If you’re like a lot of people I know, finding the perfect system for keeping track of the changes you’re trying to make can get in the way of monitoring your progress. Some of my patients spend weeks researching apps for logging behavior or combing office supply stores for just the right calendar. And guess what? Their quest for the best prevents them from ever actually getting started.
No method will magically transform you. Remember, it’s just a tool. Don’t get bogged down. Just find one and try it.
Say you want to lose weight or get fit. The array of on-line options for tracking nutritional data, creating food plans, measuring exercise, and boosting motivation can be overwhelming. I road tested a few programs. I hated one of them; I can endorse another with only a minor reservation.
The one I hated, which I won’t name but will say is highly popular, requires the purchase of very expensive exercise DVDs and vitamin-enriched smoothies. You can also buy additional measurement tools, such as meal trackers. In fact, every component of the program costs extra. It smacks both of commercialism and evangelism, which bugs me. Plus, the smoothies look and taste like something the dogs would cough up after eating grass. So I returned it all and went back to my research.
I didn’t have to search very hard because several magazines I subscribe to did the work for me. I found one site mentioned frequently. The Great and Powerful Dr. Oz even recommended it! So I signed up.
It’s called SparkPeople.com. You can keep track of fitness and nutritional data online or through a mobile app, and it’s free. You can customize it to set other health- and well-being-related goals, such as sleeping seven or more hours, drinking water, and getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button on your alarm (which I’ve personally been working on).
What I like about it: It encourages you to use solid behavioral principles to set manageable goals. Even very small steps can earn you rewards. You can accrue points and win virtual trophies for reading articles and making positive choices. If you’re competitive, you might be motivated seeing the numbers add up. You can personalize the nutrition tracker and enter foods without specifying calorie counts, an option I’d recommend for those who get overly obsessive. It contains a library of fitness videos—free!—so you can easily add variety to your workouts. And if you need an extra boost, you can join in message boards and group forums tailored to your particular interests, where other members will cheer you on.
Overall, I’d give this site a five-star rating. I have one small criticism, which I’ll share in my next post.
While I was driving into work this morning, I heard an ad on the radio for a weight-loss product “guaranteed to help you achieve your New Year’s resolution to lost 20 pounds or more.” It made me cringe.
If you read my last post about setting SMART goals, you may be wondering what’s wrong with resolving to lose a specific amount of weight. After all, a numerical target meets most, if not all, the criteria I talked about: it’s specific, measurable, and timely; and it might even be achievable and realistic, as long as you’re using medically established weight ranges rather than your own ideal of what you’d like to weigh. Even so, it doesn’t pass muster with me.
Call me picky. But I don’t like evaluating success by outcome alone. When you’re focusing only on the end result, you can lose sight of your progress along the way and miss out on valuable opportunities to feel good about the steps you’re taking to chip away at bad habits.
Consider one of my patients, who’d lost thirty pounds in five months. His pants actually fell down in the supermarket when he bent over to pull a box of cereal off a bottom shelf. Yet he persisted in thinking his dramatic weight loss was “no big deal” because he still had twenty more pounds to go.
Rather than measuring your progress by pounds lost, use behavior change as your yardstick instead. Here are just a few examples of SMART goals you could strive for if you want to lose weight:
Did you notice I didn’t use any “don’ts” in my goals? When we’re trying to eliminate counterproductive behaviors, we often create rigid rules for ourselves. The internal wagging finger usually has the unintended effect of propelling us right into a petulant rebellion. Word your goals in terms of positive changes you can make rather than negative behaviors to avoid.
Get the idea? Record your eating habits for a week and use the information you’ve gathered to identify your personal problem areas. Be creative and have fun. The possibilities are endless. And remember, what’s important is the journey, not the destination.
This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.