Do you know what your current body fat % is? Do you know how many kilograms you last squatted? Do you know the circumference of your tummy? Your best 5km time? If you ate enough vegetables in the last week? How many hours of sleep you average? What does your fasted blood sugar look like? What was your average weight fluctuation in the past 6 months. I could go on……
The point is you might have a guess or a gut feeling and it is not always right.
In my business career I always adopted and preached the mantra “if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it.” You need to understand what is going on in order to improve something. Makes sense right? That applies to all aspects of life and can make the difference between success and failure.
Also since I worked in the online media industry the Internet allows to you measure websites in many ways that print publications do not have the luxury of using simple tools such as Google analytics. For example while you are reading this text my email system has already told me that you have opened this email. It will also tell me if you clicked on a particular link.
Each week I analyse this data to see if I am improving. Where am I doing well? Where can I improve? What people like? I know that I currently get about 400 new subscribers a month. I know that typically at least 20% of the 7,107 subscribers of this newsletter open it weekly. Now that might not sounds like much. But since I know that the global benchmark average open rate for email is around 18-20% I am comfortable with that.
Without this data, interpretation and analysis, I would be shooting from the hip – flying in the dark – riding on the seat of my pants! Living on a prayer. I would not know if the time and effort I put into the newsletter is worth my energy. It turns out that it is and the data is there to confirm it. 🙂
Equally I track a spreadsheet of all stats related to Sleekgeek properties so that I can constantly study the trends and know what is working and what is not. This knowledge is power. Which is why this graph reflecting our massive Facebook Group growth over the past 18 months makes me extremely happy! We have grown from 8,000 to 18,000 group members since January this year!
SO why don’t most of us typically track our health and our bodies?
The average person – besides those over-obsessed with the scale – most times do not know what is happening with their bodies.
Anyone who is diabetic will have learned the absolute necessity of tracking, recording and monitoring his or her blood sugar levels. Their life depends on it.
So when it comes to you and your health you cannot manage it if you don’t measure it.
Many people avoid keeping track and remain blissfully ignorant. The things we most want to attain can become blind spots. There is a lack of knowledge and accountability.
Many people over months or even years, can pick up a lot of weight and wake up one morning wondering how the hell it suddenly happened. It did not. It is gradual. Gram by gram. It does not happen overnight. But we often ignore the signs and turn a blind eye to the data that is staring us right in the face.
I can assure you that if that person was on top of their stats and were conscious of the change in their body they might have decided to do something about it earlier. People do not get diabetes or high blood pressure or obesity related diseases overnight.
The proactive solution is to bring the facts as much as possible into your conscious space. Measurement and tracking is a fantastic way to do this.
Even if you are going backwards make sure you are at least aware of that. What you decide to do with that as a free thinking adult is up to you.
There are certain things you might need professionals to do such as checking glucose levels, cholesterol and other key health markers. These are things you typically do with blood tests and under the supervision of your doctor. If your doctor does not insist on it then you need to be proactive and start to know your numbers and educate yourself about what they mean.
Simple tests can also be done at low cost at many pharmacy chains.
Make sure you have a tracking plan worked out with your medical professionals to address the areas you feel are risks or important. Discuss a strategy with them and commit to it.
I now go for regular blood tests to make sure everything is where it needs to be.
That’s just one way to measure your health. There are many other things you can track on your own which can help you achieve your health goals.
Depending on your personality type you can approach this in a number of ways.
Either you can track a number of data points frequently or you can take a few indicators and measure those regularly but with a bit more time in between checks. Whichever way is more sustainable for you is fine. As long as you are keeping track either of them work.
The golden rule here is you should only track what you can realistically sustain tracking and committing to. If you cannot keep it up there is no point.
If you have to select 2-3 key things then make sure they are most aligned to your most important personal health goals.
