Food and activity trackers
Good for weight loss and weight maintenance. Now more fun than ever!
For many people, along with the new year’s resolution to get healthy and fit comes the commitment to track their food intake and exercise. In fact, activity trackers are one of the most popular holiday gifts and many people start the new year with their new intentions and their new trackers.
The goal for most of us who track our food and exercise is to focus on healthy living and gain some accountability. But does it really help to track your nutrition and your daily exercise when it comes to weight loss and weight management?
In fact, research shows it does! And there is lots of it. This 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine says that keeping a food diary was proven to double weight loss. And since 2008, it’s gotten way easier to do with digital technology and mobile apps (some that even scan labels) so you can track from your phone or mobile device.
I’ve personally done some form of nutrition and exercise tracking consistently since I started my fat loss program in Nov. 2010. And, I sporadically experimented with nutrition tracking even before that. 🙂
I know from personal experience that when I start to get off track with my healthy eating or exercise routine and I need to refocus, I start tracking absolutely everything I eat and everything I do. Just the daily practice of logging it and paying attention keeps me focused, accountable and on the right track. And, it also helps me see the big picture. I also used my nutrition tracker for weekly meal planning when I was in fat loss mode and it made it much easier.
My favorite trackers currently are a combination of the Fitbit Flex for my exercise/activity and SparkPeople for nutrition tracking. In both, I love the charts and graphs where I can view my overall progress against weekly or even monthly goals that I establish for myself. Fitbit also tracks your sleep, which is important to overall health and wellness, and even specifically to weight loss.
I use SparkPeople for my food tracking because I started here long upon recommendation of others and I had pre-entered the nutritional values for all of my regular foods and favorite brands, making it easier and faster. Also, I count my overall macronutrients vs. counting calories because WHAT I eat and WHEN is as important as HOW MUCH. SparkPeople does a better job of that for me than the Fitbit tracker which tracks foods by calorie intake.
SparkPeople lets you track your meals, add food items you’ve cooked yourself or search for restaurant items, and it breaks the items down nutritionally so I can see how many carbs, fats, proteins I am eating. Most importantly, it helps me track my sugar intake and watch those numbers. I also love that you can make a grocery list for the week and pre-plan meals.
SparkPeople has a mobile app too, like most of the latest and greatest trackers. I count and watch my overall macronutrients vs. counting calories – to me WHAT I eat and WHEN is as important as HOW MUCH, so SparkPeople does a better job of that for me than the Fitbit tracker which tracks by calorie intake.
Tracking tools have exploded in the last few years and now we can track digitally. My belief is that choosing the right tool for you is a very personal thing. Lately, I’ve been asked to determine what tool is best for you. I say google it and read some of the literature about consumer faves and why. Then try it and see if it works for you. If not, move on to another.
There are some good articles out there on the top trackers and why. For example, here are a few I found just today: Five Best Food and Nutrition Tracking Tools and Review of the Most Popular Wearable Activity Trackers and Best Fitness Trackers.
Some of the questions I asked and answered to find the right tool(s) for me. What do I want/need to track and what numbers or stats will be most helpful? Do I want/need to track all of activity, food and weight in one place? How important is it to be able to do it by mobile phone/device? Do I need online support from others as part of my tracking plan? Some are better for this than others.
Some of the more popular trackers are Fitbit (various versions), My Fitness Pal, SparkPeople, LoseIt, and for activity – the Nike Fuelband. But there are so many more.
So, let’s hear from you. What’s your favorite tracker? And how does it help you stay on track? Would you recommend your tracker and/or process here?
P.S. I used to keep a food journal with pen and paper. And for those of you that don’t have a gadget for tracking this works too.