If your goal is related to weight and fitness there are a myriad of different products and apps to help you track every bite you eat, step you take and workout you do. Does these activity bands, pedometers and apps help or not? The question is to track or not to track?
As you’ll start to see as a theme throughout my posts this depends on YOU. I’ll talk specifically about tracking health and fitness goals using activity bands/apps however a lot of the pros and cons also apply to other goals.
There are pros and cons to both methods.
Visual reminder – using some form of tracker can be a really handy visual reminder of whether you have completed the actions that you want to in order to increase your chances of reaching your overall goal. For example if one of the actions you have decided to do to increase your chance of weight loss is to eat more veg at every meal then you might want do something as simple as putting a checklist on your fridge which you mark off after each meal with the number of portions of veg you have eaten.
Motivation – if you are at all competitive trackers can help with motivation and personal challenges. For example if one of your actions is to walk 10,000 steps a day then using a pedometer to track steps has been show to increase adherence. You might be more likely to walk to the shops or get off the bus a stop early if you know you are only 7,00 steps short of your daily target.
Learn about macros – specifically when tracking nutritional goals it can by useful to use something such as My Fitness Pal as it can help you understand more about the ratio of protein, carb and fat in foods you commonly eat and also to ensure you are eating an appropriate amount of calories per day.
Spot trends – tracking can help you spot trends. For example you might start to notice that everyday at 5pm you reach for the biscuit tin. Noticing this is half the battle. Sign up to my newsletter in the box to the right in order to get free tips to overcome cravings like this.
Beats Memory Failure – if you’re anything like me tracking things can help me remembers. It sounds silly but sometimes I can’t remember if I’ve taken my pills or not let alone how much water I’ve drank today and which days I’ve worked out this week.
Obsessing – tracking can become obsessive and turn you into a crazy person – other people probably don’t care how many grams of protein you ate today. Being obsessed is not a good thing. Have a read about my freak out when I didn’t know how much water I’d drank. In retrospect, clearly this isn’t balanced behaviour and not good for me or my relationship with others, yes it’s important to drink plenty of water but it isn’t critical to know down to the last millilitre how much you’ve drank. If you find yourself that obsessed I’d suggest tracking possibly isn’t for you. At least on a regular basis!
Time consuming – tracking takes time. Activity bands do some of the hard work for you but you still would need to enter food, water and exercise (other than steps) if you wanted to track them. This time could be spent with your loved ones, going for a walk, exercising, painting your nails……
What is more important to you?
Too much focus on numbers – numbers aren’t the be all and end all. Yes how many calories you eat, burn etc matter but they aren’t the only thing that influences weight loss – sleep, stress and hormones all have a huge part to play. If you only focus on the numbers you may miss the bigger picture and get frustrated that you’re not seeing the results you would expect.
For me tracking my food and workouts was really useful for a short period of time. It helped me find my formula to lead a lifestyle which was healthy and pretty effortless to maintain. However, for me it was a means to an end and in the long run I’d rather spend that time on other things.
You need to work out what will work for YOU. Start by considering whether you are you a numbers person? Do you like lists and get off on stats? If so, might be for you. Do you not understand why you can’t lose weight and what you should and shouldn’t eat? Overall, the only way to find out if it will work for you is to give it a go. There are plenty of free apps out there for pedometers and food trackers. Most people will probably see some benefit even if you only track for a short period of time, a few days of food diary might just give you the insight you need. Give it a go!
(but don’t get obsessed!).
Note: In this post I’m not talking about keeping track of your overall achievement towards a larger goal. Celebrating minor milestones is a GREAT thing to do and I will talk more about this in a later post.