being a nutrition coach is like being a skilled nature guide. Being a client trying to change your body is like being an explorer in a new territory.

Together, coach and client seek the first signs of spring, trying not to be fooled by the feeling that nothing is happening because you can’t see it yet.


To achieve your body transformation goals, you must know what small sprouts of progress look like.

You must know…

…how to track them for yourself.

And, most importantly…

…how to celebrate them together.


What are the ways to know if your nutrition plan is working:


1. You feel satisfied after meals

Does it ever feel like you’re hungry all the time? Like, you know you need to “get control”, but you can’t seem to find the willpower to close the bag of candy or stop picking off your kids’ dinner plates?

As we digest our food, the gut sends signals to the brain about how much energy we’ve consumed to trigger satiation (the feeling of fullness) so we know when we’ve had enough.

Unfortunately, it turns out that all it takes to override thousands of years of relationship building between gut and brain is a bag of chips.

Processed food, with its extreme energy density and intense salty / sweet / fatty / crunchy / creamy tastes, tells our brain that we’ve hit the calorie jackpot: Eat until it’s gone! Stock up! You’ll have enough energy and nutrients to last for weeks!

What progress looks like:

With your new nutrition plan, you’re eating slowly. Choosing fresh foods. Leaving less room in your diet for processed foods that keeps those cravings going.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, beans, and legumes are taking up new space in your body, nourishing you, helping you feel satisfied. They signal to your gut and brain that It’s OK. We are OK. We are safe and comfortable and fed. We can stop now.

Imagine, for the first time, feeling “full”. Not stuffed. Just satisfied. Feeling like you’ve had enough.

Your gut and brain are calm. No panic. No restless pacing to the pantry. You’re just… done. Without any worry.

Yep, this is all possible. In fact, this is what you’ll start to experience once your nutrition (and exercise) plan is on track. It’s an early sign of progress you can sense even before you lose any weight.

====> Want help tracking your hunger cues?  Click Here to Download our tracking sheet


2. You have more energy

Maybe you can’t remember a time when you didn’t feel exhausted. Your alarm is your enemy. 

Mid-afternoon, you need a caffeine or sugar hit to keep your eyelids propped open, and by 8pm you’re crashing on the couch in front of the TV. Your brain feels like mush and your body like mush.

Maybe your brain and body are getting too much processed food and too much sugar; stimulants.

Maybe you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Even small deficiencies in certain nutrients can drain your energy and fog up your focus.

What progress looks like:

One day, you wake up one minute before your alarm. Your eyes are actually open. You even feel… kind of… good?

You don’t need seven shots of espresso throughout the day just to cope with your work inbox. You pay attention, even during the 3pm afternoon meeting.

When you take your kids to the playground after dinner, you find yourself climbing the wall and slithering down the slide along with them instead of being on the couch. 

A good nutrition plan gives you energy — constant, steady, all-day energy rather than a brief buzz and a crash. If you get it right, you’ll start experiencing this over time. Most often even sooner than the scale moving.


3. You’re sleeping better

You know those nights when you just can’t seem to fall asleep? Or when you toss and turn in a weird, sleeping-but-not-sleeping state?

There can be many reasons for poor sleep including: stress, aging, hormonal changes, being a new parent, late night stimulation from tv or cell phones, and so on.

Nutrition and exercise can play a role. For instance, if you diet too stringently, amp yourself up with tough workouts, or over-eat heavy meals late at night, you may not sleep well.

Maybe you drank to much alcohol or caffeine. You may not get enough protein (to make the right neurotransmitters), nor enough vitamins and minerals (ditto).

You may also have disrupted hormones (such as cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone) from stress and poor eating habits, all of which are important for good and restful sleep.

What progress looks like:

Now, with your nutrition plan, you’re getting enough good stuff to make the brain chemicals you need.

Thanks to your newfound energy your laying off the afternoon espresso.  At dinner, you are consuming smaller portion that doesn’t leave you breathing in little huffs and give you nightmares about being chased by a big greasy burger.

All of a sudden, you seem to be able to unwind an hour before bedtime without a problem. You follow a sleep ritual and fall asleep easier than ever.

If you want to change your body and improve your health, sleeping well consistently is crucial. And hey, it just feels good too.


