One of the best things about logging and tracking your progress – be it keeping a personal diary, bullet journaling, logging workouts or tracking nutrition – is looking back at certain points in time when you remember feeling at your best (or at your worst) to see what was going on so you can either disrupt or adopt certain habits and behaviours.
Aside from writing generally about health, fitness and mindfulness on my blog and documenting my own journey on Instagram, I’m pretty diligent about tracking food, water, sleep and exercise using my FitBit and MyFitnessPal (MFP). I know tracking food and exercise isn’t for everyone (and should not be done by everyone, especially if you have/have had disordered eating behaviours), but it’s been super helpful for me to look back at my MFP and FitBit data when I’m either feeling stuck or I’m feeling really good and want to understand what I was doing then compared to now – keeping in mind, of course, my age, hormone changes, life situation changes, and so on.
So if you’re a data nerd like me, read on!
When I was at my leanest in January of 2014 at age 28, I was eating about 1850 calories a day (averaging 110 grams protein, 280 grams carbs, and 48 grams fat per day) and averaged 6 hours of sleep per night. I was also running 10-20 km per week, plus doing four 45-minute strength training sessions per week.
When I ran my fastest marathon time in 2014 at age 29, I was eating about 2,220 calories a day (averaging 100 grams protein, 330 grams carbs, and 68 grams fat per day) and averaged 7 hours of sleep per night. I was also running 45-50 km per week, plus doing three 45-minute strength training sessions per week. I felt my strongest at this point in time, but was also feeling stressed.
I was feeling the most relaxed but most uncomfortable in my clothes in February of this year after we got back from Maui. I was eating about 2,200 calories per day (averaging 115 grams protein, 260 grams carbs, and 77 grams fat per day) and averaged 7 hours of sleep per night. I was eating for marathon training but only running 10-15 km and doing four 50-minute strength sessions per week.
(Keep in mind this data is unique to me and should not be used to compare to your own nutritional needs and health goals.)
Looking back on this data, I know where I need to adjust to feel comfortable and strong again. Because I’m not marathon training right now, that means I need to be more mindful about what I’m eating and continue to get adequate sleep. I know that if I reduce my chocolate intake to three squares per day instead of five, and restrict my weekend cracker binges (put some in a bowl, do not eat from the box!), I can bring my body back to where it likes to be. (How many times have you read this on my blog?? I didn’t look back at my data before, but now that I have it’s pretty clear.)
As a slightly type-A and analytical individual, knowing that gives me peace of mind and actionable steps to take to achieve my goal. Without knowing this data, I might feel stressed or resort to some kind of unsustainable diet plan for three weeks, only to break, binge and go back to my old ways.
If you think you fit into a similar analytical personality type (I’m a INTJ and Insights Green – Supporter/Observer if you want to get really specific) and you don’t have a history of disordered eating/exercising, health tracking may be something to consider trying. Here are other data categories I like to log in a journal to look back on:
- Stress/anxiety level
- Self-care time
- Social events and activities
Do you track your nutrition and exercise? Why or why not? Do you use it to adjust behaviours?