After last week 2000+ word blog post on training with a weight vest I’m going to keep this one short, sweet, and actionable.

Which means I want you to start doing this RIGHT NOW.

Everyone out there is always looking for information on the best diet & best nutrition plan but even if that one perfect plan exists (it probably doesn’t) there is still one simple thing that will make or break your success.

It’s not the amount of protein you eat.

It’s not the amount of fat.

It’s not how many carbs you’re shoveling into your mouth pre or post workout.

It has nothing to do with gluten.

In fact, it has nothing to do with nutrition at all.

It has to do with you.

And that is the scary part and it is also where 99% of failed diets go wrong (I obviously made this statistic up…).

The 1 Simple Method is….

Self Monitoring

Which is the systematic recording and observation of your behaviors.

Even simpler: Write down everything you eat and drink.

In a study by Baker and Kirschenbaum (1993) it was noted that individuals who were more consistent at monitoring their diets lost more weight than those who did not. It was also found that during weeks where the participants were really on their game with each days monitoring they lost more weight than weeks where they were laxer and didn’t self-monitor as well.

For those of you who are coaching, this is probably not shocking.

For those of you who provide remote coaching services (like I do), you’re probably nodding your head right along with me.

For example, my athletes who are more diligent in recording their workout times/results, sleep, resting heart rate, and the other information I ask for daily into their spreadsheet have consistently gotten better results (faster) than those who were not as diligent.

Another personal example: When I record my diet (in detail daily) I feel better, improve my body comp, sleep better, and perform better during my workouts. Turns out I also make better decisions about what I am going to eat because I have to answer to the log.

And therein lies the benefit of this.

Accountability is INCREDIBLY important in achieving just about any goal you set out for yourself.

Regardless of the goal, if you have a method (Self-monitoring, training partner, mentor, business coach, etc) to hold you accountable you are significantly more likely to achieve that goal.

Building strong habits

Self-monitoring can help you build strong habits as well.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “You are what you repeatedly do”

Well, that is exactly what we are talking about here. Consistent, long-term tracking of your diet is very likely going to lead you to make better food choices (even without knowing the details of what is/isn’t healthy).

Consistent self-monitoring + gradually making better choices = A powerful habit (That could transform your body composition)

So how do we build this habit of self-monitoring?

This is only a great thing if you actually do it so let’s turn to an expert on building great habits for some advice. In James Clear’s Transform Your Habits: The Science of How to Stick to Good Habits and Break Bad Ones (Free ebook on this at that link) he talks about the “Three R’s of Habit Change”:

  1. Reminder: This is the trigger (i.e. I get a daily email each night reminding me to log my diet)
  2. Routine: This is the actual task (i.e. You write down or type in your information)
  3. Reward: This is the benefit you get from performing the behavior

James goes into a ton of great detail in his free ebook and I suggest you check it out if you are looking to take greater control of your life, super powerful stuff.

Here is how this process plays out in my life:

  1. I get a daily reminder (6pm) to log into the app I use to track my diet (More on this in a minute)
  2. I record everything (the routine) I ate and drank during the day (I don’t usually wait for the reminder and just keep the tab open on my browser and record as I go).
  3. If I was good I get a number of rewards (i.e. I look & feel better, I sleep better, and most importantly I give myself a cheat day on the weekend).

Pretty simple right?

Some tools I like to use for monitoring

My go-to nutrition tracking app is Cronometer. I first learned about this during my Advanced Exercise & Sports Nutrition class where we had to conduct a n=1 experiment on ourselves by changing just one variable in our diets and recording the results. I found the app incredibly easy to use (log foods, add foods not in the database, etc) and I just leave this tab open in my browser since I’m at my computer 80% of the day and it makes it super simple to click in there and start logging.

Others like using My Fitness Pal. I’ve tried using it for a while but never really took to it. Give it a try and see which you like better.

If you want to get even simpler than that then your next best bet is Evernote which is an awesome note-taking app that lets you store and search your notes in a super easy manner. I use Evernote for just about everything else (I’m writing this blog post right now in Evernote).

Evernote is also great for tracking you workouts. My buddy Jerred over at End of Three Fitness wrote an awesome article on using Evernote to Dominate Your Fitness.

Wrapping it up

The research shows that you can have the best diet plan, coaching, and intentions yet still not get the best results without some form of self-monitoring and accountability. I’ve seen this to be the case in the hundreds of athletes and individuals I’ve worked with over the years and am betting it could be the missing piece to your success equation as well.

In the military we’ve probably heard someone tell us to “inspect what we expect” and the same holds true for your health and fitness. If you don’t have a way to inspect your habits (workout, diet, and otherwise) then you cannot expect great results.

So, I challenge you to start recording your diet starting today using one of the tools I mentioned above, all are free, so your only excuse is laziness (unless you’re already super jacked, strong, and perfectly happy with your performance and appearance)!

Happy Monitoring.

References

Baker, R., & Kirschenbaum, D. (1993). Self-monitoring may be necessary for successful weight control. Behavior Therapy, 24, 377-394.