Tracking Habits Guide
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What we measure, we can improve. Studies have shown that self-monitoring, including tracking goals and tracking weight, is a significant predictor of weight loss. To give just one example, research has found that people who track food at least five days a week experience significantly more sustained weight loss than those who track less frequently or inconsistently.
There are several reasons why tracking is effective. First and foremost, it does exactly what the name implies—it helps you keep track. But in the process, it also holds you accountable, which is the key to actually changing your behavior. Simple as it sounds, knowing that you’ll have to document each red food you eat, for example, builds an awareness that can incentivize you to keep that number low. Likewise, the sense of accomplishment of checking your class goal off each day is a strong motivator toward meeting that goal.
Over time, tracking can help you identify patterns and trends in your behavior, which can show you what to adjust in order to keep making strides toward better metabolic health. It can also help you see progress, which can be a strong motivator to keep going. (And always keep in mind that the point isn’t to get things perfect every day. An isolated measurement actually tells you very little. Rather, it’s about trends and what happens over time.)
Finally, it might seem counterintuitive, but it’s also important to keep tracking when things are going well and you’re in a good groove. This will help you sustain that momentum and catch things early if habits start to slip. Think of tracking as your secret superpower—it keeps tabs on what’s going on with your habits so you can focus on living your life.
Having said all of this, life is hectic and ever-changing and tracking isn’t always easy to remember or execute on. Below, we’ve collected a range of ideas and approaches that can help.
- Besides your Calibrate app, probably the most important tool you use for tracking is your phone alarm. You can use it as a reminder to track your weight, your red foods, your class goals and on down the list. Label each alarm according to what you want to track or—if you’d like to get creative, make your label a positive phrase or affirmation (just make sure you’re clear on what the task is).
- Speaking of positive phrases, adding them to well-placed sticky notes can help not just with the tracking itself, but also with accountability. You can put food-related sticky notes on the shelf with your dishes, or in the pantry or fridge. Sleep-related notes can be helpful to find on your bedside table, in the bathroom. And so on.
Tracking red foods
- We’ve all got a lot on our minds already, and it’s not always easy to keep your number of red foods in your head all day long. This is why we strongly recommend that you record your foods in the app after every meal. In addition to freeing up some brain bandwidth, many members say the act of documenting helps them avoid eating more red foods later. (If they don’t eat any more red foods after their first tracking entry, they don’t have to make any additional entries that day. Note that to keep the habit up, always track after your first meal, even if the number is “0.”)
- If you want to try a different approach, you can try recording your red foods at the beginning of a meal, versus the end. Here again, the extra work of having to go in and change the number of red foods can discourage you from taking seconds (plus, the initial act of recording can give you some additional time to decide if you really want to have those red foods in the first place).
- If you’re a notebook-keeper and would prefer not to fiddle with the Calibrate app throughout the day, try tallying your red foods with pen-and-paper and then moving them over to the app in one lump sum. You can do the same thing with the Notes app on your phone or computer.
- Zero red foods? Awesome! Track that. And see how your streaks can build. Having information is really useful here. If you truly aren’t having red foods, we want to know it, and it’s useful for you to see, as well, so you can watch how this impacts your weight over time.
- If possible, always weigh yourself first thing in the morning. Not only will weighing at this time give you the most accurate measure of the day since your body has just done a mini metabolic reboot during sleep (and you’ll have an empty stomach and bladder), but it will also help you “anchor” the habit by attaching it to everything else in your morning routine (brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.). If mornings don’t work for you, bedtime is a good second bet for this same reason.
- If you’ve been putting your scale away to make your bathroom floor a little cleaner, consider skipping that step. Keeping your scale somewhere easy-to-see is a great visual reminder for this daily habit.
- For some extra back-up, put a sticky note reminder on your mirror so you’ll see it first thing when you get in front of the bathroom sink. Also, if you don’t like seeing the numbers on the scale, you can cover them with a sticky note. Again, you can use an empowering reminder for why you’re weighing or another affirmation for why your health is worth investing in; it doesn’t just have to be another to-do that greets you in the mirror every morning.
- As an extra back-up, some members say they find it helpful to set “daily weight” as a goal in their Calibrate app.
Tracking when you’re stuck
- If you’re noticing that you’re consistently missing days, take a few minutes to do a WHY/HOW/WHEN exercise. Start by writing down a quick “why” as it relates to tracking. This could be as simple as your overall program “why,” or it could be something else that’s more closely tied in your mind to what you’re trying to track. Next, write down “how” you’ll track—be really explicit about routine, reminders, timing for when you’ll track, and anything else you need to do to actually make this happen in the day-to-day. Finally, record what you’ll do “when” interruptions or potential derailers come your way. (Notice this isn’t an if it’s a when—life happens, and you’ll be ready for it!) Preempt some scenarios for when you don’t usually track (e.g., “when I’m tempted to skip a day, I will….. “; “when I am traveling, I will…..”; “when I’m late for work, I will…”)
- Setting a weekly “mantra” or reminder for yourself can help make sure tracking stays front-and-center by keeping your motivation and sense of inspiration high. Put your mantra on a sticky note somewhere you can see it each day—like your bathroom mirror. Some people will even enter it into the app as a goal so it pops up along with their other tracking habits. A few examples of simple mantras are:
“I am proud”
“I am enough”
“I am worthy”