I recently went on a 30 day Paleo challenge with 3 other friends with the intent being to get one of our friends to eat healthier and to start exercising. And while it was a success on that front, it was a great experience for me. Although I’m constantly explaining to my clients the importance of tracking activities and food intake, this is the first time I have kept a log of my dietary intake in longer then I can remember. I understand my body and the food I put in it pretty well, so it usually isn’t very hard for me to lean out when I decide to, and it definitely isn’t hard for me to get not lean when I decide I don’t care. My meals have never been an issue for me unless I’m blatantly eating like crap, it’s usually the little “snacks” I have that get in my way. Things I don’t need, and more likely I am eating out of boredom than actual hunger. This is where the tracking came into play for me- if I know I have to write it down and that my friends will see it, I might make smarter choices.
This isn’t to say that one needs to track down every bite of food for the rest of their lives, but maybe for a short period of time, say 30 days. I feel one month is a decent enough amount of time to recognize habits and patterns in your life and start to change them. It’s also enough time to improve on making smarter choices and instill newly learned good habits
Another part of this that leads to success is accountability, to one’s self and to others. My friends and I pledged 30 days to each other and to ourselves. We created spreadsheets on Google Documents so that we could log our food and workouts everyday, for all of us to see. For the most part it kept everybody honest, if one person slacked off and didn’t log their intake, or logged beer and hot dogs, the other guys would pipe in and give him crap. While we all cheated at least once, and some more than others, we all saw improvements to our body composition and health.
I ask all of my new clients to log their food intake for the first 30 days and to share that with me. We do it over Google Docs, so that I am able to make comments and suggestions if needed everyday. While people can be really resistant to this in the beginning, they find it to be a rewarding experience that pays off in the end. Once they do start, it becomes a lot easier to identify the problems and make changes. Not always, but most of the time, I think people tend to overestimate how active they are and underestimate how much they eat. Not accounting for snacks and believing that the boxes of food that say “healthy” and “natural” on the label are actually that.
If we don’t keep track of what goes into our bodies (food), and what goes out (exercise), how are we to know what is or isn’t working?
“What get’s measured get managed” –Peter Drucker