“I am generally exercising and trying to eat right, but I’m not making any progress with my fitness.”
This is a common complaint I hear from gym members, and chances are you’ve also felt this way at some point in your fitness journey. There is no denying you are exercising and I bet you are attempting to “watch” what you eat, but the reality is you are operating based on assumptions—many of which may not be true at all. Without accountability to keep you moving toward your goal and measurability to keep you motivated to press on when the going gets tough, it is nearly impossible to make changes in any area of your life. This is especially true when trying to lose weight, improve your fitness or both.
In one of the largest weight-loss studies to date, Kaiser Permanente asked nearly 1,700 participants to try and “eat healthy and exercise” over a six-month period. Approximately 65 percent of the participants lost an average of 9 pounds. However, those who used a food-tracking system and kept a fitness journal during the course of the study lost an average of 20 pounds—more than double the amount of those who went by “feel.”
Keeping track of your food and exercise can help reveal patterns in your behavior that you may have never noticed otherwise. For instance, if you are active and trying to eat well, but feel frustrated that you haven’t lost that “last 5 pounds,” there may be something holding you back. Perhaps it’s a soda every day at 1:00 pm, lack of diversity or intensity in your workouts, or a late-night craving you keep giving into. These are just a few examples of factors that will become obvious to you when you start writing things down. You’ll also likely feel a powerful inclination to stop and think twice about your choices when you know they will be recorded and cannot be erased!
Fortunately, “tracking” is a hot trend right now, with numerous options available to fit the habits of every unique individual. You can track throughout the day, or all at once; on the go, at home, or while waiting for your child’s karate lesson to finish up. Based on what you are measuring and your personal preferences, there are several different options to track and attack your goals! Let’s look at three to get you started.
If you are tech-savvy and happy to spend more time staring at the screen of your iPhone, iPad or computer, this will be the most convenient tracking method for you. Right after you finish that snack or workout, you can easily record it with free apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It! These apps and others like them guide you in setting calorie boundaries and exercise goals, provide a weekly report of your nutritional intake and display your progress in graph form over time. They remember the foods and exercise you record, so if you eat the same foods or do the same workouts regularly, this type of tracking becomes one-click fast. Digital tracking is also interactive. You can program reminders to yourself throughout the day to help you stay motivated, and you can also connect with other users of the app and keep each other accountable.
If technology is not your thing (or you just need a break from it in your day), you can always put pen to paper and write it down. One journaling product that is gaining popularity is the fitbook. Fitbook is compact enough to fit in your purse and even comes with it’s own mini-pen. In fitbook, you set a weekly goal and then track your meals and workouts, assessing how you did before moving onto the next week. Fitbook’s clever illustrations also include fitness tips, motivation and even reminders to reward yourself when you meet a goal. This type of tracking is more personalized and reflective and feels like journaling versus punching in the numbers. Either way, the proof is in the progress.
Maybe you like your smart phone well enough and you don’t mind journaling, but who has time for all that? If you would prefer to have a device do the work for you, check out Nike+ FuelBand. Wear the FuelBand all day and night and it tracks your activity levels in the form of NikeFuel. Every day you set a NikeFuel goal and work to meet that goal. This simplified approach is easy to understand and the self-competition is sure to motivate you. (Trust me, you won’t be able to go to bed at night until you see the word “GOAL!” flashing on your wrist.) If you want to take advantage of all this device has to offer, you can sync your FuelBand to your phone or computer, track your progress, connect with a network of other FuelBand users, and be celebrated Nike-style with encouraging words from celebrity athletes as you make progress.
Remember, you can track a little or you can track a lot, but the goal remains the same. If you want to bust through plateaus and reach new fitness heights, you need to remove the guesswork and create a clear, objective picture that can be assessed and fine-tuned on a regular basis.