You may be encouraged during weight loss to see positive changes such as your clothes fit better, new muscle curves, less pain, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and a deeper sense of well-being.

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Staying motivated is the key to success in a long-term healthy weight journey. As long as the number on the scale is dropping, you can tell your diet and exercise plan are working, but what other signs can let you know you’re on the right path?

How can you tell that your health is steadily improving and your weight loss journey is progressing? Here are some factors to indicate that you’re moving in a good direction:

1. You’re not hungry all the time

If you’re losing weight because you changed your diet to include more proteins and fewer carbs and fat, you may notice that you feel full faster.

That’s because the amino acids in dietary protein send a satisfaction signal to your brain — and that signal isn’t sent by eating the same number of calories in fat or carbs.

Good news here for vegetarians and vegans: A 2013 study found that the satisfaction signal is stronger with vegetable proteins than with animal-derived proteins.

2. Your sense of well-being improves

Losing weight can lead to an all-around improvement in your psychological well-being.

In a 2013 study, people who were trying to lose weight reported that they felt more vitality, more self-control, less depression, and less anxiety than they had felt before their weight loss.

If you’re not feeling these emotional benefits yet, don’t give up: Study participants didn’t report these improvements at the 6-month mark. The big psychological changes showed up at the 12-month interviews.

Another important note: If you’re losing weight as an unintentional side effect of trauma, illness, or a big life change such as a divorce or job loss, you might not be experiencing the same emotional upsurge.

3. Your clothes fit differently

You may notice that you don’t have to jump to pull on your jeans, even before you see a big difference on the scale — which can motivate you to keep doing what you’re doing.

In one 2017 study, around 77 percent of women and 36 percent of men said they’re motivated to lose weight to improve the way their clothes fit their bodies.

4. You’re noticing some muscle definition

It can take some time — usually weeks or months — to build strength and see muscle definition. How fast you see changes will depend on your body and the type of exercise you’ve incorporated into your plan.

One 2019 study found that young women built more muscle mass in their legs when they performed more repetitions of leg curls and presses with a lighter load than with fewer reps and a heavier load.

If you want to keep building muscle as you lose weight, experts recommend that you get enough (but not too much) protein and do resistance-type exercises.

5. Your body measurements are changing

A shrinking waist size is good news for your overall health. Researchers tracked 430 people in a 2-year weight management program and noted that a reduction in waist measurement was associated with improved outcomes in blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

Other studies have drawn a direct link between your waist circumference and your risk of cardiovascular disease. Whether or not the scale says you’re down, a looser waistband means better heart health.

6. Your chronic pain improves

Weight loss can help decrease pain, especially in weight-bearing areas of the body, like the lower legs and lower back.

In one 2017 study, people who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight noticed the greatest improvement in chronic pain around weight-bearing zones.

In another study, losing 20 percent of body weight dramatically improved knee pain and inflammation in people with arthritis.

7. You’re going to the bathroom more — or less — frequently

Changing what you eat may affect your bowel movement patterns.

Eliminating meat and adding more leafy greens and vegetables to your diet can improve constipation, whereas adding more animal protein to your diet (as many paleo and keto diets do) can make some people more prone to constipation.

If you’re concerned about the differences in your bowel movements, or if they’re interfering with your productivity, it may be a good idea to talk with a nutritionist or healthcare provider about tweaking your plan to improve your gut health.

8. Your blood pressure is coming down

Being overweight can have a negative effect on your blood pressure, making you vulnerable to strokes and heart attacks.

One way to bring down your blood pressure is to lose weight with a healthier diet and more movement. If you’re losing weight, you’re reducing the strain on your heart and beginning to normalize your blood pressure.

9. You snore less

Snoring has a complicated relationship with weight. Researchers have found that people (especially women) who have metabolic syndrome (a precursor to diabetes) have a tendency to snore.

In fact, snoring and sleep apnea may even cause weight gain. For that reason, weight loss is often one of the targeted therapies for people who snore and who have sleeping disorders.

10. Your mood improves

Making healthy changes to your eating habits can lead to a better mood and more energy.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that a high glycemic load diet consisting of cookies, potatoes, crackers, cakes, and bagels, which tend to cause spikes in blood sugar, led to 38 percent more symptoms of depression and 26 percent more fatigue than a low glycemic load diet.

If your food choices are causing fewer peaks and valleys in your blood sugar, you’re probably feeling some of the emotional and psychological benefits that come from weight loss.

Healthy weight loss is slow and sustainable. It’s based on long-term changes to the way you think, eat, and move. Many doctors advise patients to aim to lose no more than 2 pounds a week.

Try this: Behaviors that predict weight loss

In a 2017 study, researchers analyzed the self-monitoring behaviors of people in a weight loss program. They found that people who completed these tasks were more likely to lose weight on the program:

  • weighing in at least three times a week
  • exercising 60 minutes or more every week
  • completing a food log three to five times a week

Seeing a big weight change in a short period of time may be highly motivational, but losing weight through fad diets or unsustainable practices can cause some unhealthy side effects, such as:

  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • slowed metabolism
  • muscle cramps
  • gallstones
  • weakened immune system

If you’re not sure about the long-term health effects of your weight management plan, talk with a registered dietitian, a licensed nutritionist, or your healthcare provider about it early in your process.

Where to find a professional to help you lose weight safely

A healthy body weight improves your overall health and well-being in many, many ways. If you’ve changed your diet and exercise habits with the goal of losing weight, there’s more to measure than just the number on the scale.

Some of those indicators are external, like the fit of your clothes and the curve of new muscle. Other measures are internal: less pain, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and a deeper sense of well-being, to name a few.

If you’re noticing these positive changes, keep going. If you’re seeing negative side effects like fatigue or hair loss, it may be time to reevaluate your strategies. You may want to team up with a dietitian or a doctor to make sure you’re progressing safely.

We live in a data-driven society where numbers are often haled as the best measure of success. It might be more motivational to appreciate the whole weight loss journey, however, instead of focusing so intently on the numerical mile-markers by the side of the road.