Positive Body

You’re Not Defined By the Number on the Scale – 7 Better Ways to Track Your Health Than Weight, BMI, and Other BS Metrics

Body Positive

Hey lovely curvy ladies!

Something that’s been on my mind recently during my work hiatus: how much the diet/fitness industry sucks.

The weight loss/diet/pseudo-health industrial complex (worth an estimated $78 BILLION as of March 2021) preys on your insecurities. 

They want to reduce your entire measure of health – and your feeling of self-worth – to a single number. (*The single number being either the number on the scale and/or your dress size, depending on which company is talking.)

 Does anyone else think that sucks??

Ripely, supremely, totally, utterly, and completely SUCKS?

Not only is it totally inaccurate (after all, health is not a size), it’s cratering our mental health, driving us deeper into debt as a nation (to pay for a never-ending hamster wheel of diets and weight loss programs), and causing devastating amounts of size discrimination.

I kid you not, I was fat-shamed this past Saturday while I was out for a walk. An 80-year-old physical therapist told me I was a disgrace for not having rock-hard abs to “serve as a model” for all the people we’re “trying to help”. 


She admitted to randomly calling out people whenever she’s at the supermarket to “flex” for her (either arms or abs) and she’d shame them when they weren’t as thin or muscular as she was.

It was embarrassing and demeaning as all hell.

You are not a problem to be “fixed”.

Your size doesn’t directly cause any known disease on the face of this Earth. Period.

Size doesn’t cause diabetes. High blood sugar and insulin levels do.

Size doesn’t cause arthritis. Not moving your joints in a balanced way does.

Size doesn’t cause cancer. Build-up of heavy metals, plastics, and chemicals in your body does.

So why are they still trying to get us to believe that smaller = better?

The short answer? Because shame works…. up to a point.

But ya know what’s been proven time and again to be more effective than bullying and shaming? Positive reinforcement and confidence-building. 

That’s why I’m a proud advocate of the Health Is Not a Size (*link) movement, a proud card-carrying member of the Body Positive Fitness Alliance (*link), and proudly serve curvy women everywhere.

Instead of listening to a greedy diet and weight loss industry who do NOT have your best interests at heart, here are 7 better ways to track your health than weight, BMI, or other BS metrics.

  1. Energy levels
  2. Mood and stress
  3. How your body feels
  4. Your *ahem* waste
  5. Sleep
  6. Blood sugar
  7. Cholesterol


  1. Energy levels

Let’s get a little science-y.

Your metabolism is basically the process of your body’s cells (or more specifically, your mitochondria) converting oxygen into energy that your body can use for fuel. 

You have over 100 TRILLION of these powerhouses in your body, mostly in your organs and muscles. Your mitochondria use over 90% of the oxygen you breathe and take up about 40% of the space in your heart cells. Mitochondria are super important for ensuring your energy levels remain steady.

But some of us genuinely do have slow metabolisms, or an impaired ability to create energy. 

Slow/impaired metabolism can look like:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Not feeling refreshed when you wake up
  • Insomnia or sleep troubles
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Concentration and memory problems or brain fog
  • Erratic moods and high stress levels
  • Frequently getting sick with colds, the flu, or infections
  • Arthritis, allergies, and other forms of systemic inflammation

Learning how to improve your cellular metabolism is one simple way to have a huge domino effect on several areas of your quality of life.

On the flip side, you’ve probably heard of antioxidants, right? They’re like the Superman of the nutrition world. Their job is to reverse damage in your cells and improve your mitochondria’s ability to produce energy.

Some foods that are high in anti-oxidants include:

  • All types of berries
  • Orange and yellow vegetables like winter squash and pumpkin
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens

 So how do you improve slow metabolism and raise energy levels?

Think (and eat) color. The deeper the color, the more antioxidants these foods generally have. Include these daily as part of your diet to keep your energy levels high. The more, the better.


  1. Mood and Stress

Basically, stress causes all your hormones to go haywire.

It’s no secret to the medical world that stress directly causes diabetes and out of control blood sugar. Unfortunately, that seems to be news to most everyone else.

Chronic stress causes insulin levels to increase, cortisol (your pain and stress hormone) levels to skyrocket, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines to spike. 

Not only that, but high levels of cortisol screw up your metabolic system so badly it can damage your brain, suppress your happy hormones, impact appetite control (making you hungrier all the time), and increase your cravings for sugar… which then causes more problems like further systemic inflammation, pain, and spiked blood sugar. 


