What does NSV mean on the Keto Diet? [Why the Scales are a Vanity Metric]

  • Date: September 13, 2021
  • Time to read: 12 min.

NSV means ‘Non-Scale Victory’ and this is a big thing on the keto diet, as it should be on any diet. For years we have been conditioned to base our dieting success on what the scales have to say, but do these actually measure the impact a diet or eating regime has on our lives?  Read on to find out what NSV you should be measuring and the true impact that the keto diet has on your health and mental wellbeing.


NSV is one of many keto abbreviations that you will find in the keto world. When you start your keto journey, one of the most difficult things to get your head around are keto terms, initially, you may as well be reading a different language.

Check out Keto Abbreviations

Guide Check out our Keto Terms Guide

NSV is one of those abbreviations. A lot of people will come to keto for weight loss, however, not all people turning to a keto lifestyle are looking for weight loss, some are seeking other goals, i.e. a non-scale victory.

NSV = Non-Scale Victory

NSV is also favored as people have been conditioned over years to focus on the scales for their validation.

With keto the number on the scales does not always move, however, you will see other victories.

For me, one of those milestones was fitting into the most perfect jeans I hadn’t fit into for years. The funny thing was that I hadn’t fit into them for around 3 stones/ 20 kg. I’d only lost 1 stone (around 6kg), but I fit into these jeans.

That’s because I had actually lost inches around my waist, bum, and thighs, yet the scales hadn’t moved that far.

If I had been measuring my success based on the scales alone, I may have become disheartened, but by being able to see the progress in my jeans, I was motivated to keep going.

NSV on the Keto Diet

There are a number of NSVs that you can, and should, track on the keto diet.

Which you track will be up to you and your specific goals.

Some of the most common NSV that the people that we have worked with are;

  • Inch Loss
  • More Energy
  • Improved Focus
  • Improved Sleep
  • Improved Skin
  • Reached a Fitness Milestone
  • Reduced Pain
  • Improved Mood
  • Medical Markers are Improving
  • Healthier Relationship with Food

These are in no particular order, as everybody’s goal(s) will be different, the only common theme is that these victories should be acknowledged and celebrated.

We’ll dive into each of these NSV in further detail below to give you an idea of what you may be wanting to focus on.

So let’s get into how to do this so you can find your own way to motivate yourself.

You’ve Lost Inches

This is a personal favorite of mine. I like to take my measurements once a month. Confession time though, I measure in centimeters as opposed to inches, why? This is a simple answer because you will see the numbers move quicker!

It is purely psychological for me, I love to see the needle move.

Inch (or cm) loss is a great way to measure success as a lot of people will not see a reduction in the scales one week (or month), but they will be seeing a loss in inches.

As we have briefly touched on above, we are all conditioned to measure the effectiveness of a diet, or an eating plan, by how much weight we lose according to the scales. If any of you have ever attended a slimming group in the past, you will be all too aware of this.

If the scales haven’t moved one week, you may as well have been hung drawn, and quartered, you are ‘blamed’ for not ‘following the system’. Immediately your group leader will go into ‘fault finding’ mode, asking what you’ve eaten and shaking their head. You are made to feel as if you are personally responsible and as if you are a failure if you haven’t seen movement on the scales.

I have been there, this feeling of guilt can lead you to create a really unhealthy relationship with food and can lead you to take some unhealthy practices, such as using laxatives, water tables, and all sorts, just to see movement on the scales.

The reality is that weight loss is not linear. You will not consistently lose the same amount of weight week on week.

This is why NSVs on a keto diet is a much healthier option than relying on the scales and my personal favorite is measuring.

The String Method [Bizzar But Effective]

Different people will do this in different ways. One of my old clients used to only measure her waist size with a piece of string. Never a tape measure, and impressively, she would never step on the scales.

She would cut the string to the circumference of her waist and then she stuck them to the back of the wardrobe door. She would do this once a month and she created a whole ‘fringe’ of lengths of string, getting progressively shorter.

This gave her the positive reinforcement to continue by showing how far she had gone; this was a keto NSV that was more empowering to her than seeing the scales playing their games.

