What gets measured gets managed—you can’t possibly manage your health if you don’t know what you are putting in your mouth or what your exercise habits are.
You can’t create new healthier habits until you are aware of your current habits. You can’t decide to stop mindlessly eating a full dinner while cooking or swiping 500 calories of almonds off a co-worker’s desk until you know you are a “nibbler” or a “swiper.”
You can’t intentionally choose to spend your time in more productive ways until you know how you currently spend your time.
Most of us underestimate our healthy habits and overestimate our healthy ones.
Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing, has said that too many of us are wandering generalities of habits. We are an accumulation of habits that have found us. We live our health life by default. Our environment shapes us.
Once you are aware of your current choices and habits, you can use the “data” from the journal to create realistic goals and a tailored action plan. Once you are aware of your habits you can “design” the life you want.
Think about journaling as biceps curls for your mind, i.e. your “awareness muscle”.
Creating the life that serves you starts with awareness. Awareness brings choice.
Better start journaling!!
5 Types of Journals
1. FOOD AND EXERCISE JOURNAL
A.The Traditional Food Journal: For two weeks, track your food, liquids, and workouts.
- Is that after-dinner indulgence you thought was a “treat” really a daily occurrence?
- Maybe you think you miss one workout a week, when in reality you average skipping three.
- Is your “tablespoon” of almond butter really half a jar balanced on a spoon?
Once you are aware of your choices, you can decide to make alternative, healthier ones.
B.The O-and-X Food Journal: This twist on the traditional diet and exercise journal helps build your intuitive eating muscle and connects your food choices to your emotional state.
In your journal, create an “O” for each meal and snack. If you basically ate well—consumed nutritiously dense food, stopped when full, ate when hungry, stayed hydrated, etc.—place an “X” over the circle and move on.
It is only when you go off the rails at a meal or snack that you have to detail your food choices in the circle, as well as the reasons behind the less-than-ideal choice(s).
Were you lonely? Sad? Tired? Then set up systems that will allow your future self to deal with the emotion in a healthier way. For example, phone a friend when lonely.
SAMPLE OF WORKOUT JOURNAL
2. TIME JOURNAL
How many times have you stated a wish to exercise, but then you became “too busy”? How many times have you decided to eat well and then “something came up”? If you want to get on top of your health, you have to get in control of your time.
Time is our most valuable resource—we can’t make more time. Too many of us fritter time away, let emergencies dictate how it gets used, or have no idea how we actually use our minutes, hours, and days.
Journal your time and then analyze the data. Colour code or use graphs to sort your activities—meetings, creative work, time with clients, sleep, time with family, etc.
You decide on your categories. They will obviously depend on family, career, etc. Then analyze how you are spending your time. See where you are wasting 20 minutes on social media. As an example, with 20 minutes, you can do five Tabata intervals, and that is a great workout.
3. THREE HABITS JOURNAL — Reproduce or eliminate?
Each day write down three habits you did that you liked. These should be habits that made you feel great. You were proud to do these things.
I also want you to write down three habits you did that you want to change or improve. Did you fall back into old unhealthy habits? That’s okay, write down those things that you want to soften or eliminate.
Now, here is the key: Once you have pinpointed habits you want to reproduce or eliminate you have to ALSO pinpoint systems that will keep your future self in line. How can you set yourself up for success? Do you need to talk to your significant other and ask for help? Join an app? Take some healthy cooking classes?
4. GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Sometimes, realizing what we have and how great our lives are can be all the motivation and drive we need to get through another day, especially a tough day.
Each morning, write down three things that you’re grateful for. And get into detail about them. What is it? Why are you grateful for it? It doesn’t have to be some huge accomplishment or thing. You can be thankful for the fact that you woke up this morning or that you ate a delicious breakfast.
5. MOOD JOURNAL
Track your mood and energy before and after 10 workouts. Why?
Often the hardest part of being active is finding the ignition energy to start. Through tracking your mood pre- and post-exercise, you see that you always feel better after a workout.
Then, use the data to convince yourself to exercise when you don’t feel motivated.
Tell yourself, “The data shows you always feel better when you move. Even if ‘better’ is only by 0.2, better is still better. Worst case, you work out and feel only marginally better, but you are fitter. Best case, you feel better and you will be fitter. Either way, it beats staying energetically low and being unfit.”
My therapist got me to do this almost 20 years ago and I still use this data! When I don’t want to exercise I tell myself, “Kathleen, blah, blah, blah, you will always feel better if you move!!”
Analyse the “Data”
It is not enough to simply keep a journal. The crucial second step is analysing the data!
Pay attention to what the data is trying to tell you so that you can work to increase the positives and soften or eliminate negatives.
Maybe your goals are too unrealistic. Maybe you are trying a new habit at the wrong time of day or in the wrong place. Or, maybe you need better “systems”. Once you pinpoint potential “triggers” and future problem areas, set up systems to save yourself from your future self. Examples being: no junk food in house, exercise bag packed and ready to go, or getting a fitness buddy.
The net is this, health doesn’t “just happen”. Not reaching your goals? Frustrated? Stuck? Consider journaling. You can’t wish your way to better habits. Adopting a healthier lifestyle takes preparation and awareness. Most of us underestimate our positive habits and underestimate our unhealthy habits; we have a limited understanding of how we actually think and act. Journaling will help you become aware of your patterns of behavior. Once aware, you can make an informed decision on which habits you should keep, and which habits you should eliminate.