To get the ideas flowing here is a general shopping list of some things you might consider tracking:
- A monthly photograph in your underwear or bathing suit. Front, back and side (my personal favourite)
- Weekly waist or tummy tape measurement (Tape measurements are a cheap, simple and excellent way to see what is happening with your body)
- Monthly body fat % (Best done with a professional you see regularly)
- Daily calorie intake (I am not into counting calories but in the beginning of my journey it helped me to understand what is in food and get a good idea of what I was putting into my body. I did it for the first few months. There are some great smartphone applications out there such as myfitnesspal and fatsecret. You do not have to follow their food recommendations but it is great to see the makeup of the food)
- Daily food consumption (protein, fat, carb intake) – Same as above
- Weekly weight – Gives you some indication of your progress but can be deceptive if used in isolation.
- Daily water consumption
- Daily hours of sleep
- A visual meal gallery (as easy as a photo of all your meals and all food that passes your lips which will give you a quick and easy reference to what you really put in your body)
- Daily Exercise log (Detail metrics to the activities you do)
- A weekly fitting in a pair of jeans or your favourite tshirt
Those are just some suggestions off the top of my head.
Then you may also want to track some very specific things that are unique to your health goals.
For example I personally had a problem with my Estrogen production (discovered via the blood tests I mentioned) and my doctor advised me to eat Brassica (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts,) and onion family daily which aids this issue so now I track my intake of these on a spreadsheet tick list.
If you suck at eating veggies then track that for example. Everyone will have different focus area. If you are training for a half marathon then keep comprehensive records of your training using a running application like Runkeeper or Endomondo.
I got a little nerdy and decided to track this excel spreadsheet for the next 3 months at least. Here are my headings for your interest. I want to draw correlations in my health too. For example how is my mood, energy and productivity effected by my nutrition, sleeping and training habits? At the end of each day I will score myself and trend these over time.
Now that is very involved. If you are not the type of person who will do this religiously then rather do not.
Take a simple approach. At the very simplest in terms of tracking physical progress when I started my journey I took a monthly photo for comparative purposes. From below you can see the value of keeping a monthly picture diary. I do not have the date of the last pic and I am not sure why I stopped either. I am going to start this process again because it is very valuable. Even if your goal is to maintain.
At an even simpler level you can take a specific pair of pants or jeans and try those on regularly to make sure you can feel if you are passing a boundary.
I am not a big fan of the scale at all because it only tells a part of the story. You can gain muscle, lose centimeters, change your physique and shift very little on the scale. I definitely think too many people are obsessed with it and allow it to govern their happiness. But I do weigh fairly regularly to monitor fluctuations understanding it is part of a bigger picture. For example before my journey to health when I cross the 100kgs mark (big for my height) the warning bells would go off…since I got in shape I promised myself the new max threshold would be 90kgs.
If you are using the scale as your only measurement I think your approach is too one dimensional and you need to at least include a tape measure and start measuring centimetres which is cheap, quick and simple.
I encourage you to track your centimetres as much as your kilos.
One step better, if you really want to understand how your body is changing then nothing beats a monthly body fat percentage measurement with a professional. If you want to get a trend and track progress then it is all about consistency. Every fitness professional will measure slightly differently so you want to get the same person with the same tools to have some accurate comparison.
You can also get this done at some gyms on the machines they have but they are not accurate. You can even buy devices. All of these may not give you the most accurate reading but they will give you a relative comparison, which is the key.
We can debate for ages what are the best things to track. You need to decide what is the most informative and sustainable for you.
It also helps to get an accountability buddy. This may be your partner or a friend. Organise a weekly check-in and review perhaps. A buddy you take monthly photos with.
No matter what you decide to do at the most basic level I would strongly recommend keeping a gallery of monthly photos. They will tell you a great story about how you are progressing.
I also strongly recommend you to buy a tape measure and de-prioritise the scale.
If you want to record things digitally on your phone, on your computer, in a notebook that is up to you. Pick the medium you personally are most comfortable with.
Measure one thing, measure 50 things. Your choice but stop living in the dark.
Get measuring! Get results!