9 Ways to Measure Progress Beyond Normal Health Markers

9 Ways to Measure Progress Beyond Normal Health Markers

Medical health markers can be a useful way for patients to monitor progress towards their health-related goals.  Unfortunately, these health markers do not always provide regular feedback to support lasting behavior change.

Commonly Used Health Markers

Medical health markers frequently used to track progress include:

  • Body Weight
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Body composition changes
  • Labs (fasting glucose, A1C, cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, etc.)
  • Blood pressure.

Although these health markers can be useful, they don’t always highlight the specific actions your patient takes each day to create the change. 

Instead of focusing solely on health markers, consider encouraging your patients to pay attention to their daily actions and how these actions impact the quality of their life.

Health Markers

Beyond Normal Health Markers

Health behavior changes can create a more balanced life.  When patients implement change, they may not always notice how impactful they are unless they check in with themselves regularly. 

Coaching your patients to check in on how health behavior changes make them feel can lead to longer lasting behavior change.

The 9 health behavior measures listed below may offer your patients powerful tools in developing greater self-awareness and self-efficacy.   

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Sleep
  3. Building Healthy Eating Habits
  4. Mindful Eating
  5. The Hunger/Fullness Scale
  6. Gut Health
  7. Emotions/Feelings
  8. Relationship Health
  9. Medication Changes
Physical Activity

1. Physical Activity

The benefits of physical activity are many.  If your patient tracks how they feel before, during, and after movement, they may find:

  • Movement is easier
  • They feel stronger over time
  • Overall balance may improve
  • Increased endurance
  • Improved range of motion
  • Physical activity is more enjoyable
  • A desire to try other activities.
Sleep

2. Sleep

Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night (1). By creating better sleep habits, your patients could notice progress in the following areas:

  • Sleep quality has improved
  • More energy
  • Improvements in mood
  • Clarity of focus
  • Fewer headaches.
Healthy Eating

3. Building Healthy Eating Habits

Healthy eating habits may start very small. Helping your patients notice simple, yet important, changes can support continued growth in this area.

While focusing on healthy eating, your patients may start noticing:

  • They are cooking more at home
  • More color on their plate (fruits and vegetables)
  • They are eating regularly throughout the day
  • Water intake has increased
  • They are choosing fewer processed foods
  • More balanced snacks and meals
  • They are trying new foods
  • Increased confidence around food.
Mindful Eating

4. Mindful Eating

Mindful eating involves using all the senses when eating.  It means being fully aware of what is going on around us and within us. 

If your patient chooses to eat more mindfully, they may notice:

  • They are eating at the table instead of in front of a screen
  • A present-moment awareness while eating
  • A better understand of which foods satisfy them
  • More sensory awareness while eating (taste, touch, sight, smell, sound)
  • Appreciation of the how, what, when, where, and why they eat.
Hunger/Fullness

5. The Hunger/Fullness Scale

Using the Hunger/Fullness Scale can help your patients create a personalized approach to eating.

This scale can be used multiple times throughout the day to assess hunger/fullness cues using a 1-10 scale system (rank how they feel between 1 and 10).

The Hunger Fullness Scale Chart

1. Starving – dizzy, lightheaded, feeling weak
2. Very hungry – you could eat anything
3. Hungry – not uncomfortable, but ready to eat
4. Slightly hungry – you can wait to eat
5. Neutral
6. Could eat more, but filling up
7. Full, your hunger is gone
8. Too full, feeling some discomfort
9. Stuffed and uncomfortable
10. Thanksgiving full – uncomfortably sick
**Target = maintain hunger/fullness between 3 and 7 to prevent starvation/binging cycles.

When patients use the Hunger/Fullness scale, they may notice:

  • They have waited too long between meals in the past
  • A better understanding of how it feels to be satisfied at a meal
  • They find it easier to stop eating when they are comfortably full
  • A greater awareness of when they feel hungry, full, or satisfied.
Gut Health

6. Gut Health

Tracking food intake and how it impacts your patient’s gut can be a powerful and life changing process. 

Things to consider when your patient tracks food and gut symptoms include the foods consumed and:

  • Acid Reflux – frequency, intensity
  • Diarrhea – how often, stool texture, urgency
  • Constipation – how often, stool texture, pain, complete/incomplete elimination of bowel movements
  • Gas – frequency
  • Bloating – extent of bloating, time of day, pain
  • Abdominal pain – increased/decreased intensity related to symptoms above.
Emotions/Feelings

7. Emotions/Feelings

As your patient begins to carry out health behavior changes, they may notice they are better equipped to handle emotions and stressors of life.  Examples of normal emotions include:

  • Excitement
  • Sadness
  • Anxious
  • Hopeful
  • Surprised
  • Scared
  • Angry
  • Happy, etc. (this is not a complete list of emotions).

Encouraging patients to explore how they feel when implementing behavior changes can help them identify and communicate their emotions and feelings more clearly.  This may also help them notice shifts in how they feel over time.

Relationship Health

8. Relationship Health

How we connect with the world around us has a big impact on the quality of our life. As health behaviors are applied, relationship health can be positively impacted.  Patients may notice:

  • Laughing more often
  • Less social anxiety
  • Improvements in community connections
  • Time management and personal organization changes
  • They are involved in more activities that they enjoy
  • Personal relationships have improved.
Medication Changes

9. Medication Changes

As patients continue to implement and monitor their health behaviors, they may notice changes in medications.

  • The medication dose may be reduced.
  • Fewer medications may be needed over time.

Encourage patients to speak with their medical team before adjusting any medications.

Final Thoughts On 9 Ways of Measuring Progress Beyond Normal Health Markers

Encouraging patients to monitor results from their actions each day vs. waiting on medical appointments for health markers can instill greater self-awareness and self-efficacy. 

Changes noticed in thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and physical health can be incredibly impactful and support health behavior changes long-term.

For more information about The Dietitian Resource, visit our site or check out the blog.  Thanks for visiting!

References

1. CDC. How Much Sleep Do I Need? Sleep and Sleep Disorders. [Online] [Cited: September 28, 2022.] https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html.

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More About Rochelle

Rochelle Inwood MS, RDN, ACSM EP-C

Hello there! I’m Rochelle Inwood, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C). With over 14 years of experience, I have sharpened my expertise through diverse roles, including weight management program co-coordinator, patient/employee gym supervisor, outpatient dietitian, program manager, dietetic internship preceptor, and more. I am passionate about learning, creating, teaching, and supporting personal growth and development.