First of all, if you're stepping on a scale... get off it (click here to read why scales aren't a helpful or healthy). Just like the number on the scale isn't an accurate measurement of health, so is it with progress. Pretty counter-cultural right? We've been so brain washed to think that the only thing that matters is how much weight you've gained or lost. Forget the healthy lifestyle... forget the long term change or its sustainability. There is a tendency to solely focus on the number, instead of all the other benefits of working towards a healthier relationship with food, weight, exercise, etc. Whatever the number on the scale, or if you've stopped weighing yourself already, you can still see the benefits of building a healthier lifestyle as the following examples show*:
Emotions - When you get back to eating 3 balanced meals and a few snacks per day, you will likely notice a difference with your emotions/mood. Ever notice when you don't eat enough how you become more agitated than normal? Or, when you've eaten too much, feelings of guilt or shame emerge? A sign of progress is when emotions and food/weight are not so closely linked. In the beginning stages, as you learn to trust normalized eating, set-point, and a healthy exercise routine, you may experience uncomfortable or distressing emotions. By using skills learned in therapy and following a healthy meal plan and exercise routine, you can learn to tolerate and cope with such difficult emotions, if not experience an elevation in mood.
Energy Level & Stamina - Just as mood improves, as does your energy level. By giving your body the proper type and amount of fuel during the day, you will have more energy throughout it. You won't be in a food coma, nor be completely exhausted. You may even notice that you can exercise for longer periods of time, and/or know when to finish so you don't overdue it out of compulsively or 'need'.
Sleep - Sleep can also be interferred with when one does not get the right type and/or amount of food/exercise. You won't wake up to feelings of hunger or indigestion from eating too little or too much of something. You will also get a better quality of sleep when you move your body throughout the day, instead of being immobile. A better quality of sleep is another sign of progress.
Flexibility - Rigidity around food and exercise is quite common in those who struggle with food/weight/exercise issues. A sign of progress is when you catch yourself adjusting to those moments when 'life gets in the way' without having a melt down. You won't follow rules like, "I'll just double up on exercise tomorrow" when the gym closes unexpectedly or if you've eaten more than you wanted at a birthday party. You will experience flexibility mentally and emotionally as you build a healthier lifestyle.
Balance - This is a big one. What I mean by balance is looking at your life holistically, and making sure you are paying attention to each aspect of it. For example, are you spending time with your friends? Connecting spiritually? Physically getting enough exercise? Emotionally are you getting your needs met? What about mentally? Another sign of progress is making sure you aren't spread too thin and are using a variety of supports to help sustain your holistic health.
Medical Issues - Building a healthy relationship with food/weight/exercise can also effect things like cholesterol levels, blood pressure and so on.
The above are excellent ways in concretely seeing both benefits and movements as you work towards building and then maintaining a healthy lifestyle.... much more informative than just a number wouldn't you say?
*Keep in mind that other illnesses/diagnosis can effect the above. It is important to consult your medical and health team whenever you make changes regarding your health and wellness. This list is not exhaustive.