When it comes to our health and wellness, there is no such thing as one size fits all. You will not find a diet and exercise program that will work for every person. If you’re trying to lose weight, there is not one specific diet or pill or wrap that you need to discover that will magically make the pounds melt away.
Every body is unique. What works for your best friend probably won’t work for you. The things your sister did to reach her fitness goals will not be the same things you’ll need to do. There might be similarities, things might work for a little while, but everyone is different and needs a slightly different approach.
And what worked for you in your 20’s is probably not what you need to do in your 30’s, and your 40’s will look different, and so on. Even your own body changes and adjusts, and so must your approach to health and wellness.
So if there is no one method, no tried and true guaranteed way to stay healthy what are we supposed to do? Do we just throw up our hands and give up? Of course not.
Instead, we must enter into a science experiment of one. We listen to our body and watch for the cues it gives. We try something and look at the results that happen. We test something new and keep track of what changes we see. If we like the results and changes, we stick with it. But always with the eye of an observer. Watching, listening, and paying attention to the signals from our body, noticing when we need to adjust, tweak, or test something new.
Is this a magical overnight results way to lose all our excess weight and get into the best shape of our lives?
But this is the method for developing a healthy lifestyle. This is the approach to take when we’re aiming for results that stick around.
Listen. Observe. Pay attention. Test. Tweak. Adjust. Try something new. Do what works. Stop what doesn’t.
Listen to your body.
For most of us, listening to our bodies is pretty foreign by the time we reach adulthood. This is why we can’t ever trust our bodies own hunger signals, we push ourselves to the point of injury when we workout, and we live in a constant state of low-level pain and discomfort but don’t even recognize it anymore because it’s just always there.
God has designed our bodies beautifully. We have hormones that control our hunger cues based on the types of food we eat and the amount of fat on our bodies. We have nerve endings all over our bodies so we can feel pain and discomfort. Our bodies show redness, irritation, and blemishes to signal when something’s not quite right.
Unfortunately, we tend to ignore all of these things until they simply stop working. We take pills to “heal” our symptoms instead of using our pain to guide us in determining an actual cause for the symptoms. We eat when we’re not hungry and throw our hormone levels completely off track. We accept discomfort, inflammation, and blemishes as the norm or part of getting older.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can retrain our bodies and our minds to pay attention. We can learn to listen to the cues and signals our bodies are giving off so that we can fuel, nourish, and care for our bodies in just the way they need.
That is why I’ve created this printable food and wellness tracker. I don’t believe in counting calories or macros on a regular basis. I do not feel that weighing and measuring all of the food we eat is a sustainable or enjoyable way to live. I also don’t think we have to constantly track every morsel that we eat forever.
However, in order to learn to listen to our bodies, we’ve got to start paying attention to them. This printable tracker can help you do exactly that. It can be used for a week or even several months to help you get more in tune with your body and the signals it is giving off. You’ll be able to track what you do and how it makes you feel. You’ll begin to see patterns emerging to help you find what works, what doesn’t, and what you might need to investigate further.
I don’t recommend that you use this tracker forever. But when you are experiencing symptoms you need to investigate, start tracking for a period of time. If you’re trying to lose weight and feeling stuck, use a tracker until you start seeing the results you’d like. If you’re starting a new fitness program or changing the way you eat, track yourself for a few weeks to take note of your progress.
I’ve created the tracker as a one page per day PDF. Just print off a week or two’s worth of tracking sheets at a time. I print mine front and back to save on paper. Fold them up and carry them in your purse or tuck them in your planner or bullet journal.
I created the food and wellness tracker to help you take note of the things that tend to have the biggest effect on your wellness. You’ll track your food, energy levels, sleep, water consumption, supplements, vitamins, medicines, and exercise.
You’ll also track how you feel at various times of the day. This is incredibly important and I’ll explain how to do this in a minute. The purpose of tracking how you feel is to find out how the things you do and the foods you eat are affecting your body and life. You can write out everything you eat every day until you die, but if you don’t take notice of how that food makes you feel, you are just wasting your time.
At the top of the page, you’ll take note of the date and the number of hours of sleep you got the night before. Pay attention to this number and how you feel the rest of the day. If you’ve always thought you work best on 6-7 hours of sleep but after tracking for a while realize that you actually have more energy with 8-9 hours of sleep, you’ll have some good data to help you make informed changes, if you desire.
Hopefully, we all know how important it is to drink lots of water throughout your day. I’ve included 16 cups of water so you can mark them off as you drink. The general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. This is just a general recommendation and may not be what is best for you. I personally drink as many ounces of water as my weight in pounds each day (twice the general recommendation). So be sure to experiment and find out what works best for your body and lifestyle.
Also, there is no rule to say that each glass icon has to equal 8 ounces. I use a 20-ounce Yeti to drink my water, so I just mark off a glass every time I fill my Yeti. Mark these in whatever way works best for you, just try to stay consistent so you don’t have one glass counting as 8 ounces and another counting as 32 ounces.
All day “feels”
You’ll notice throughout the tracker that there are spaces for “feels”. You’ve got “wake up feels” and a space for feelings after each meal. This is the section where you track how you feel and what symptoms and cues your body is giving you. I know “feels” might sound silly, but these are actually the most important sections on the tracker. Without tracking how you actually feel, all the rest of your tracking is pretty pointless.