====> Read more on the effects of sleep and hunger


4. Your clothes feel just a little looser

Today’s the day you'll reach into your closet, for that piece of clothing. You know, the one that almost never fits. But this time, it fits!  Not just suck-it-in-and-suffer fits. But, like, really fits. It feels good. It looks good. No pulling fabric, no weird wrinkles, no strangling collars, no bulges of buttons or belts or bra straps.

What progress looks like:

Muscle and bone are denser than body fat. When we build this lean mass, we often get heavier but smaller (at least in certain areas).

As a female, you may find that your scale weight doesn't move or goes up, but your clothing size goes down (and your body composition scan blows you away!).

This is why, in addition to tuning into how your clothes fit, we suggest clients use a tape measure to track the circumference of various body parts. 

====> Click Here to Download your Body Measurement Chart


Body Composition

5. Finally....It feels more like a lifestyle than a “diet”

“Diets” are a chore. They’re another to-do that you have to work into your busy life, and another boring, strict, overly complicated task you can’t wait to quit.

When we do quit — because of course we do, because a "diet" is temporary, right? — we end up right back where we started. Back to fast foods, processed foods, never-ending hunger, frustration, and weight gain.

What progress looks like:

Progress here happens when you’re just… living. You’re in a nice, natural, normal-day rhythm that doesn’t feel like being “on a diet” or even “off a diet".

Eating well stops being A Thing and just starts being your daily life.

  • You naturally gravitate toward whole foods. You pick the salmon over the hot dog without even thinking about it. You think, “A fresh salad would be nice”, and you really mean it.
  • You have a plan. Prepping meals in advance and keeping healthy backup options on hand is a regular part of your regular routine now. You identify challenges and develop strategies for staying on track.
  • You don’t “mess up” anymore. Let me be clear...You still eat the birthday cake and the Christmas cookie at the party.  Maybe go ahead and inhale the tub of popcorn at the movie theater. But, you don’t consider this “bad” or “guilt-inducing” any more. They’re just an occasional part of enjoying life. You savor them and then go right back to eating mostly fresh, whole foods like you always do. No biggie.

Yep, this is also possible. It’s a natural and normal consequence of eating and exercising in a sensible and sane way. And it’s a sign of progress, regardless of what the scale is doing.


Here are some of the things Tone Zone clients have discovered after consistently improving their nutrition habits.

“I feel…

  • “More confident.”
  • “Like change is possible.”
  • “Better about my choices.”
  • “More knowledgeable.”
  • “Clearer about my goals, and the path to get to them.”
  • “Mentally more clear-headed and less ‘fuzzy’.”
  • “Happier and more positive.”
  • “More open to trying new things.”
  • “Motivated!”

In part, these changes come from the experience of changing habits. When we try something, and succeed, we get a jolt of inspiration that encourages us to keep going.


What to do next:
Some tips from Tone Zone

If you’re tired of being a slave to the scale, here are some ways to start breaking free.


1. Just Add...don’t subtract.

If you’re in a “diet mentality”, each day feels like a new battle to avoid the “bad foods”. So let’s flip that. Add, don’t subtract.

  • Don’t “avoid” your “junk food”.
  • Don’t “avoid” your prepackaged meals.
  • Don’t “avoid” dessert.

Just add so much healthy stuff — water, lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables — that there’s less room or desire left over for food that doesn’t support your goals.


2. Measure — and celebrate — your progress.

Look for signs of progress everywhere. Everything counts, no matter how small.

Track them.

Celebrate them like your first car.  You remember that feeling...exhilarating, freedom!


3. Focus on little things.

Make mini-goals. Nano-goals, if you want.

For the day. For the week. For the next five minutes. Whatever you need to stay on track and feeling like you can do this.

Write them down.  Make them real.


4. Print, use, share.

Print out our effective progress trackers to make it easier to monitor your progress. No scale required.


5. Find a coach to support and celebrate your progress.

It’s often a lot easier (and always a lot more fun) to work toward your body transformation goal with help from an experienced nutrition coach. If you’ve been trying to make progress for a while, but just aren’t seeing results, consider getting some support.

With the right person in your corner, you’ll develop more effective change strategies and be better able to recognize progress markers and maintain the motivation it takes to make it to the finish line.


Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for making progress toward looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

Over the past 14 years, Judy and Debbie have helped 100's of women in the Mesa area lose fatget stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.


Are you Interested in Tone Zone Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale; you’ll save up to 30% and secure a spot hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our upcoming 60 Day Clean Plate Challenge on Thursday, August 15th.

If you’re interested and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list.  Challenge starts Thursday, September 5th.