How much have you gained?

What if we all agree to flip the question? Instead of asking our friends how much weight they have lost on their diet or exercise program, let’s ask each other how much we have gained on the journey. Those answers can be enlightening and even colorful. Numbers are just numbers. If the scale is our only target of success, we need to widen our scope.

To clarify, weight loss can be a very healthy, positive outcome of eating better and moving more. There are many medical, physical and emotional issues associated with obesity. Obesity is not safe. Obesity is costly. But if we expand the dialogue beyond the scale, we tell a more complete story and even inspire more people to take their first step.

Meet four local women, from four different decades, who have results to celebrate on and off the scale.

Jane Aubrey, age 64, was on 10 different medications. She suffered from high blood pressure, stomach issues and allergies. She never exercised and filled up on simple carbs and sweets on a daily basis.

When she saw a picture of herself looking “heavy and old,” Jane knew it was time to get serious. An advertisement for Bay Athletic Club’s annual Thinner Winner weight loss program caught her attention. She joined a team and fell in love with group fitness.

Her work paid off in many ways. Jane lost 14 pounds and has ditched seven of her medications. For the first time, her blood pressure is in a safe range. She is a now enjoying life as an active, fit grandmother of three.

Karen Cole, age 44, was living in pain. Her aching back made simple movements like bending or lifting unbearable. Each night, she wasted an hour lying on the floor to relax her muscles. She could not find relief.

When her workplace joined a Corporate Fit Challenge with Bay Athletic Club, Karen started exercising for the first time. Living with chronic pain, she had been skeptical. But with a simple routine of core strengthening moves, her back pain eased.

Karen cleaned up her nutrition. She cut out many processed foods and high-fat meats. Today she and her husband Peter eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken and turkey. Fitness is an important part of their day and their marriage.

All of these positive changes have added up to incredible results. Karen has lost 25 pounds and is pain free.

Suni Travis, age 35, created a new relationship with food at the beginning of the year and changed everything. “You are what you eat,” she said. “But you don’t realize what the cliché means until you experience it yourself.”

Her daily routine consisted of sugar-laden coffees, no breakfast and fast food for lunch. She drank Mountain Dew throughout the day and needed to take naps to recover from the sugar crashes.

As for fitness, she used to be very active, enjoying softball and hiking. But after she built at house, she felt like she had earned a rest. She took a break from exercising. “I felt like I deserved to sit down after all that work,” she said. “But I didn’t get back up for seven years and my body felt it.”

Now, she exercises almost daily and has more stamina. She enjoys cooking healthy food. She dropped an entire size of clothing and her body has changed from flabby to strong.

“You don’t know how much your daily habits can change your life until your life has been changed,” she said.

Brandy Boucher, age 29, started exercising consistently a year ago and gained confidence. Her personality has even changed.

“Now I am nice because because I am happy, not because I have to make someone like me,” she said.

As a local salon owner, fitness helps her take care of herself and handle stress. She dropped two clothing sizes, has more energy and expanded her client base by meeting new people.

“I’ve only lost 10 pounds,” she said. “But that doesn’t reflect the true measure of how amazing I feel.”

Their successes tell an inspiring story. Next time you see your friend, ask her how much she has gained on her fitness journey and watch what happens. You will see a smile, hear a story and celebrate so much more.