Stress, mood, and adrenal fatigue can look like:

  • Anxiety and frequent panic attacks
  • Feeling “tired but wired”
  • Often feeling weak and shaky
  • Insomnia and sleep troubles
  • Concentration and memory problems or brain fog
  • Frequent headaches
  • Being unable to start your day without caffeine
  • Frequently getting sick with colds, the flu, or infections
  • Arthritis, allergies, and other forms of systemic inflammation
  • Cravings for sweets and/or salty foods

Learning how to relax and actively release stress is one of the biggest ways to have a cascading effect on your quality of life.

So how do you improve stress and adrenal fatigue?

I know it sounds cliché and privileged, but work less. Seriously. And learn to set boundaries around what you are and aren’t willing to spend your time doing. 


In the book The Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, all 10 of the top regrets involved working too much and not spending enough time doing the things in life that brought them pleasure. It’s definitely worth it to spend your working hours doing something fulfilling that makes you happy rather than stressed.

But some other not-as-huge-as-potentially-changing-careers options to relax include:

  • Deep belly/diaphragmatic breathing, even 10 to 30 seconds makes a huge difference
  • Meditating, body scanning, or systemic muscle relaxation
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Journal and write about your day, even for just 5 minutes
  • Practice gratitude before every meal (this doesn’t have to mean religious prayer, but can include it)
  • Massage – which has the added benefit of flushing out your lymphatic system, which is one of your body’s main detox systems
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Heat therapy (think saunas, hot tubs – especially saltwater hot tubs, or sitting with a heating pad)
  • Go on a media fast (try going a full 24-48 hours without any digital devices, including your phone, computer, TV, tablets, etc.)
  • Doing literally anything that makes you happy

Try including at least one thing that relaxes you and makes you happy daily. The more, the better.  

  1. How your body feels

Your body is a really good communicator… if/when you can understand the message it’s trying to tell you. So it makes perfect sense that pain exists for a reason. It’s one of your body’s clearest ways of telling you, “Something is wrong.” 

This is one of the core tenets I teach as part of my Joint Mobility classes 

Your body is great at sending you messages both for how it’s feeling and for what it needs at any given time. Also, your body is fantastic at listening and responding to the messages and signals you send it.

For example, if you sit at a desk all day and don’t move your hips much other than to get up for your hourly trip to use the bathroom (you are using the bathroom at least once every hour or two, right??), your hips likely get sore and/or tight pretty frequently. That’s your body’s way of telling you it needs you to move your hips more to feel good (specifically, to include more rotational hip movement).

Similarly, if you’re tired, or always hungry, or always stressed, etc., your body is trying to tell you something. 

The problem is: we’re terrible listeners.

We get so caught up in our to-do lists, calendars, work commitments, and finding answers to the never-ending question of “What’s for dinner, Mom?”… that we seldom take the time to slow down and tune into how our body is feeling.

So how do you improve your pain levels/constant cravings/energy levels, etc.?

It’s actually quite simple (note: not the same thing as easy) to incorporate in your life. Take 60 seconds a day to just pause, close your eyes, breathe, and really listen to what your body’s saying. 

Are you actually hungry, or are you wanting to eat because you’re bored? 

Are you unable to think clearly? Maybe you need a drink of water, or a nap, or to cut back on screen time before bed so you can fall asleep easier and sleep better at night.

Simply listen. Your body will tell you what it needs. 

  1. Your *ahem* waste

Let’s talk about poo!

I’ll bet you didn’t see this one coming, did you? 

But believe it or not, factors like the color of your urine, the consistency and frequency of your bowel movements, and even what your stool looks like are all indicative of how your gut and digestive system are doing.

The biggest things our poo gives us insight into is our microbiome (the bacteria that lives in our gut – both good and bad), and systemic inflammation levels. These two things alone impact everything from energy levels to food allergies/sensitivities to mental health conditions.

So the status of our poo is a really big deal!

Digestive imbalances can look like:

  • Heartburn
  • Feeling bloated, full, fatigued, and/or have belching, burning, or flatulence right after meals
  • Feeling bloated anytime you eat bread, sugar, dairy, or specific foods
  • Constantly craving bread, sugar, dairy, or specific foods
  • Chronic yeast or fungal infections like vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, or toenail fungus
  • Having bowel movements less than once a day
  • Stools that are greasy, large, poorly formed, or particularly foul-smelling
  • Stools that are small, hard, and rock-like rather than long, smooth, and snake-like
  • Food allergies, intolerances, or reactions
  • Frequent canker sores
  • Frequent use of antacids, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory meds (like ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.)
  • Adult acne
  • Eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, or other chronic inflammatory skin conditions
  • Chronic autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, or inflammatory bowel disease

The health of your digestion mirrors your overall health. Change this one aspect of your health and a cascade of positive reactions will follow across your body’s systems.