I will have to see if I can dig out a picture she sent me and add it here with her permission.

The Jeans Method

I’ve used the term ‘jeans’ but this can be any item of clothing.

If you have some favorite jeans from the 90’s that you’re still hoping to get back into them. Try these on once a month, to see if you are getting closer to getting back into them. If you can bring yourself to, take pictures too so you can look back on the progress.

OR

Keep a pair of jeans that fit you when you started out on your keto journey, try them on once a month so you can see them getting bigger and bigger on you, this is a really great motivator, again that is an NSV.

OR

Keep a pair of jeans from each size as you have lost weight, if you need some motivation to see how far you have come, lay them out on top of one another. This is a great NSV and motivator

OR

Using a fabric tape measure, measure and track anything you want. For me, initially, I used to track;

  • Neck girth
  • Bicep (left and right)
  • Chest
  • Waist
  • Thigh (left and right)
  • Calf (left and right)

This really kept me motivated when I started on my keto journey. Now I just use my clothes as a guide. If my jeans start feeling a bit snug, I know I may need to look at what I am eating and start counting my macros for a couple of weeks.

If they start feeling a bit looser, I know I’m a badass! If they remain the same, I am quite content!

Taking Photos

If you can bring yourself to, take photos once a month to see the change in yourself. If you can, take a photo from the front, side-on, and from the rear.

I know this will not be easy for everybody. However, if you can, do try and take some ‘before’ and progress photos.

When I was larger, I used to hate having my photo taken, so I made sure it never happened, and, if it did, I would ensure they were deleted asap!

The sad thing about this is that I cannot do a ‘before’ and ‘after’ side by side for you all.

Monitoring Energy

This was a big one for me when I started keto. Once I was in ketosis, I had so much more energy. I didn’t like journaling when I started keto, but it was something I got into. There are a lot of health benefits to the keto diet, and I had read about these before starting, but I was overwhelmed by how much more energy I had.

One of the ‘questions’ I used to answer in my journal was around how much energy I had. These energy levels rapidly increased the longer I was living a keto lifestyle.

I think this was something that I took for granted until I ‘fell off the keto wagon’ after a holiday. I was trying all of the local (carb-filled) delicacies, trying to work out how I could make them keto-friendly at all. A two-week holiday turned into a whole month not eating keto.

There was weight gain, but it wasn’t that that gave me the kick up the backside that I needed to get back on the keto wagon, it was the lack of energy.

I was struggling to do the most basic of tasks, I had no energy to do the housework, or even go out socially. The afternoons at work were difficult as I was experiencing that afternoon ‘slump’ that was the norm pre keto.

Even my colleagues commented on how ‘sluggish’ I appeared to be.

Since this time, my energy level is something that I have always make note of when journaling every morning, and generally something I am aware of throughout the day.

We all wish we had more time in our lives to get things done, but with more energy, achieving more is possible. Definitely a NSV for the keto diet for me!

This leads nicely onto our next major NSV. For me, having improved focus and improved energy go hand in hand.

Improved Focus

Have you ever struggled in the day, walking into a room and not knowing what you have gone in for? Reading a page of a book and not having a clue what you have actually read? Or, a personal favorite of mine, opening tabs on your computer at work and then having no idea why you have opened them?

Once your body has entered ketosis, your brain will be getting its fuel from fat, which is a more constant energy supply than glucose which peaks and troughs throughout the day.

This helps improve your focus, this is another amazing NSV to track your keto progress with. I think we will all agree that having improved focus, leads to improved productivity in life, which is much more satisfying, and meaningful, than seeing the scales move

Improved Sleep

Wow, we all want more sleep in life! For years I was trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night as that is what all of the ‘gurus’ told me I needed to get. I can honestly say that I never felt refreshed though.

I used to struggle to get to sleep and I would wake up feeling drained and without the energy to face the day. This would lead to me hitting ‘snooze’ multiple times, trying to avoid what came ahead for the day. 

That all changed when I moved on to a keto way of eating.

I now sleep between 6-7 hours per night. It is very rare that I struggle to get to sleep (how many of us can say that as grown adults!). More importantly, I get really great quality sleep

Do I jump out of bed in the morning? No!

