Tools & Trackers
We know which foods are healthy, and which ones are not.
We know we should exercise more, stop smoking and get more sleep (among other things).
The problem lies in actually DOING these things and keeping track of our activities so we can measure progress.
Below please find some common sense and simple ways to increase your chances of success and to track your progress.
Increasing Your Chances of Success
The American Heart Association (AHA) reviewed 74 published studies on weight-loss, physical activity, and dietary interventions to find out which behavior-change strategies helped people reach their goals and stay heart-healthy. Here’s what the AHA recommends:
- Set smart goals. Individuals who set goals had greater adherence to their programs than people who had no goals. The goals must be specific, attainable and realistic. While "lose weight" is quite vague and general, "lose 1 pound this week" is specific, realistic and attainable. The AHA also found that goals focusing on behaviors (such as eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising three times a week) rather than physiological targets (such as lowering your cholesterol) are better because you feel more in control of them, and you can actually measure your progress.
- Monitor your progress. After setting your goals, how do you know you are achieving results? Self-monitoring increases your awareness and helps you quantify your progress. This can be as simple as writing down your food or tracking your workouts in a journal, although electronic and Internet-based tracking systems work just as well and have many advantages. Tracking is important — and a proven key to lifestyle behavior change.
- Find support. Individuals who have more frequent and prolonged contact with others (doctors, coaches, support groups) had more success in changing their lifestyle habits. Contact can happen in many ways, including face-to-face, telephone, email, or via the Internet. What seems to matter most is people have a reason to come back (to a meeting, group, or website) to get support and accountability to adhere to their program.
- Get feedback. In addition to goal setting and tracking, feedback is also important. This allows you to understand your current level of performance and set realistic goals to improve. In lifestyle behavior-change interventions, people who received feedback more frequently were more successful in adopting their habits. Feedback acts as reinforcement.
- Believe in yourself. Self-efficacy, or believing in yourself, is a key to taking all necessary steps to reach your goals. Programs that help people improve their self-efficacy have better results than programs that do not. How do you boost your confidence? It starts with achieving a short and simple goal to gain confidence and momentum to continue. There are other ways to boost self-efficacy, but this is most effective, according to the AHA.
- Learn from others. “Modeling” is when you see someone in your same circumstance taking actions to achieve their goals. When you watch someone else exercising or cooking a healthy meal, it reinforces that you can take these actions too. According to the AHA, programs that include modeling have higher success rates than those that don’t. Modeling can be done in-person, via videos or even through discussions with others who are taking actions that you hope to emulate.
- Accept setbacks. People who accept that it is normal to occasionally deviate from their plan are more likely to succeed. Perfection is not a normal goal.
Tools and Trackers to Motivate You and Measure Your Progress
Having the right information and tools to keep you motivated and track your progress will help you succeed.
Visit www.sparkpeople.com and you will find the world's largest weight loss and fitness site, with 100% free tools, articles and community resources to help people lose weight, get fit and become healthier. Some of the tools available on the site include:
- BMI calculator
- Target Heart Rate Calculator
- Waist-to-hip ratio
Some other sites with various tools and trackers are