If you want to manage your weight or health, you need to measure your weight or health! You also need to measure the two things that control your weight — you’re eating and exercise habits. In a study in a 2006 publication of the American Journal of Health Promotion, overweight, previously sedentary adults were instructed to walk 10,000 steps per day, using a pedometer to track their progress. After 36 weeks, participants successfully increased their daily step counts, and they experienced reductions in body mass index, body fat percentage, waist size, and hip circumference. In addition, their levels of healthy HDL cholesterol increased.
Using a Fitbit or other calorie/ step tracker can help you to improve your health and fitness, as meeting daily step goals can promote weight loss and improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You still should create and maintain a caloric deficit to lose weight. However, self-tracking makes this easier. Whether you are needing to lose weight, start a new exercise program, or just maintain your health, here are 9 reasons why tracking your exercise and eating habits will help you!
- You’ll Eat Less
When people record what, when, and/or how much they eat, and/or their weight — they usually eat less calories, and lose weight as the result. It has also been shown that simple act of recording your food intake, body weight, or exercise levels is more important than how precise you are or what method you use.
People who track their exercise and food intake, have a higher percentage of sticking to a training program or eating program. Self-responsibility is your best friend here.
- You’ll Exercise More
When people record their exercise habits, they exercise more. They also tend to enjoy exercise more, as tracking our behaviors seem to encourage us to stay active and healthy.
Small changes in your physical activity levels like standing and walking, even at a slow pace, can make a big difference in your weight loss efforts. Self-tracking is a simple way to move more with almost no effort.
- You’ll Get Immediate Gratification
One of the reasons dieters often fail is because they don’t see immediate results. Weight loss usually doesn’t start until a week or two after you’ve created a caloric deficit. It often takes far longer than that for you to see large changes in your appearance.
Changes in water weight can often mask weight loss and make it look like you’ve gained weight. If you track your diet and exercise levels to ensure that you’re still in a caloric deficit, you can relax knowing that the weight loss is coming.
Tracking your food and exercise habits gives you immediate feedback on your progress. If you track your calories and how long or how hard you exercise, you’ll know immediately how your choices will contribute to, or detract from, your weight loss goals.
- Your Weight Loss Goals Become Easier to Achieve
Let’s say you need to lose 50 pounds in a year. You must eat approximately 175,000 calories less in 12 months.
As a dieter, that may look like an extreme, almost impossible goal. However, self-tracking helps you make this goal far more manageable. Using the example above, you could set a smaller goal of eating at least 500 calories less per day, or exercising enough to create a 500-calorie deficit each day.
Reaching these “bite-size” objective goals will allow you to go to bed every night knowing you’ll wake up the next morning one step closer to your healthy goal. You won’t feel overwhelmed with your larger goal, but you’ll still be on the path to achieving it.
- Your Diet Becomes a Game
Recording your eating and exercise habits makes dieting into a kind of sport.
If you set a calorie goal for each day, you must be strategic about how much you eat throughout the day. You can also use different exercise tactics to defeat your opponent (your caloric deficit). Having objective numbers to chase daily can make dieting almost like a game. Warning: Like other sports, you must know when to stop. Eating disorders = bad.
- You Can be More Flexible About What, When, and How Much You Eat
Tracking your food intake and exercise levels allows you to budget your time, calories, and food choices with greater flexibility, which can help you lose weight.
Studies have shown that flexible dieters — those who are able to make small adjustments to their eating habits when necessary, are more successful than those who attempt to stick to stringent rules.
If you track your calorie intake, you could eat less at other meals throughout the day and pool your calories for a larger meal. Self-tracking gives you near complete control over your food choices and eating schedule.
- You Can Avoid the “Oh S#%t” Effect
“I just ate a box of Oreos. Oh s#%t, my diet’s blown. Looks like I’m off the wagon…”
People who can’t lose weight or maintain weight loss often have this mindset. If you track your calorie intake and exercise levels, you can put a situation like this into perspective. You ate about 1,440 calories extra from that box of Oreos. That would slow your progress by about three days. It’s not worth ditching your diet over that.
If you were determined to make up for your cookie catastrophe, you could eat 100 calories less per day for the next two weeks, or exercise the equivalent amount. Instead of despairing over small deviations from your diet, self-tracking allows you to see exactly how much (or little) your choices will affect your goals.
- You Can Enjoy Your Favorite Foods Without Feeling Guilty
Let’s say you purposely eat a whole box of Oreos… and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream.
Self-tracking also lets you put the term “moderation” into objective numbers. You probably wouldn’t call a pile of Oreos and ice cream a “moderate” treat. However, if you track your calorie intake over time, you can see what percentage this feast made up of your diet.
Your total meal was about 2,400 calories. If you eat 2,500 calories per day, that would be about 14% of your weekly calories.
Tracking your food intake gives you the ability to indulge in your favorite treats, knowing that you’ll still lose weight (if you’re in a caloric deficit), and that you aren’t consuming too much junk.
- You Can Avoid Weight Loss Plateaus
If you track your weight on a regular basis, you can see how far you are from achieving your goal and how fast you’re progressing. Weighing yourself is a great first step, but you should also record your weight. This allows you to adjust your diet and exercise plan to keep the fat falling off.
If you see you’re falling behind, you can exercise more and eat less. If you’ve lost more weight than you predicted, you’ll be even more motivated to continue.Track Your Eating and Exercise Habits = Lose More Weight (And Keep It Off)
When people track their food intake and exercise levels, they usually eat less, exercise more, and lose weight.
Self-tracking gives you immediate feedback on how your choices accelerate or hinder your progress. You can break your larger goals into smaller, more manageable daily targets. This can make dieting almost like a strategy game. It also lets you be more flexible about your eating and exercise habits.
Self-tracking also lets you put minor mistakes into perspective, and act to correct those mistakes. You also can eat junk while still losing weight, if you know you’re in a caloric deficit.
You don’t have to be obsessive or super precise about your tracking. The act of recording your behaviors will generally help you eat less and exercise more, which will make you lose weight.