I still have days where I don’t want to get out of bed, but it’s not out of lethargy, it’s purely out of wanting to avoid adulting!

I wake up refreshed.

Actually getting a quality of life back for me, and waking up fresh to tackle this day is an amazing NSV for me.

Improved Skin

This was an NSV from the keto diet that I was not expecting.

My skin was never bad, but as an adult, I would still get blemishes, and I struggled with uneven skin texture. A lot of people report improvement in their skin.

This is a great NSV to measure your success on the keto diet.

Reached a Fitness Milestone

We all have fitness milestones, for some, it will be getting to the top of the stairs without being out of breath, for others, it may be running 10k, or lifting a heavier weight.

Everybody will start from a different point, and everybody will have a different fitness goal.

Why not use a personal fitness goal as an NSV to measure the success of your keto journey?

Reduced Pain

A lot of people turning to the keto diet will have done so as they are suffering from inflammation around the joints, which can cause pain.

This is common in people that are overweight.

A great NSV to measure is whether your pain is reducing in your joints. Reducing inflammation through a keto diet and reducing your day-to-day pain has to be much more important than seeing the scales move.

If you can feel your pain reducing that should have a profound impact on so many elements of your life and motivate you to keep going on your keto journey.

Improved Mood

Improved mood is likely to link to some of the other NSV we have listed above, if you are in less pain, sleeping better, have more focus during the day, have more energy, and are seeing improvements in your skin, and your clothes getting looser, these are triggers are likely to help with an improved mood

Although seeing the scales move, may also put you in a good mood, that feeling is not as satisfying as seeing how baggy your jeans have become over the months or being able to get up the stairs without panting.

What is more, is that the second the scales go up, even the slightest amount, we forget about all of the hard work that has come before, instead, we have become conditioned to berate ourselves, which sends us into a guilt spiral. This spiral can lead to making poor food choices.

Medical Markers are Improving

This is something between you and your doctor. You will know what your medical conditions are, and in conjunction with your doctor, you will be able to monitor if there have been any improvements with your health.

Improving our health should be everybody’s top priority, and anybody embarking on a new lifestyle should be seeking this.

Movement on the scales is only a vanity metric. Improving our health should be more important than anything else.

Why not prioritize your health and measure your success based on this rather than what the fickle scales say?

Healthier Relationship with Food

If you’re still reading at this point, well done! NSV’s are not easy to get our heads around as it is not how we have been brought up, it is not what we know.

When you ditch the scales and start to measure your personal success based on non-scale victories, your relationship with food becomes much more healthy.

Food becomes something to savor and enjoy, as opposed to something to make you feel guilty. When you are not ‘stressing’ over the number on the scales, the likelihood of emotional eating will reduce.

How to Celebrate your NSVs

Goals are great, but if you don’t celebrate reaching them, they can feel a bit flat and you may be less inclined to work towards your next goal.

Historically, I would have celebrated any goal with food, bad food!

Now, if I am setting a goal, I will set my ‘reward’ in advance. I try and make these non-food related, to try and build a better relationship with food.

The rewards are all relative to the goal. If it’s a small goal that I have achieved, it may be that I reward myself with a new pair of jeans or a new top. That way the reward is designed to have some longevity (every time you pull on that new top you will be reminded of your achievement) and not be food-related.

On occasion, I have used food as a reward, however, this has been very calculated so as not to send the wrong message to your brain. If there is a nearby restaurant that does keto-friendly meals, you can set this as a reward for achieving a goal, or, invite your friends around and put on a big keto spread for them all.

A cheat day should never be a reward for hitting a keto goal. All you are doing is sending the wrong message that by living a keto lifestyle you are depriving yourself and that carb-laden food is a treat. This is not a good long-term outlook and is self-sabotaging.

The Importance of Non-Scale Victories on the Keto Diet

NSV on the keto diet or any diet for that matter is much more important than using the scales for tracking success. Losing weight is not linear, the scales are not going to be consistent in what they show.  NSV can keep you motivated when the scales may not be your friend. By tracking NSV you will build a healthier relationship with your keto lifestyle and yourself. Give it a go and let us know what you think.

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