The things to keep track of in these sections are your mood, any digestive issues (or nonissues) you experience, as well as any other physical or physiological symptoms such as feeling “foggy”, body aches, headaches, joint aches, congestion, upset stomach, breakouts, and anything else you experience throughout the day.
As you begin this practice, I’d recommend taking a few seconds several times a day to just sit quietly and take notice of your body. Close your eyes and move through each part of your body. Notice any areas of tightness, discomfort, pain, heat, or anything else out of the ordinary. Consider your mood, your appetite, think about your thirst level. Jot down anything you notice in the designated box for that time of day.
This practice can help you develop a stronger awareness of your body and teaches you how to listen to the cues your body is giving. It will also help you discover patterns and find out how the choices you are making throughout your day are affecting how you feel later in the day (or in the days to come since some foods and activities have delayed effects).
Several times a day you want to take note of your energy level. You can log this however you want, on a scale of one through five, or with high, medium, and low. It doesn’t really matter how you log it, it’s just important that you do.
You can find out if that delicious latte from the corner coffee shop is actually giving you the afternoon energy boost that you tell yourself it is or if it’s really just giving you a short burst and a big sugar crash later (remember, what happens to one person doesn’t happen to everyone, so don’t assume, just take notice).
You’ll find boxes on the tracker where you will write out what you eat for each of your meals. If you’re really focused on losing weight or other body mass goals, you may want to keep track of how much you are eating. I wouldn’t get too caught up on measuring and counting calories on a regular basis, but it can be helpful for short periods of time if you need to retrain yourself on portion sizes or something similar.
However, for general use, just write down everything you eat. And I definitely mean everything. A handful of nuts here and a small soda there adds up, so write it all down. It can all be affecting you and you won’t know if you don’t keep track.
I have just one section for snacks. You can put all of your snacks and “extras” for the day in this one section. In the past, you may have been told that you need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism up. For most people, this is not actually the case. It can actually be more detrimental to eat that often as it can mix up the hunger cues and hormone signals that your body is naturally designed to give.
This is why I don’t generally recommend snacks on a regular basis. But again, everyone is different, so feel free to test this yourself to find out what works best for your individual body.
You will notice special sections under the snack box to help you think through your snacking habits. Many people don’t snack for hunger, but rather out of boredom, habit, or for emotional reasons. These are not healthy reasons for eating. Food is fuel and nourishment, if your body doesn’t need fuel, you don’t need to be eating.
I’m not saying you can never eat food for entertainment or enjoyment, but if you regularly consume extra food because you are stressed, tired, or just passing by the kitchen, you’ll likely want to acknowledge and address this.
Before and after each meal, it is good to take note of your hunger level. I recommend using a scale of -5 to +5, but you can use whatever scale or notation you’d like.
The point here is to notice if you’re waiting too long to eat, if you’re eating enough at each meal, or if you are eating too much. As I’ve said several times before, your body was designed to signal you when you’re hungry and when you’re not. Most of us ignore these signals.
If you were raised in the era of “clean your plate” before you can leave the dinner table, you are likely in the habit of eating more than you necessarily need. And if you eat at the exact same times each and every day, you might be eating just because it’s lunchtime, but you might not actually be hungry.
Don’t just eat because there is food in front of you or because the clock says it’s time to eat. Eat because your body is telling you that it is getting low on fuel.
The negative five to positive five scale has a set point of 0. Zero is the point at which you are not hungry and not full. A negative number is on the hunger side, so -5 is when you’re feeling famished (possibly light-headed, maybe nauseous, but definitely uncomfortably hungry and probably hangry). Usually, you want to eat when you are around a -2 or -3. You’re definitely feeling hungry, but not uncomfortably so.
On the other side of the scale, a +5 number is when you are very uncomfortably stuffed, possibly how most people feel after eating Thanksgiving dinner. It’s generally good practice to eat until you’re about a +2 so you feel full and satisfied, but not stuffed.
It is also important to take note of any supplements, vitamins, and medicines you take throughout the day as these can have an impact on how you feel and your overall health as well. I’ve found it helpful to just list everything I take throughout the day in one area. However, depending on what you are taking and why, it might be helpful to jot down the times you take something as well. If you recognize that around 2:00 pm most afternoons you’re reaching for the bottle of Ibuprofen, you might want to look into that habit a little closer.
There are three components of exercise that you ideally want to include in any fitness plan: strength, cardio, and flexibility. You don’t need to work on each of these three areas every day, but you should try to do something in each of these areas at least a couple times a week.
This tracker isn’t meant to be a full-fledged fitness journal where you track all of the details of every workout. This section is primarily designed to help you make sure that you are doing something to work on your fitness in each of the three areas on a regular basis. Just make a quick note of what you did for each workout (upper body weights, one-mile run, yoga class, etc).
Ready to get started?
Fill in the information in the box below and I’ll send you a PDF download of the food and wellness tracker so you can get started right away. Use it for a week or so and then be sure to look them over so you can notice patterns and make adjustments based on the data that emerges. Then, track for a couple more weeks to see what works and what doesn’t.
You are your own test case, study and observe well.