Why You Should Track Healthy Habits
When you set out on the daunting task of making healthy changes, it can feel overwhelming and confusing where to start your health journey. Using a system to track current habits of nutrition, movement, hydration, and sleep can give you information on your current automated habits and give you a sense of direction for the changes you want to make.
Through working with clients, I have found many people don't pay much attention to their daily habits. For example, when I ask clients if they drink enough water on a daily basis, the answer is usually "yes". My follow up question is always "how much water do you drink?" That's when the client reveals they have sometimes one, two or even only three glasses of water a day, which is not enough for proper body function and health. But without inspecting your current habits, you won't know where you need to improve. Without a plan and direction, you will feel overwhelmed and stay stuck.
What You Should Track
Tracking can be used for many different reasons and depending on the goals you are working toward, the habits you track will vary. You can track anything from diet, beverage intake, physical activity, exercise, sleep quality and quantity and emotions.
To track relevant factors, it's important to first determine your end goal. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, tracking factors like nutrition, sleep and movement are relevant and supportive habits to track for an improved healthy lifestyle. If your goal is to change your body composition and gain muscle, tracking macros, exercise and rest will be the most relevant factors to track.
You can also be as detailed or as generic as you want. You can track foods and beverages by weight, volume, or calories. You can track your physical activity and exercise by duration, calories burnt, activity type, or resistance. You can track sleep by bed time, wake time, sleep duration, energy level on waking, or mood. There are many other markers you can track for health like stress level, resting pulse, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood markers like blood sugar, hemoglobin a1c, cholesterol, and many others. Keep in mind that the more detailed your tracking method, the more time consuming it can be but also more accurate. However, depending on your goals, you may or may not need to track your lifestyle factors in great detail.
How to Track Healthy Habits
There is a variety of ways to track your health markers and lifestyle changes. You track your journey by writing in your journal on a daily basis to keep your journey record. You can use a variety of health tracking apps that offer services for nutrition, hydration, physical activity & exercise, or sleep tracking. Finding a comprehensive platform that you find easy to use is key. I personally prefer to keep track of everything on one app rather than tracking physical activity on one app, nutrition on another and sleep on yet another.
We are already overloaded with apps for any and everything so find one that works. Some of the popular platforms available online and via mobile apps are MyFitness Pal, Cronometer, NutritionIX, fat Secret, Apple's Health app, Samsung Health, etc. I find it most efficient to track my foods and activity as I go through my day because it helps me remember everything more accurately. Tracking right away also helps me gauge if I need to make any adjustments as I move through my day. I found that having food prepped for the day ready to go allowed me to track much quicker and plan meals and activity ahead without going into deficit or over eating for the day.
I have created a simple track sheep to help you work toward healthier habits. You can access this sheet below and keep it handy for your daily tracking. Feel free to only track items that are relevant to your health goals or even add in what you feel might be missing. Setting daily reminders can be a helpful trigger to stay on track with physical activity, water intake, and getting to sleep on time.
Aida Sadeghi, MS, CNS