Something fundamental changed in me during the last two years. Or it must have, because I'm doing something I never thought I would do.
I'm registering for the QS conference in the Netherlands in May. QS stands for Quantified Self, and it's about tracking in any way our life. With pen and paper, with gadgets, with sensors, with computer, with blogs, with Google calendar, with wall calendars, with Excel. In any way, collecting data about myself. And then, learning about it.
However, this was a long journey to here.
When I first had the idea that tracking is important, I could hardly imagine how I would fit into my life those 5-10-15-... minutes per day, just to track. I started with a paper booklet to track what I ate during the day, and it was quite a hassle. At the beginning, I forgot simply to write it down, and when I finally wrote it down, it felt such an effort.
However, that was the thing that got me started to live healthier. Looking back on my logs, I was shocked to see how, what, and when I ate. It brought an unprecedented level of awareness into my system that shifted me to action very quickly.
Of course, it was not by accident that I started to track what I eat. I came accross a peer reviewed scientific article, which showed that a group of people lost twice the weight when simply writing down their daily food intake into a food-journal vs. a control group, who were on the same diet, but without the food-journal. That's all it takes to double my success rate? I would be crazy not to try it, and it worked. And since then, I'm experimenting with different types of self tracking.
For example, I weigh in daily, but less to follow my weight then to track my hydration level. When my weight drops 1-2 lbs from one day to the other, there's a high chance I didn't drink enough the day before.
I like to take a note of the dreams I had. It's funny, but since I jot down a short note about my dreams, I remember them easier, and they are more and more interesting, with meaning. I even started to read the book from Verena Kast on dreams.
Firing on endomondo for my walks during the day convinced me that those 5-10-15 minutes of walk do add up to an hour, sometimes to two hours a day, worth of 300-600 kcal burned.
At the moment, I'm looking for "low resistance" tracking methods. Best is to have some device in set-it-and-forget-it mode, which tracks in the background. Or it's in my face, like my scale in the morning, it's almost no effort to step on it on the way out of the bathroom. And there's a moleskine notebook next to my bed, so when I wake up, I have already a 5 min window planned into my day to jot down any interesting dreams from the night.
The highest resistance is still food tracking. I wish for a system that is easy to use, user friendly, and requires zero to minimal time. Unfortunately, to track food here on sparkpeople is only medium good at best. Firing up my PC, navigating to the SP website, waiting for the nutrition tracker to load, fiddling with the search results, entering food into a US-formatted nutrition table all (I live in Europe, with metrics, and a different order of nutrients) gets in the way. However, I still make the effort, although, I'm not surprised that I skip easily, and many give up after a few days. Still, I didn't find a better solution, so I live with it.
I was thinking to try it on a tablet, with the native SP application, but that would be the main reason to invest in a tablet, and I heard mixed feedback on the forums. Many people told me it's still easier to do it on a PC.
An easy was of tracking food would be planning ahead my weekly meal plan, and following it. This way, all the tracking-calculating task would be done in one batch, ahead of time, and I wouldn't loose time each day to capture what I've eaten, and to stay in my calorie budget.
Another thing I slowly learned over the course of the last two years that probably tracking food, and other things in general, is part of the daily routine of a healthy lifestyle. When I started, I thought I just track now, I tolerate the effort, and then later on, when I've reached my goal weight, I focus on other things. However, it seems that to keep my weight, and to balance well my exercise and food intake, I need to track. So, better I make it fun. :-)
The Wednesday market under my window, lots of healthy options (and some totally not healthy), mostly from local production.
Here's the link to the QS conference.
What do you track?
How do you track?