You downloaded MyFitnessPal. You said you were going to start tracking what you eat. Maybe you even logged a meal or two. But then you forgot. Or you thought you’d just do it later, but later never arrived.
You are not alone. Sure, there’s a growing number of people who track consistently and reap the benefits: more mindful eating habits, “A-ha!” moments about the foods they struggle with most, feeling empowered to take control of health goals, motivation to workout. But there are more people out there—people like you and me, who sometimes have trouble getting started.
Whether your goal is to run a 10k, have the energy to play with your kids, make better food choices, or bring down your blood pressure, tracking can be the fuel that powers that engine. So how can you really get started, in earnest, and set yourself up to incorporate the habit for the long-term? Here’s what has worked for me, and countless others.
1. Get Clear Why do you want to track in the first place? Did your doctor tell you to do it? Your trainer? Perhaps you have a friend who experienced an “A-ha!” moment using a digital food diary or exercise log. Or maybe your “Why” goes even deeper?
While a majority of trackers say they started logging to lose weight, it’s surprising how few do so for vanity’s sake. Compared to those who simply wanted to slim down, 6 times as many MyFitnessPal members said they started using the app because they want to live longer, and 3 times as many were motivated by the desire to be more active with their children.
Having a clear intention and objective in mind will give you the motivation it takes to create a powerful tracking habit.
2. Get Equipped The days when tracking involved a little paper booklet and notepad are gone—thanks goodness! But sometimes getting up to speed with the latest digital logging technology can feel equally overwhelming. Obviously, we’re fond of a little app called MyFitnessPal, which is designed to be user-friendly and does all the heavy lifting for you.
Simply, download the app and sign up! That part is key—you can download all the health apps in the world, but if you don’t actually register for an account and get started you won’t see any results. Then, set a goal. Take your clear intention (from Step #1, above) and turn it into a measurable goal with a timeline, by inputting it directly into the app.
From there, it’s all a matter of entry. While there’s no easier way to track meals and snacks than using our food database, you might want to use any of a number of compatible apps to track your exercise—whether you run, walk, or Zumba your way fit, there’s a perfect workout partner app for you. Download it and synch up!
3. Get Reminded Adding a layer of accountability can help you stay on track. Set up reminders within the app, and consider connecting with friends on MyFitnessPal. You can help each other stay motivated, synch your workouts, and log meals together!
4. Get a Routine If you say you’ll do it later, chances are you’ll forget all about logging. But if you establish an “After this, I do that” scenario, and link tracking with something else you do all the time, you’ll start to remember the task by association. Take me for example: After I brush my teeth in the morning, I take 5 minutes to track my food in advance for the entire day, meals and snacks. Two more options that have worked for MyFitnessPal fans: “After I get back to my desk from lunch, I’ll track everything I’ve eaten,” and “After I do the dinner dishes, I’ll track my meal.”
5. Get Pumped Remember that creating a tracking habit begins with baby steps. Your goal is not to track for 1000 days. Instead, start with a goal of tracking the next thing you eat. You can do that, right? When you do it, celebrate a little—for at least 12 seconds. Then set a goal to track the next thing you eat, and the next. Then set a goal to track everything you eat tomorrow. And celebrate that win. Do that for a couple of weeks and the mini-victory moments will add up to something you can really revel in!
What helps you stay on top of tracking? Share your tips below!