Tips for Self-Monitoring Your Weight and Food Intake

Do you know exactly what you have eaten in the last say or so? How about how much you weigh from week to week, month to month, or even year to year? How many steps did you walk yesterday or the day before that?  While it is pretty easy to eat it and forget it, this is not the case when you are practicing self-transparency and monitoring your weight, food intake and even your movement.

Self-monitoring is very easy and will help you achieve your weight and healthy lifestyle goals. By definition, self-monitoring is simply the practice of watching and recording your thoughts and actions and using the information to formulate, follow or realign your health goals

Self-monitoring uses a few tools such as diet journals/logs, regular weigh-ins and measurements and even pedometers.  The key is, to be honest and observant about what you are eating, how much you are moving and even how you are feeling.

Benefits of self-monitoring

Here are just some of the reasons why self-monitoring should be part of your health journey:

  • You will eat less: Research has demonstrated that when people record what they eat, they eat less. 
  • You will exercise more and even enjoy it more.
  • You will see immediate results. Seeing immediate results is an excellent motivator.
  • You will know what works: Tracking what you are eating, and your exercise regime along with your weight and measurement will help you decide what works best.
  • Your goals can seem manageable: Self-monitoring is an excellent way to break your big goals into smaller and more achievable and realistic pieces.
  • You can be flexible: When you record what you eat, and your exercise patterns measure your efforts on a regular basis, you can be more flexible about things like special occasions or day’s off. Once you know what works for you, you can use this information to create whatever kind of lifestyle schedule works for you.
  • You can see how your choices impact your plan: When you weigh in, get measured, etc., and lining these evaluative tools up against what you are doing, you can see just how much or little your choices impact the result.
  • You will avoid plateaus: Many times people have great success with their weight only to find themselves on a plateau. If you record everything with 100% honesty, you can see what works and what doesn’t work

Self-monitoring tools that work

Now that you know the benefits, how exactly does self-monitoring work? Here are some very useful and practical tools that will provide you with valuable data to keep you heading the right direction.

Food/exercise diary

The foundation of any self-monitoring program begins with a food diary or log where you write down everything that you eat and your activity in a given day. Both of these things provide insight into what works best for you. If you are tracking things like calories, steps, etc.. do your best to include these. If you are a diabetic, it is useful to track carbohydrate consumption rather than calories.

Other interesting things to note include time of day, a few sentences about how you feel about an hour after eating or exercising. The things that you include in your diary should be predetermined so that you glean the best information possible to reach your health goals.

Top rated food and exercise diaries:

There are numerous ways to keep track of your food intake and fitness the old fashioned way. Here are two journals that will help you meet your goals.

This inexpensive food journal allows you to keep track of important things like water consumption, daily calories, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This book lays flat for easy recording and has room for up to five meals as day.

Keep track of your activity in this portable  journal that allows you to record your cardio, strength, daily goals and even some nutrition notes. With 60 pages, this little notebook is easy to slip into your gym bag and durable enough to take a beating.

Scale

Whether you like what you see or not, stepping on a reliable scale once a week may be just the thing that you stay motivated and even encouraged. Keep in mind that the scale is not your enemy, but rather a way to keep you informed. When you combine your food and activity log with your weight records, you can get a good picture of what is working and what is possibly getting in the way of your success.  For best results, use the same scale each week ( a reliable one) and be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each week.

Here are two scales that are both accurate and affordable:

Although this scale only costs $ 32.95 it scores big with over 12,000 positive reviews on Amazon. This scale offers instant readings, a large lit display, precision g sensors in .2 lb increments up to 440 pounds. The platform is durable and large and there is an auto calibrate feature and an auto shut off.

This scale measures not only body weight but also % body fat, % body water, % muscle mass and bone mass. Another nice feature of this scale is that it can store data for up to 8 users. These features make it well worth its $44.95 price tag.

Pedometer

Pedometers provide an accurate way to keep track of the steps that you take daily. These little devices are well worth the money you will spend which can average between $15 – $75 depending on just how fancy you want to go.

Although most people get about 3,000 steps per day, 6,000 steps are suggested for health maintenance. It is recommended that you walk at least 10,000 steps if your objective is weight loss. Walking is a very low risk, safe and inexpensive way to stay in shape and keeping track of your steps will show you just how effective it is.

Here are two popular pedometer tools to choose from:

This top of the line fitness tool does a lot more than count your steps. You can monitor calories burned and even stairs climbed. In addition access data about how long and well you sleep, set your fitness goals and earn motivational badges to help you do your best. Sync your stats wirelessly on your computer or on over 150 smartphones.

The Yamax is an affordable tool that claims to be 98 to 99% accurate. You can track your steps, distance, stride, calories and fat burned using this low-cost pedometer. Other features include a 30-day memory and a clock.

