If you are committed to change then you are willing to do 1 or 2 small things consistently. But our intention to change is usually lost in the busy pace of life and we soon forget our inspired idea from Sunday. That's where your tracking sheet will save you . . . literally. I’m going to share a few practical applications that work. Let’s start with food.
I use a journal with my patients and ask them to simply check the boxes of what they ate each day. Yes, EVERY day. This is cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply reminding ourselves every single day of what we are doing. You can purchase one of our journals by calling Chelsea at (513) 366-2123. You complete one page each day and record how many servings of vegetables, fruit, nuts/seeds, protein, water and WHEAT. There is a place to admit what JUNK food you ate that day. There is also a place to record your weight and ketones if you are doing a ketogenic diet. The bottom of the page offers a place to record your exercise, meditation, sleep, resting heart rate, mood, energy, and a reminder to read your vision statement. This simple habit requires you to be conscious as you go through your day and take ownership of what you DID but also claim what you FAILED to do. No scolding, no punishment, just simple recognition. Consciousness.
A completely different approach to tracking food is to simply put an index card in your pocket and every time you eat or drink ANYTHING simply write down what you ate and how much of it. Then at the end of the day sit on your computer and enter all those items into MyFitnessPal.com and it will tally your total carbs, protein, fat and sugar for the entire day. Simply entering each item into the system will earn you a PhD in nutrition as you SEE what you are actually eating. Once again bringing consciousness to your habits. The light begins to shine.
My own personal weirdness leads me to track a whole different set of numbers. Below I share with you what I record on a daily basis. I love using heart rate variability to measure my stressed vs cool and groovy nervous system. I have been keto for almost 4 years and love it. To ensure that I stay on track I color code my GKI (Glucose-Ketone Index) so I easily see green for good and red for “what the hell are you doing?” I also know that these numbers are influenced by alcohol, exercise and meditation so I track those things also.
I use a simple Word document “Table” that I have set up. You may think this looks overly busy but for me it is meaningful and has taught me a ton about how my body works and what I need to do in order to produce good results. I never get frustrated when the numbers don’t match my expectation because that would be silly. The numbers simply ARE what they ARE. But they drive me to ask meaningful questions such as:
- How good is my sleep?
- Is my diet as clean as I think it is? Am I getting enough vegetable?
- Am I overtraining or under training? How’s my intensity?
- Maybe I am more stressed physiologically than I thought I was? BINGO!!
- Is my meditative practice deep enough or am I rushing it?
If you are saying to yourself that you don’t have time for all this self-analysis, I offer a word of caution. You get one body and one life. There are no limits to your existence. Your priorities show on your credit card bill each month and by the physical results you generate. If you truly matter to you then a look inside is worth a few minutes each day. I find this habit joyful as it secures in my mind that I have provided for a strong mind and body that is capable of caring for my family, my community and those around me. I am ready for action, ready to affect the world and not falling prey to Nabisco, Coca-cola, McDonalds, Panera, Netflix, Facebook and every other greedy time suck that is set to destroy me. It matters.
One final idea is to create a score card for yourself. Decide what are the most important habits you wish to shape and simply assign a point value for completing them each day. For example:
- If my ketones are above 0.5 I earn 5 points and if above 1.0 I get 10 points.
- Exercise in Zone 2 earns 1 point for each 5 minutes of exercise. Goal is 25 points/week
- Meditation earns 1 point for each 10 minutes of meditation. Goal is 15 points/week
- Stretching at night earns 2 points.
- Fasting for 24 hours earns 10 points.
Make up your own score card engaging whatever parameters are of interest and see how you do week to week. It’s simply a game that you play with yourself as a part of the joy of living. But tracking this is a fun way to simply remind yourself of what’s important to you. What gets measured gets done. Maybe you give yourself points for telling your wife how pretty she looks today or for taking her out on a date. It doesn't matter what you are trying to change, tracking activity will always shine a light on it and elevate it in your list of priorities. That's all you need in order to make great sweeping change is consistent small steps. Giant overtures are not required.
Lastly, I hear the following words every day, “I am so stressed and I am too busy to take on anything more”. Then change that. Ask yourself WHY do I choose to manufacture stress? If we are all responsible for our own stress, AND WE ARE, then why do we maintain the same old habits that drive stress daily? You are the sole director of your life – no one else is responsible. Everything in your life is there because YOU put it there. So, the only thing left to decide is what habits do I want to track to make change?
I operate a small medical practice. I teach in 2 different fellowships of integrative medicine. I host pharmacy students from UC in my office. I write and lecture. I have a family, a lovely wife whom I adore and 2 great kids. We have 4 dogs (yes, I know, I’m insane). I offer time at my local church in service to my community. I am building software to advance integrative medicine. And none of that gets done if I don’t track my health and my peace of mind to ensure that I remain capable. My point here is that everyone is busy but calling it stress is a personal choice. Love your life, love your body and take care of your mind. We only get one shot at this. Life is a limited time offer.