Your diet plays an enormous role in the health of your digestion. Over the last 75 years or so, our food has grown more and more industrialized to the point where it’s so highly processed, so high in sugar (and mostly processed sugar at that), so high in fat, and so low in fiber that it’s nearly unrecognizable from the diets of our grandparents and ancestors. 

It’s gotten to the point that 75% of the food on grocery store shelves contains sugar. So even if you skip dessert in an effort to consume less sugar, you’re still highly likely consuming more than the recommended 25g of added sugar a day. 

*Not-so-fun fact: most Americans consume over 100g of added sugar a day, or 4x the daily allowance.

That’s insane!!

But other factors contribute to poor digestive health beyond eating processed food. 

 Plenty of modern inventions, including regularly taking antibiotics to treat colds and flu, acid blockers after meals, anti-inflammatory meds as a cure-all for any level of pain (rather than actually treating the source of the pain), antibiotics in our food supply, chronic stress, and even cesarean section births all injure the gut, alter the gut microbiome, and lead to systemic inflammation.

So how do you improve your digestion?

In a nutshell, eat less processed food (WAY less), and eat real food.

Don’t overthink this. 

I get questions all the time about how to eat to _____ (lose weight/have more energy/reverse chronic conditions/reduce inflammation/generally feel healthier, etc.). The answer is the same for all of them.

Imagine a dinner plate. Now divide it into 4 sections. 

  1. Half your plate should be non-starchy veggies like broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, peppers, green beans, etc.
  2. A quarter of your plate should be lean protein like chicken, beef (ideally grass-fed), fish, salmon, tofu, etc.
  3. A quarter of your plate should be some kind of healthy starch, ideally a starchy vegetable – sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, turnips, parsnips, beans, lentils, etc. Go easy on the grains, white potatoes, and corn – they’re easy to overeat, are often filled with chemicals used in the farming and refining processes, and spike blood sugar.
  4. Each meal should have a bit of healthy fat like avocado, nuts, olives, seeds, olive oil, nut butter, etc. But only about an amount the size of your thumb, or 1-2 tablespoons. Go easy on the dairy. Most people are sensitive to dairy but remain undiagnosed, the farming industry uses antibiotics and chemicals that end up in the final dairy product, and it tends to cause systemic inflammation in most people.
  5. Use fruit as a snack, ideally just one piece the size of your fist and eaten with a healthy fat and protein. Think apple slices with almond butter, a handful of berries and a few bites of chicken, etc.

This doesn’t mean cut out processed food, grains, and dairy permanently. That’d be a recipe for disaster and would be completely unsustainable. But shoot for around 80% of your meals to be real food and not out of a box/bag/can/wrapper/package of any kind.

My friend Steve from Nerd Fitness created this super-handy graphic to help remember it by. (*NF Plate graphic)

  1. Sleep

This one shouldn’t surprise you to have made the list, right?

We’re all told to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night and that it’ll magically make you an über-productive morning person who accomplishes all the world’s problems by 10:00AM.

I don’t know about achieving world peace, but getting a full 7-9 hours of restful sleep a night can and does perform magic. 

The research is clear on this one: lack of sleep or just poor quality sleep damages your metabolism, causes cravings for sugar and carbs, makes you eat more, stresses you out, makes you severely less productive, makes you moody, and drives up your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and early death.

But even more so, poor sleep can be indicative of adrenal fatigue (which we already know is linked to a huge list of other symptoms and issues), environmental toxins, or simply too much screen time.

Long story short, sleep impacts a LOT of things in the body.

The symptoms for not enough sleep or poor quality sleep looks a lot like the lists for mood/stress and energy levels, but likely you already know if your sleep is sub-par.

So how can you improve your quality of sleep? 