Accelerometer

If you want to take your tracking to a new level, consider an accelerometer. This device measures frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity. You can find these in a wide variety of prices from $50 to $1,000.

Apps

Technology can be an excellent thing when it comes to self-monitoring. If you prefer to use an app on your smartphone to keep track of your diet and exercise, there are plenty to choose from. What makes mobile apps so great is that they are always with you making it easy to keep track. Here are two top performers:

This little app is fabulous at helping you set your goals for weight loss and exercise. It even helps you track your blood pressure, sleep and more. This powerful program allows you to count calories, share favorite meals with friends and even scan food items using your camera and bar codes. One of the best features of this app is the ability it has for you to connect to accountability partners. Who doesn’t need a little motivation from time to time. Keeping track of your exercise and setting personal challenges is also included.

While the free version does plenty, the premium for just $39.99/year is loaded with awesome features such as informative content and tools to manage conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Some call this food, fitness, and overall health tracker one of the best free programs available. You can customize your weight loss and fitness goals, store your favorite food items and recipes, count not only calories but also micronutrients and find nutrition facts.You can access even more free tools at livestrong.com such as meal plans, free workout videos and the latest in health and wellness.

For just $29/year you can become a gold member. With this membership, you will have advanced statistics tools, a private community board, a clean eating guide with recipes and tips, priority customer support and more

It counts to pay attention

If you are serious about your health, it will serve you well to be serious about self-monitoring. Although it is unclear as to what extent of self-monitoring is best for optimal performance and compliance with healthy lifestyle plan, it is evident that there are many benefits to becoming more aware .

– Be Well

 

 

Do This When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Food

When you first fall in love, there is often no longer any space in your brain for anything but thoughts of that person. It is like an override switch is triggered and there is only room for one perpetual thought. Although this may seem like a good thing, the reality is, thinking about any one thing all the time can become frustrating, distracting and even compromise your health and wellbeing.

Take food for example: If you were to keep track, how many hours a day do you spend thinking about food? Either what you are going to eat, what you have eaten, what you would like to eat or any other related thought to food? Do you think about food when you are hungry and also when you are not hungry? Is the only time that you don’t think about food when you are asleep?

If you answered yes to any of the above, it could be a sign that you are preoccupied with food. Sure, you may not think that you are preoccupied because you can still (sort of) engage in life’s daily tasks, even seem involved in activities. However, if there is a constant hum in your head or a constant return to thoughts of food, it may be time to address the issue.

Perhaps you are struggling with a health issue such as obesity or diabetes. Unfortunately, being preoccupied with food can be a terrible thing. As our thoughts often drive our actions, the constant energy being used to conjure up mental images of food can interfere with your healthy life pursuit.

Dangers of constant thoughts of food

It has been said that our thoughts often drive our actions. If you have a tendency always to think about food, you may also have a tendency to act on that thought whether it is rational to do so or not. For instance, you may have just finished lunch an hour ago, but you are not thinking about food again. This thought may cause you to overeat at a time when your body doesn’t really need food for fuel.

So, what are you to do if the majority of your thoughts center around food?  It is not so simple as telling yourself to turn it off. Don’t feel guilty if you have tried to override your compulsive thoughts but not been successful, you are not alone.  The good news is that there are some positive steps you can take to banish your constant thoughts about food. Keep in mind that managing your thoughts is just like managing other things in your life, it takes time and effort and most of all, consistency.

Thinking about foodHere are some things that you can try:

Mental distractions: There is nothing like a good ol’ distraction to re-channel your thoughts. Being busy and being distracted means that your thought energy will have to fight for space. Although being distracted is not a longterm solution, it will help to diminish your controlling thoughts. Try things like playing solitaire, scrabble, word puzzles, etc… Anything that will pull valuable cognitive resources is a good choice.

Share your thoughts with a loved one or friend: Sometimes something so simple as sharing your thoughts with others can help release the burden that you have. Often, others can provide insight and support that will allow you to break free from your constant battle with food thoughts.

Keep food out of sight: Often the visual stimulus of looking at food is enough to trigger controlling thoughts about food. Keep your counters clear of food and your cupboards and fridge full of nourishing options such as fruits and veggies. If you share your space with someone who eats less than healthy, ask them to keep the food out of sight as well.

Use your hands: Just as mental distractions can help chase away your focus on food so can being busy with your hands. Take up a hobby such as crochet, knitting, painting or even playing a musical instrument. Again, the idea here is that your neurons can only handle so much, and if you channel the energy in another direction there won’t be much left for thoughts about food.

Ask yourself if you are famished or just bored? Sometimes you may think about food when we are hungry, but other times you may think about food because you are bored. Take a few minutes to connect with yourself when thoughts of munching on your favorite snack enter your head. If you conclude that you are not hungry, just bored – find something purposeful to do. If you are truly hungry – have a healthy snack like some veggies and hummus.

