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Goal tracking: Your secret weapon

Do you recall grabbing a handful of M&M’s from the office candy dish while chatting with a co-worker? No? You also probably weren’t paying much attention as you worked your way through a few bowls of peanuts at last week’s happy hour either.

Most of us don’t realize that we go through most of our day on autopilot, not particularly mindful of our behaviors. Yet awareness through goal tracking is the first step toward wiser decision-making. It provides new information we can act on.

Keeping a food diary can help you eat healthier

The late poet Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” And though she was referring to the self-awareness needed to learn from our mistakes, the same holds true for any behavior we’re looking to change.

That’s the reason experts recommend creating a budget to rein in spending. Or keeping a food diary when we’re trying to eat healthier. Or using a fitness tracker if we’re looking to get more active.

In short, self-knowledge is power. Unless we know what we’re doing, we can’t do it better (or not do it at all).

Feedback from tracking steps makes getting active more fun

Studies show that when you write down what, when, and how much you eat, you’re more apt to watch what you eat — and eat less. The act of logging your food intake is actually more important than how precise you are or the method you use.

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, research shows you’ll lose more weight (both in the short and long term) if you’re a diligent note-taker. You will also make better food choices.

Same goes for exercising. When people know their steps are being tracked, they become more active. Just the fact that you’re tracking your activity will make you want to walk more.

One reason is that you get that immediate feedback, which is a huge incentive. Another is that tracking activity and food becomes a kind of sport — a competition with yourself.

Each day you’re breaking down a big win into small, manageable goals, trying to beat your personal best, so it’s easy to see, and maintain, your progress.

Having daily goals to chase makes exercise and mindful eating into a game. Go you!

Goal tracking helps you keep the big picture in mind

Here’s something you might not have thought about: tracking also makes it easier to forgive yourself when indulging from time to time.

If you’ve been recording your food intake, you’ll see that even with a slip-up or 2, you’re still on a good path. In the bigger picture, all is not lost.

And since you’re keeping track, you can cut back on the rest of the day’s—or tomorrow’s—food intake, and keep yourself within your calorie limit.

A healthy lifestyle doesn’t demand perfection; it just means making good choices most of the time. Goal tracking can definitely help!

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