  • Get at least 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure each day, preferably first thing in the morning – and bonus, if you go for a walk first thing you’ll have an easier time balancing blood sugar and boosting your metabolism
  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime, which disrupts your sleep hormones and raises your body core temperature, making it harder to sleep
  • Don’t exercise within 3 hours of bedtime – it raises your body’s core temperature, spikes your excited/ready-to-take-on-the-day hormones, and makes it harder to fall asleep
  • Taper off your water intake within 2-3 hours of bedtime, so you don’t have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night
  • No screen time within 2-3 hours of bedtime – the blue light mimics sunlight (from your brain’s perspective), so your body still thinks it’s 12-noon and physically can’t wind down
  • Begin dimming the lights within 3 hours of bedtime, which signals to your brain “the sun has set and it’s time to get ready for bed” which induces melatonin production in your brain
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, which balances your Circadian rhythm
  • Use your bedroom for sleep and *ahem* romance only
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep – soothing colors, dim lighting, no screens (yes, that means no TV in the bedroom and even more importantly – charge your phone in another room of the house)
  • Avoid caffeine after 10:00AM – caffeine takes more than 12 hours to metabolize, so you’ll still have around 1/4 of it in your system at 10:00PM when you’re trying to get to sleep
  • Avoid alcohol – while it helps you fall asleep, it drastically reduces the amount of deep-stage sleep you get
  • Take a hot shower before bed, which relaxes you and helps to induce sleep
  • Keep your bedroom cold, ideally 55-65 F which helps your body transition to deep sleep easier
  • Write your worries and to-do list down before bed, so your brain will quiet down to move into deep and restful sleep
  • Try meditation or other relaxation therapies before bed, or see a therapist if your worries and anxieties are regularly interfering with your sleep
  • Invest in the absolute best-quality mattress, pillows, and bedding you can afford – you spend around 1/3 of your day in bed, more than at work or time with family, and the quality of your bed can make a world of difference if you suffer from any type of joint pain, like arthritis
  • Use essential oils, like eucalyptus or lavender to help you relax before bed
  • Try drinking herbal tea in the evening, like chamomile or peppermint
  • Don’t let your children or pets sleep in your bedroom – we love them, but they need to learn to sleep in their own beds
  • Invest in a sleep mask, ear plugs, blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or other tools to provide total dark and quiet in the bedroom
  • Eat more magnesium-rich foods (magnesium is the relaxation mineral), including nuts, beans/legumes, and dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach
  1. Blood sugar

This one both will and won’t surprise you as to why it made the list.

We all know high blood sugar causes diabetes, which is officially diagnosed by a doctor as having fasting blood sugar levels consistently over 120 mg/dL.

HOWEVER… what you may not realize is:

  1. Having blood sugar of 100 mg/dL or more is considered pre-diabetes or low-level diabetes
  2. High blood sugar causes systemic inflammation throughout your body, meaning it can induce arthritis, digestive upset issues like those listed in the poo section of this article, and chronic pain
  3. High blood sugar isn’t necessarily caused by eating too many sweets – it can be a side effect of hormonal imbalances or even high levels of environmental toxins, like heavy metal poisoning (this is what happened to me this autumn)
  4. Diabetes and high blood sugar is 100% reversible

You read all of that correctly. 

High blood sugar doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating too much dessert, and it isn’t a permanent condition. But it is a big tell-tale sign that not all is well.

Luckily, blood sugar is pretty easy to monitor. Every pharmacy in America sells glucose monitors, and frequently your health insurance company will provide it for you or give you a discount.

This is one metric I strongly believe everyone should test every morning (to get an overall sense of your health) and specifically test 20-30 minutes after meal times to get a sense of how different foods affect your health.

For instance, you probably think a bowl of oatmeal is a “heart-healthy” breakfast and is a fantastic and super healthy way to start the day, right?


Oats, grains, and starchy/carbohydrate-heavy foods spike your blood sugar more than any other type of food. They can easily, in large amounts (read: American size portions) induce pre-diabetes, full-blown diabetes, hormonal imbalances, or any form of chronic inflammation.

I won’t go down the rabbit-hold of glycemic index, glycemic load, which carbs to eat and when, etc. It’d be way too much to discuss in this already novel-length post. Just understand that there is no such thing as a bad food, but there is a time, a place, and a correct amount of every food to maintain a healthy balanced diet.

So how do you improve your blood sugar?

Simple: any time you eat, be sure to:

  1. Include whole food / non-processed carbohydrates (think non-starchy vegetables of all colors like zucchini or peppers, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, or beans/legumes)
  2. Include a lean protein, like chicken, fish, or tofu
  3. Include a healthy fat, like nuts or avocado

Don’t overthink it.

If you want a refresher on what a balanced plate should look like, head back up to the poo/digestion section of this article for a cool graphic of a balanced plate.

And of course, go easy on the sweets and sugar. But be aware that sugar is hiding in over 75% of the items on grocery store shelves. Just because you’re skipping dessert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not eating sugar. 

To keep it simple, eat foods that don’t come with labels or “ingredients lists”, like produce or fresh meat.

  1. Cholesterol levels

 Again, this one shouldn’t surprise you to be on the list. 

