Self-love and body positivity culture has been one of the best things that could have ever happend to the world of dieting. No longer are men and women tied to a single goal and no longer is eating healthy and working out tied to just one thing — the number on the scale.

We’re starting to embrace the multitude of ways we can measure our personal progress.

To get a full 360 degree look at someones progress, however, we need to take a look at both the subjective and the objective data. And this, I believe, is the best way to keep someone motivated, learning, and moving forward.

As someone who believes the importance of self-love, quality of food and life, and the relationship with our journey and ourselves as the biggest measurement of our growth, I’ve written this article to not only expand your thinking but also my own.

So, what is it objective data?

Objective findings come in either a measurement or a direct observation. Objective data cannot be argued, as it is measured and observed through vitals, tests, and physical exams.

What are examples of objective data or measurements when it comes to personal health, fitness, and nutrition?

  • Body Fat Percentage
  • Body Fat Mass
  • Skeletal Muscle Mass
  • Waist, hip, chest measurements
  • Weight
  • Average running speed
  • Weight lifted

Some of these, of course, are a lot more accessible to retrieve than others. And since some objective data can be simpler to retrieve, we tend to put more weight on it. Pardon the pun.

And although it shouldn’t always weigh more, there are times where this type of information blazes the trail in guiding us forward.

Why is objective data so powerful?

The road to health, fitness, or high performance is a long one. And a very windy one at that. Often, you’ll have to identify what your next steps are, and what sort of shoes you need to be wearing to make them.

In other words, you need to set goals. And you need to figure out how to get there. That’s always step one.

Step two is attaching metrics to those steps to make sure you’re actually stepping in the right direction. Think of it as a compass reading or a GPS. Your GPS reading is showing you real-time data on each step you’re taking, letting you know if you’re moving toward your destination or further away.

The most powerful and important word there is “real-time”. When it comes to weight loss or body recomposition, there’s no obstacle greater than time. The reality is that if we don’t see results fast enough, we lose interest and/or motivation.

Gathering information like weight and body measurements can give us that real-time information. We can collect this type of information periodically with the intent of being able to visualize our progress.

The second most powerful and important word is “showing”. As just mentioned, setting out a system where we can visualize our progress gives us some instant gratification — again circling back to the power of time. Because if we cannot see progress when we look in the mirror, at least we can see it on paper.

The trials of objective data

Of course, everything comes with its downfalls. And collecting objective data definitely has its own.

In order to be an effective coach, we need to understand that with power comes a lot of emotion. And we cannot belittle someone’s intense emotion and connection to the number on a scale. Even if we wish that this wasn’t the case.

How can we be so happy with the number on the scale going down but then expect to be totally in check with our emotions when the number on the scale goes up? With every intense emotion, there is an equally intense opposite emotion.

A coaches job is not to take the power away from the scale by deeming it a useless or unimportant tool, but instead leading your client to understand when it’s important. And so understanding when to put weight on a certain metric is really what this comes down to.

Looking at the trends

Speaking of emotion, the journey to our goals is full of them. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of having a really productive week, just as it’s easy to get down on the feeling of being in a rut or hitting a plateau. Personal progression is never linear and we can always expect to have days or weeks that make us want to give up.

On a really crap day, it’s nice to take a look at how far we’ve come.

Because on those days you’ll be able to look back and see that over all the data you’ve collected in your journey, not all of it was moving you forward. Maybe the weight on the scale was up one day, maybe your hours of sleep for the week were dropping, or maybe your body fat percentage had stalled. Overall, however, you can see a trend in the right direction.

When is this important?

It will be more common to rely on objective data as we start our path to a new goal, or start a longer road to a healthier us.

Why? Because one of the ultimate goals is to not have to worry about motivation dropping, or the possibility of you giving up. The goal is to have the experience, the knowledge, and the passion to keep on that forward trajectory — even if it’s just a small shuffle — without relying on a number. However, that takes time.

Of course, objective data will always hold an important place in competitive sport where we rely on numbers to see where we stand against competition. And so working with someone who has a very targeted goal is an example of a perfect opportunity to use objective data as your primary way of measuring.

Just as someone who might be new to the world of health and fitness will benefit from measuring their progress in the form of strength progression, weight on the scale, or speed and length on a run. Just to name a few examples.

After a certain amount of time, that same person will no longer feel the need to move forward on paper, but instead trust that he or she just is.