Journaling, Measuring & Tracking

In order to accurately determine success, you have to track everything – where you started, what you’ve lost along the way, and how far from your goal you are at any given point.

Don’t worry, you can get by with tracking your progress on a weekly basis, so it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time (although, depending on the diet plan you chose, you may want to track your nutritional intake on a daily basis – along with any exercise performed).

What to Track

Here’s a basic idea of the numbers you’ll want to track in order to determine progress:

  • Weight: Your starting body weight (as per your scale), along with a weekly or bi-weekly progress update.
  • Inches: The circumference measurement of your waist (or other problem areas, such as arms or thighs). This will help account for results not shown on the scale due to gains in lean muscle mass that often occur following a new exercise routine.
  • Calories: Logging your target dietary calories consumed (in terms of your daily allowance) will help clear up any confusion should you hit a plateau in the future. Remember, you’ll likely need to reduce your caloric allowance as you lose more weight, since your metabolism will proportionately slow. Having this data on hand to reference in the future will help you recognize patterns if your results begin to plateau.
  • Exercise: Similar to calories, knowing how much you exercised each week will further help in troubleshooting any problems should your results begin to plateau.

How to Track It

Now that you know what to track, you need a place to log it all. There’s a number of ways to do this, so I’ll start with the high-tech solutions first – mainly due to the advantages of portability. Being able to update your logs from your phone, tablet, or any computer with internet access offers a large degree of convenience.

The “Lose It!” app for iPhone / Android: This is one of my favorites. Lose It! lets you set goals, track progress, count calories, and even scan the bar code on food packaging to automatically determine calories consumed. They even have a Bluetooth scale available for purchase that can wirelessly upload your weight to the app. MyFitnessPal has been around for a while, and offers similar (although slightly less advanced) features to Lose It!. Unlike Lose It!, however, you can use either their app or their website to update your information. This makes it an ideal alternative for those who don’t have a smart phone (or just aren’t a fan of using smart phones).

Notebook: Not big on technology? No worries – there’s nothing wrong with the old fashioned pen-and-paper technique. Try to pick up a small notebook that you can tuck in your pocket, should you need to track calories on-the-go or log your exercise sessions before you leave the gym.

Excel Spreadsheets: If you’re a Microsoft Office nerd (or just happened to love your Excel class in college), Excel is a great alternative to the restrictions imposed by the commercial apps previously mentioned. With a little setup, you can automatically calculate numbers such as percentage of your goal reached each week, increases in pounds lost compared to the previous week, or any other figures that personally appeal to you.

The Microsoft Office site has a bunch of free weight loss templates to get you started with minimal work – and you even get fancy graphs to visualize how great you’re doing:

Quantifying Weight Loss Success

Don’t let your results from any one week to the next deter you. Weight loss is a long term process, and any progress is better than no progress. If you don’t see the results you were hoping for right away, stick with it and keep journaling your results. Logging this information is crucial to determining how to fix the problem.

You may need to adjust your TDEE by increasing exercise, or reduce your caloric intake below what you initially determined was necessary. Even if your initial plan produces results at first, you may have to adjust your routine to maintain progress as time goes by.

Just remember to keep your expectations realistic (as long as you’re losing some weight, you’ll get there eventually if you just stick with it), and never push your body into an unhealthy state. Impatience is no excuse to develop an eating disorder or overexert yourself with exercise.

As time goes by, you’ll look back on your logs with pride towards how far you’ve come.