How to Track Your Health

In last week’s article, we talked about the importance of knowing exactly what you want and shooting for it. When talking about health-related goals, weight makes for a very attractive metric. It’s easy to check to see if you’re on track, and general consensus would imply that as long as the number is going down you’re good to go.

The problem is that tracking pounds ignites obsession in a lot of people. Weight fluctuations are real for everybody. The problem is that most of us aren’t very good at discerning the root cause of an overnight gain of three pounds. Are you about to get your period? Or did you eat half of a pizza night before last and your body is still working through it?

Another problem is the propensity to blame lack of results on water retention when the problem is actually that you aren’t eating and exercising properly.

So what are some good metrics other than your weight that you can track to make sure you’re health is staying on course? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Waist circumference. The presence of abdominal fat (as opposed to an overall body fat percentage) is one risk factor assessed for cardio metabolic syndrome (CMS). CMS is an early indicator of an individual’s likelihood of developing heart disease or Type 2 Diabetes. If the number on the scale isn’t moving but you’re gradually decreasing your waist circumference, this is a good indicator that your overall health is improving, even if your weight is consistent.
  2. Glasses of water. Adequate hydration is absolutely essential for everything in your body to function properly, from organs to joints. If you’re low on energy, try drinking a glass of cool water before reaching for coffee or soda. Same if you’re feeling peckish; a lot of people confuse thirst for hunger.
    How much should you be drinking? I’ve seen a lot of people throw out the equation, “Divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water a day,” but that isn’t always true for everyone. Instead, watch your urine. It should be very light yellow or clear. If it isn’t, drink more water.
  3. Fruits and vegetables eaten daily. Get more specific than the (completely incorrect) food pyramid requirements. How many meals and snacks today incorporated a savory green or a fresh fruit? This one is a good one to track because generally speaking as this number increases, the amount of processed foods and sugary crap you’re eating will decrease as it gets replaced. Definitely good for your overall wellbeing.
  4. Hours of sleep. Did you know that adults over the age of 18 are supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night? Seven to nine! Not getting enough sleep can lead to a host of problems, as I discussed in this post.
  5. Thoughts and feelings. This one sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? I keep a food log, writing down everything that I eat in a day and the time of day I ate it. At the end of the day I jot down a couple of sentences about how I was feeling that day or what happened. Did I have high energy throughout the day? Was I inordinately stressed about anything? Did I sleep well the night before? Knowing how you were feeling, physically and emotionally, on any given day is hugely helpful in identifying your eating patterns. Tracking this doesn’t require endless prose, either; like I said, just a couple of sentences to note anything significant about your day.

These are good methods to employ when working to improve your health at any time, and with the holidays coming up it’s just as important as ever to stay motivated and find ways to stay on track.

Ditch the scale this season and track something that makes you feel GOOD!

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