Breathe deeply: Often just taking the time to center yourself and focus on your breathing can chase repetitive thoughts away.  Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this four or five times to switch your focus from food to breathing. Your body will feel revived and energized after this exercise.

Don’t use food as a reward:  To help shift your focus away from food be sure not to reward yourself with food. For instance, if you feel that you deserve a “treat” for some reason or another make it a habit to choose something other than food such as a pedicure or a new pair of shoes.

Help someone: If you really want to shift the focus away from yourself, go out and help someone. Being engaged with people who are in need will rearrange your thoughts so that they are in line with what others need not with what you think that you need.

Listen to calming music: Many times you may feel like the racing thought of food will never cease. Chase your thoughts away by listening to soft instrumental music. After a few songs you may find that the music has gently pushed your disturbing thoughts aside.

Talk to yourself: One of the best and most effective ways to banish unwanted thoughts is to face yourself in the mirror and have a little talk. Remind yourself that you are more than your thoughts and that your thoughts will not control you. Be grateful always and remind yourself that you will not think of food. Repeat this as many times as it takes to get the idea of food out of your head.

Healthy thinking is a habit

Contrary to what you might have heard, it takes about 66 days for something to become a habit. Don’t give up on yourself too soon, but rather remind yourself that you can stop the thoughts. Keep defeatist thoughts away and remain confident that you can win the battle over your preoccupation with food. Don’t worry about how long it may take but instead, put your energy into making it happen no matter how long it does take!

-Be Well

 

Boost Your Mood: Find More Happiness

Happiness is a state of mind, and these two simple practices can help you get there.

What makes you happy? A new pair of shoes, or a profound understanding of your life’s purpose? Many of us would choose the first one. Problem is, if you rely too heavily on momentary mood boosters, you could be robbing yourself of real, feel-it-in-your-soul satisfaction. “Truly content people understand what energizes them and what they believe in,” explains Dan Baker, Ph.D., author of What Happy People Know.

Luckily, you don’t have to take a mystical trek into the desert to arrive at this point. In fact, all it requires is a shift in your point of view. Here are two simple yet powerful exercises that can help you see your life in a whole new light.

Flip your “script.”

The way you view daily events can profoundly affect your mood. Happy people don’t live in bubbles of perfection: They get caught in the rain, they lose their keys and their relationships falter just like everyone else’s. What sets them apart is the way they choose to characterize these situations. Was it a disaster or a mere inconvenience, a sign of a pervasive problem or a temporary setback? By changing the way you portray your circumstances to yourself and others, you change the emotional effect.

For this exercise, pretend that you’re telling a story about a big work project. Think of this as the first draft. Next, craft a story from the other side of the fence—don’t change the facts, just your interpretation of them. Rather than say you’re stressed out by tight deadlines, talk about how the fast pace keeps your mind limber. If office politics are causing you grief, instead of carping about gossipy colleagues, mention how working with so many interesting characters has enriched your knowledge of people.

Ask yourself which version would be more fun to tell at a cocktail party, the one that’s all “woe is me” or the one where you’re pretty fortunate? Which would you rather hear? “It’s human nature to automatically tell ourselves the bad version, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept that as the official story of your life,” Baker explains. To get started, jot down one negative thought, then rewrite it with a more positive spin.

Discover your purpose.

Devoting time and attention to something that gives your life meaning—a goal to work toward or a passion that fulfills you—can be a constant source of joy. “Research has shown that people who have the clearest idea of their purpose in life have the easiest access to happiness,” says Baker.

Your sense of purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose; you don’t need to make a mint or cure the common cold. Purpose is simply a matter of discovering what you’re passionate about—spending time with family, playing tennis, advancing in your career, gardening, traveling—and dedicating your energy toward that. “You can develop your sense of purpose by recognizing the day-to-day things that invigorate you and make you feel like your best self,” Baker explains. For example, if you enjoy problem-solving at work, think about how you can become your company’s go-to troubleshooter.

For this exercise, ask yourself the following questions to help you identify your passions:

  • What makes me feel most energized and excited?
  • For what do I want to be known?
  • What could I talk about nonstop?
  • Which activities can I get so caught up in that I lose track of time?

Once you begin to develop answers, think about how often you do the things that are so important to you. Are there aspects of your life that you love but have shunted off to the pile of things you’ll get to when you have more time? Your goal here is to figure out what’s missing and to start integrating that more fully into your daily existence. “Consciously pursuing activities that make you feel more engaged will not only increase your capacity for happiness but also your chances of finding it,” says Baker.

Special guest author: Sharon Boone
With permission by Fitness