Almost 5 days ago, I started another extended fast. This one has been particularly tough, mostly because I’m trying to hit a goal with this one, and if you read my first blog, you know how goals are never better than systems. But that’s a conversation for next week.
To get my brain on track with this fast, I’ve had to rely heavily on my tracking data. Tracking is one component that is so important to ultimate success. It not only focuses your brain on where you are and where you’re headed, it allows you to see how far you’ve come. Even if you don’t make progress, per se, tracking does a better job moving you toward your goals than not doing so.
So what are some methods you can do? Here are 6 common tracking methods for weight loss, but they may translate to other kinds of successes as well.
Putting a picture in a place where you’ll see it often is helpful. Or at least I have found it to be one of the greatest tools for tracking. I put my heaviest weight picture on my fridge because it 1) motivates me every time I open the fridge and 2) might keep me from eating 7 oz of cheese (which isn’t a problem necessarily, but dairy is super palatable and easy to eat beyond satiety).
Recently I turned my before picture into a magnet to keep forever. I stick my latest compare picture next to it.
This current one is about 15lbs behind. I had done intervals of 50lbs, but you could do them in whatever interval that helps you the most. My next comparison picture will be my final one.
2) Tape Measure
Using the tape measure to keep track of various parts of your body lets you see how much you’re losing. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to consistently keep to this method, but I hear it recommended again and again. Many people who haven’t seen the scale move will still see their measurements decrease. Because the scale is a friggin’ liar (more on that in a minute).
- Measure in the same places each time.
- Wear the same clothing (or wear nothing) consistently.
- Take measurements during the same time of the month and time of day (more important for females).
This method is similar to tape measuring but a little easier and more visual. The idea is you take yarn or string and wrap it around your waist (or wherever you’re tracking). Cut it at the right measurement and either pin/tape it to the wall or keep it somewhere safe. Each month you’ll re-measure. As time goes on, you’ll see the decrease in size.
4) Spreadsheets & Apps
Technology is your friend, and there are a multitude of tracking apps available. You can go basic and use Excel or something similar to track weight, inches, fasting lengths, etc. Or you can use an app to do that for you.
I use Excel to track my overall weight loss since the beginning. I use Life App to track all my fasting lengths. I also use a simple printed table that I stuck on my fridge for fasts over 24 hours. I used to track my food, but after this long, knowing which foods to eat and not eat is second nature, so I don’t do that anymore.
The scale can go to hell. Or maybe just to Purgatory. The scale can be a useful tool, don’t get me wrong. But it can also be the crusher of dreams and de-motivating for many. The scale weighs everything: bone, tissue, snot, brains, organs, skin, bones, fat, muscle, water, and waste. If you fast, you know how much water and waste weight you lose (and then regain upon refeeding). It’s a lot.
When you’re only losing a little fat at a time, gaining 2lbs of water weight for a dozen uncontrollable reasons doesn’t feel great, but the scale doesn’t tell you that. And if you have the scale that gives you BMI and all that jazz, don’t trust it. My scale tells me my BMI is 28 (INSERT LAUGH TRACK).
This is why measuring is a better method. Or weighing less often, say once every month, can give you a better picture of your progress. And you’ll want to weigh yourself under the same circumstances each time (time of day, same clothes, with/without food, after going potty, etc.).
6) Body Scans
There are a few body scans available, including the DEXA, InBody, and Bod Pod. The DEXA has been widely recommended as one of the most accurate scans because it’s essentially an MRI scan that tells you specifically how much fat, muscle, and bone you have. Whatever scan you choose, you want to make sure it’s the same one each time under the same circumstances (time of day, with/without food, etc.).
I really really really really really want to do a DEXA scan because I want to know how much visceral fat I have, but it often requires a doctor’s order. I can’t muster up the desire to spend $$$ just to have a doctor order a 50$ scan. No thanks.
The most important part of tracking is consistency. Figure out what works for you, whether daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Mix a couple methods like I do, or choose one. Or don’t 😀
*Note: None of this is medical advice.