As the old saying goes, what gets measured, gets managed. And tracking your progress against your fitness goals is the only way to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. If you’ve made the decision to try the 500 Calorie Diet, you want to know whether it’s working sooner rather than later.
Advice varies on this, but in my experience, measuring and charting your progress is a great motivational booster and lets you know what is working and what isn’t. It tells you when you need to work harder and when you can take your foot off the gas. And it helps to make sure you’re staying healthy.
There are a whole number of things you can track, this isn’t just about whether you’re seeing the results on the scale, though that is undoubtedly a key part of it. You should also track the process that you are using to get these results.
Things we’ll cover in this article:
- Why tracking is important
- The types of things you should track and how to track them
Most people aren’t even aware that they need to change
If your weight has crept up gradually over time, it may be that you barely even noticed it happening. As you get older you stop weighing yourself as often and if you’re ever asked your weight you give a rough guess.
Maybe you’re surprised when you do occasionally step on the scale?
This scenario is all too common across the world.
But it needn’t be this way. Keeping an eye on your weight, recognising whether it is going up or down, and knowing when to do something about it is a really important part of staying healthy.
Wouldn’t you rather know that you’ve put on a couple of pounds as soon as it happens, rather than decide you need to lose weight next time you go to buy a new pair of jeans?
The benefit of tracking your diet and exercise is two fold. Not only does it help you to understand what impacts your weight, but it also helps to influence your daily routine. You’ll find you’re less likely to eat bad food if you know that you’ll have to write it in your food diary.
And you’ll be less likely to miss your workout session if you know it’ll leave a big empty space (or worse a cross!) on your tracker.
Knowing what to track
When you start out, the obvious thing that you should track is your weight. Get on the scales at the same time everyday and make a record of the result.
Recording your weight at the same time each day helps to avoid irregular fluctuations caused by what you might have just eaten. The best time is first thing in the morning, as soon as you get up, before you eat or drink anything or go to the bathroom.
We’ll come to charting in a moment, but for the mean time, make a note of the number, think about yesterday’s number and be aware of whether your weight is up or down. This in itself is powerful.
Another great way of monitoring your overall progress is to take regular pictures of yourself. This might feel strange and a bit vane at first, but it is an effective way of charting how far you’ve come, without having to worry about graphs or trackers.
Another thing that you can track is your diet. Using this in combination with your weight will help you to understand what causes your weight to go up and down.
There are a number of ways to track your diet:
- Food journal – The simplest way to track your diet is with a straightforward food diary. This is where you literally write down in a journal everything that you’ve eaten that day.
- There are several food journal apps available that can help with this, but it is perfectly fine to just write it on a piece of paper.
- Take a photo of everything you eat – This has similar benefits to writing a food journal but is less time intensive, and therefore easier to stick to.
- Count calories – To start with this is a real pain as you probably won’t know how many calories are in the foods you eat on a daily basis. The longer you stick with it, the more you learn and the easier it gets. An added benefit of counting calories is that it makes you hyper aware of what you are putting into your body, and which foods are especially calorie dense.
- Count your fruit and veg portions – One way that i’ve looked at my diet in the past is to focus purely on the number of portions i’ve eaten each day. This is more of a focus on healthy eating rather than necessarily weight loss. But i’ve also found that I tend to lose more weight when I increase my portions of fruit and veg. (Word of warning here, avoid overdoing fruit which can be high in fructose and therefore calories)
- Units of alcohol – Alcohol is high in calories and comes with a whole host of other negative health implications. So keeping an eye on how much you’re drinking will yield benefits on many levels. You can track this in the way that makes most sense to you, such as “units”, or number of glasses of wine / bottles of beer etc.
The other key part of your lifestyle that you could track is your exercise, but exactly what you track and how you track it will depend on what you’re doing.
Some things you could start to track include:
- Number of steps – Walking more is a great way to ease yourself into exercise. Tracking your steps has become very popular since the a number of medical bodies started suggesting that people should aim for 10,000 steps per day. This is not easy to achieve unless you make a conscious effort to do it, or you have a job that keeps you on your toes each day. Tracking your number of steps might highlight to you actually how little you move around, and could be a real eye opener. Traditionally you might have used a pedometer to do this, but now there are iPhone apps that are reasonably accurate, and a whole host of activity trackers such as the Fitbit which will track your steps and a whole host of other things.
- Exercise routine – If you have a regular routine that you do, such as a 7 minute workout, you could simply track how often you do it. Are you aiming for 3 days a week, or 5? How often do you actually get it done?
- Active minutes – This is another one that activity trackers can really help with, but you can track yourself with a stopwatch fairly easily. How many minutes a day do you exercise for? Most medical bodies suggest that you should aim for 30mins a day on a regular basis.
What else could I track?
Tracking can become addictive, and you may find yourself looking for other things to track to better understand how and why you are progressing. Also, if you find that some of the things you are tracking have leveled off, this doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re doing isn’t working.
For instance, you may stop losing weight on the scales, but that your heart rate is improving, or inches are still coming off your waist.
Other things you might want to think about tracking are:
- Body fat percentage
- Resting heart rate
- Body measurements (waist, thigh etc.)
Using this information
By tracking various aspects of your lifestyle, you’ll learn much quicker what works best for you, and you’ll be motivated to keep doing those things.
If you’re on the 500 Calorie Diet, or some variation of it, you’ll see you weight drop after a fast day and you’ll feel good for it. The pain of cutting down to 500 calories a day suddenly becomes worth it.
If you’re goals are different and you’re looking to improve your overall fitness, you’ll notice your resting heart rate drop as you add more high intensity exercise to your routine.
Without measuring and monitoring these things, it is easy to be discouraged from the lack of progress you see physically, without giving sufficient time for your hard work to bare fruit.
My advice; start today, pick a couple of things that you’re going to track, and if you do nothing else, at least you’ll start to get a sense for how your weight is trending over time.
As always, give us a shout if you have any questions, or if you have any advice on tracking that you’d be happy for us to share, we’d love to hear from you!