Whether you use an app or plain old paper and pen, keeping a detailed list of the exercises you do and the foods you eat can help you make real improvements to your health.
“I always say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” says Evan Thoman, an MD Anderson wellness specialist.
Studies show that tracking your diet and exercise habits can help you make improvements, maintain a healthy weight and take steps to lower your cancer risk. Several types of cancer, including breast and colorectal cancer, are associated with obesity.
Tracking your diet and exercise isn’t always easy to stick with, but evidence shows it can be worth it. We asked Thoman for his tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of keeping track of your food and exercise habits.
Do look for patterns. Keeping a log of your diet and exercise habits can help you spot your strengths and weaknesses, and then work with them. Maybe you realize that you break from your diet when someone brings snacks to work. Next time you can be prepared by bringing your own healthy snacks. Or maybe you’re be able to see that you often skip workouts on weekends, so you make sure to work out more during the week and give yourself a rest on the weekends. Review your old logs and see what you can learn from them.
Don’t get too competitive. Using a website or app to track your diet and exercise progress can help you create a supportive community. It can also cause you to become competitive. While a friendly rivalry to see who can climb more stairs or run more miles by the end of the month can push you to new records, it can also get a little too heated. Make sure your support community remains supportive and keeps the workouts fun.
You can't manage what you don't measure.
Don’t overdo it. Don’t let your diet and exercise become all about tracking. Remember it’s still worth running even if you forgot your watch. And it’s still worth eating healthy even if your app didn’t update. Too much dependence on a watch, app or even a notebook can lead to what’s often called “device fatigue.” This can lead to boredom and disuse. Remember these things are all tools to achieve your goals.
Do reward yourself. Tracking your diet and exercise habits can show you when you’ve fallen behind, but it can also show when you’ve made progress, like if you’ve done more sit ups, lifted more pounds or eaten less sugar. Be sure to celebrate those milestones to encourage you to keep going.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 855-690-2446.