 What you may not realize is cholesterol is directly related to your blood sugar and carb intake, and not necessarilyhow much cholesterol-containing foods you eat.

That’s right: eating sugary/starchy foods causes high cholesterol.

DUN DUN DUN!!! *cue dramatic music*

We’ve been taught for decades that in order to lower cholesterol, we should lay off high-cholesterol foods like fatty meats, eggs, and dairy products. We’ve also been taught instead to eat “heart healthy” grains instead.

While there are some benefits to eating less meat and animal products – especially the fatty kinds – we’ve been lied to about why to ease up. And the “heart healthy” grains part? Laughable.

Let me explain.

The truth is, foods high in saturated fats (which often means animal products) can raise cholesterol levels moderately. But it’s also true that sugary/starchy foods (including the aforementioned “heart healthy” grains) raise cholesterol more. Way more.

Here’s the reader’s digest version:

Eating sugary/starchy foods raises your glucose levels, which in turn means your body releases a bunch of insulin to process the sugar. 

With me so far? Cool. Let’s keep going.

The problem is, when you have more sugar/glucose than your body needs for energy, your body then converts the excess sugar into triglycerides, and stores the excess in fat cells to use “for later”. That’s the first way high blood sugar causes high cholesterol.

The second way is through too much insulin over time. The more often you eat sugary/starchy foods, the more insulin you need to break down the sugar because your body builds up a tolerance to insulin, a phenomenon known as “insulin resistance”. 

Got it?  

  1. Sugary/starchy foods = high blood sugar. 
  2. High blood sugar = more insulin. 
  3. Too many times doing this = higher and higher amounts of insulin to do the job and break down the sugar.
  4. More insulin = more triglycerides and higher cholesterol.

The problem is, insulin is a very important hormone that also blocks the fats you eat from becoming fatty acids (a.k.a. cholesterol). So, by eating sugary/starchy foods AND fatty animal products, you get a double whammy of higher cholesterol.

And just to add insult to injury, the extra insulin also suppresses your HDL (“good” cholesterol) production.

Dear God, is there any hope??

Yes! Read on, my lovelies.

So how do you check your cholesterol levels to see if you have an insulin imbalance?

Here’s a quick, easy, and cool way to check yourself for an insulin imbalance. It also gives you a good idea if you have pre-diabetes or any other hormone imbalances caused from too much insulin.

Take your triglycerides divided by your HDL*. Abnormal is greater than 4.

*This equation only works if you’re not taking cholesterol or diabetes medication, both of which impact your insulin levels. If you’re on medication, the numbers may look better but you could still have a severe insulin imbalance.

Here’s an example:

Triglycerides is 180 mg/dL (on the high side of “normal”, but still considered “normal” by most medical charts)

HDL is 40 mg/dL (“a little low”, but still considered “normal”)

180 / 40 = 4.5

What does this mean? You could technically have “normal” cholesterol levels and still have an insulin imbalance, wreaking havoc throughout your digestive and hormonal systems.

So how do you lower your cholesterol levels?

Refer back to the balanced plate mentioned above. Or here it is again, for reference. (*NF Plate graphic)

Go easy on the sugary/starchy foods, but when you do eat them always balance them out with some fiber, lean protein, and a healthy source of fat.

I told you earlier in this post, anytime someone asks me how to eat to _____ (lose weight/have more energy/reverse chronic conditions/reduce inflammation/generally feel healthier, etc.), the answer is always the same.

And it is. It’s always the same.

And it’s not complicated.

Shoot for this balanced plate, full of whole/unprocessed foods for around 80% of your meals. The other 20%, go wild. 


The 7 better ways to track your health than weight, BMI, or other BS metrics are:

  1. Energy levels
  2. Mood and stress
  3. How your body feels
  4. Your *ahem* waste
  5. Sleep
  6. Blood sugar
  7. Cholesterol

All seven of these metrics give you a ton of insight into hormones, bacteria levels (good and bad), and your risk or current status of disease.

Ultimately, all of these are going to require you to slow down and really pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it’s feeling.

It may require big or small lifestyle changes, but remember: don’t make any drastic changes overnight. Building sustainable healthy habits means going low and slow. Change should be so small, it’s easy and you barely notice the change.

And if you’re interested in making small changes that have a huge impact, sign up for the waiting list of the next round of The Pain-Free Movement (*link). You’ll be alongside a warm and supportive community of ladies as we become the best superhuman versions of ourselves.

That’s it for me today.

Here’s to having a wonderful rest of your week filled with warm and cozy mugs of tea,

– Lindsay


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