Today I’m going to talk about tracking your health. We’ve come a long way from our ancestors, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
When it comes to listening to our bodies, a lot of us have learned to put in earplugs. Writing down what you eat, how (and how much) you move, and how you feel on a regular basis can help teach you how to listen to your body.
If you want to get healthy, the first step is re-learning how to listen to your body. Read on to learn how.
Look at this guy with his cool watch and fancy pen, you could be this guy.
Keep a Food Journal
You can get as complicated as you want here, weighing out portions, tracking calories and vitamins, or you can keep this nice and simple, and just jot down an overview (e.g. “sunday dinner: 2 slices of delicious brisket flat, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots”).
Here’s what’s important: be consistent, be honest, and don’t be negative. It’s OK that you binged on cookies last night, don’t try to hide it, write it down in your journal. Writing it down will solidify it in your mind so you can’t just brush it off. You’ll understand better why and how it happened, and be in a great position to make some positive changes. Basically, it happened, and now it’s time to move forward.
Once you’ve been consistent with your food journal for a while, you’ll get a better view of the whole picture, and you’ll be able to make lifestyle changes based on real information. Keeping a journal of what you eat can be surprisingly helpful in resisting the unhealthy choices you know you’ll instantly regret (oh, and as for those unhealthy choices you know you won’t regret, you gotta do what you gotta do, you know, in moderation).
Keep a Movement Journal
This is just like a food journal, but you use it to track how you’ve been improving on moving (I hate myself a little for that one). Many of you will be familiar with keeping track of a standard workout (X sets of Y reps at Z weight, or X miles in Y time), but here’s some other things you can keep track of in your movement journal –
- Miles or time walked
- Steps taken (using a pedometer like the fitbit – affiliate link)
- Stretches done (how many times, how long, and notes on improvements)
- Number of times you got out of your desk and took a break
- Time spent sitting vs standing
Or anything else you can think of related to movement or physical fitness. Keeping a movement journal will help you to understand how much you’re really getting done. It’ll also let you know if you’re improving or slipping on any goals you’ve set for yourself.
Above all else, don’t get discouraged, this is not a scorecard, it’s here so you can objectively look at how you’re doing and make changes based on real information.
You can journal on the computer too (or even blog about it) as long as you get your nails done first.
Keep a Well-Being Journal
To complement your food and activity journals, there so many other health metrics that you may want to keep track of. This is the place you can track things that you can’t really put a number on.
Here’s some ideas for tracking (but don’t stop here, track anything you want to) –
- Energy level
- Physical discomfort (pain, cramps, etc.) or the lack thereof
I suggest trying to scale these from 1-10 to give you a better idea of how you really feel. That’ll come in handy when you look back a week or more and don’t remember how “low” you meant when you said “low energy”.
This is just a jumping off point, so track whatever’s important to you. Then you can start comparing how you’ve been feeling to how you’ve been eating and moving (you’re writing in your food journal and movement journal, right?… right????).
Sometimes it’s obvious that moving and stretching will help with your daily aches and pain and sometimes it’s obvious that eating two boxes of cookies in a sitting makes you feel bloated and gain weight. Other times, you really need to see it written in ink for it to hit home and to help you make a change to get healthier. That’s what the well-being journal is all about.
Just Start Tracking What You Do and How You Feel
You can go into excruciating detail or just paint the broad strokes. You can write a novel, or scribble a day’s info on half a page. It’s about whatever works for you, but do yourself a favor: get started now and make it a habit.
Some of you will always want to keep a journal, and others will find that within a month or two you’re more comfortable listening to your body without it. There’s no right or wrong here – either way is totally cool.
No matter how you approach it, writing down your thoughts and experiences about the way you eat, move, and feel can teach you a ton about your body. It’s yet another tool for building up your health, and I hope you give it a real shot.