Do you track? To track or not to track seems to be a popular question these days.
Studies have shown that people that keep a diet and fitness journal have better results. It's been observed time and again that people who simply write down what they eat and drink have greater success in weight loss than those who don't. Tracking appears to be an integral part of any successful weight loss plan.
Tracking can be quite enlightening. Simply writing down what we're already doing can cause many a light bulb moment. Tracking will shine a light on our eating and exercise habits. It's amazing how we think we eat and move and how we really eat and move can be completely different. Many people are amazed at the reality of their diet and exercise situation once they've simply started tracking their days (myself included).
Turns out we're terrible estimators. It's amazing how wildly different what we think 4 oz is and what 4 oz really is can be. Same with the amount of calories in beverages. People will guess way fewer calories than a drink actually contains. From how much we really eat, to how big portions should be, to how many calories or carbs are actually in foods we consume, we tend to guestimate far off the mark.
Tracking can also show us patterns we may not have otherwise realized. Like emotional eating during stressful times, binging after certain foods or sleep patterns, and overall sedentary habits. Tracking gives us the information we need to make changes.
Even once we're making healthy changes tracking is an amazing tool. Tracking keeps us accountable to ourselves. It keeps us mindful. It keeps us focused. It gives us the data we need to look back on to figure out what has worked and what hasn't. Tracking creates a personal record of what works best.
My experience with tracking
I go back and forth with tracking. Sometimes I use an app, sometimes I use pen and paper, and sometimes I don't track at all. One thing I know for sure though is that when I'm trying to lose weight I do a billion times better when I'm tracking. OK, that number may be a slight exaggeration, but I consistently see better results when I track. Currently I'm back to tracking (for a 66 day streak).
To help us all with our tracking efforts I've created a free printable food and fitness tracker. This tracker has everything you'll need to keep you on track (ok, pun intended). Whatever your goals and whatever your program I've designed this tracker to be a helpful tool. It's a daily tracking page complete with food tracking, water tracking, supplement tracking, exercise tracking, daily calorie and step totals, and even space to journal. I recommend printing a month and putting them together in a binder.
Click here to print yours (Oh, yes, and no annoying email newsletter to sign up for. Just click and print!)
How to use this Free Printable Tracking Journal
- First, write the date at the top of each journal page as you use it. I've found it's really helpful to not just track, but to have dated tracking to look back on. Whether I'm experiencing a plateau and wanting to really look at what I'm doing or I'm wanting to look back and see what was working well during times I had great results, it helps to have dated tracking.
- Track all of your food. Meals, snacks, bites and nibbles. We need the full picture. Optional here you can add calories for each meal and snack at the end of each description (or carbs or protein, whatever you want to pay attention to according to your plan).
- Water. Check off each 8 oz of water you drink.
- Track any and all supplements you're taking.
- Daily totals. There's a space for your total calories, carbs, and protein. I recommend using all three.
- Next, track your specific workouts here. Weights, runs, workout DVDs. Everything. Also, consider jotting down specifics like weights used or pace and distance of your runs. The more data you have to look back on, the better.
- Journal. If you need more space here use the back of the page too. Journal anything related to this journey for you. Your thoughts and feelings that day. Episodes of emotional eating. Low energy levels? Feeling like superwoman? Capture it all here. Again, a priceless resource for looking back over time.
- The last entry is for total daily steps. I highly recommend an activity tracker. I have been amazed at this data over time. It's so important to track our overall activity and not just our workouts.
There's no perfect tracking method. Try some. See what works for you. Test some paper journals, some printables like this one, some different apps... The best method of tracking is the one you'll do consistently!
Do you track your food and activity?