All of us probably agree on this: our weight, what we eat and how sleep affect our health in very important ways. But how much do we know about what we are doing in these areas? Here are 3 simple ways to improve precision with your weight, the calories you eat and the sleep that you get.
Why does precision matter?
When it comes to how much we weigh, the calories we eat or the sleep we get, most of us don’t have access to expensive equipment on a daily basis. That can make it tough to get accurate measurements without visiting a doctor or specialist.
But by taking a few simple steps, we can at least become more precise in our measurements, which is the first step to real improvement. Plus, these can all be done at home and basically for free.
Improvement is relative to the day before. You may not be better than the other person, but you can be better than the person you were yesterday.
Lots of people are content with going through their days making assumptions about how they are doing. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But my personality just doesn’t work that way.
When someone asks me “how’s it going?” I truly want to have an answer (even though they were probably just being nice).
By my standards, the only way to know how some things are going is to measure them in a consistent way each time. Precision.
If you think about things the way I do, check out the following 3 simple ways to improve precision with your weight, caloric intake and sleep.
#1 Weigh yourself the same way every day
Every morning is the same for me. Wake up around 5:00 AM, go to the bathroom, strip to my boxers, weigh myself, log my results.
Using the same routine every time is so important because you must eliminate as many variables as possible to get information you can use later. For me, I’m looking for weight trends over time, not the number on a specific morning. Precise weight trends are built on consistently measuring the same way every day.
You hear it all the time at the gym. Guys and gals step on the scale, see a number and go, “Wow! I’m 5 pounds lighter [or heavier] then this morning!”
Maybe. But in reality, they have no way of knowing for sure if they actually lost weight or gained weight. All they can say for certain is that the number on this scale under these conditions is different then the conditions this morning. That’s it. There is nothing else they accurately know.
Here’s what I mean.
We do things through out the day that will effect the number on the scale. The amount of water we drink. The time since our last meal. The amount of clothes we are wearing. Using the bathroom. Changing the scale we use. You get the picture.
They all effect the number.
The only good way to get a comparable number from one day to the next is to keep every possible condition the same.
Here’s why I measure in the morning:
- I’m pretty much equally dehydrated each morning
- I’m void of mostly all urine since I don’t drink water while I sleep
- My boxers all weigh the same amount (ok, I’m making an assumption here)
- I haven’t eaten anything since the evening before
- I know I’m using the same scale each time
It doesn’t have to be in the morning. You can take your data at night if you want. And you can measure more than once per day. But the weigh in you actually record needs to be at the same point under the same conditions each day (or as close as possible). This will give you a more precise look at how your weight is trending over time.
#2 Track your calories
If you are reading this then you are probably health conscious, reading labels on foods and trying to eat smart. But do you really know how many calories you are eating?
The amount of calories you take in are as or more important that the calories you are burning because they also effect how your body will burn them off.
The oversimplified equation is:
- Eat more calories than you burn = gain weight
- Eat less calories than you burn = loses weight
- Eat the same calories you burn = maintain weight
But do you know how many calories you are actually eating? Most people don’t. According to a study from Cornell, people generally underestimate the amount of calories they eat by 20-40% depending on the size of the meal. So if you estimate that you eat 2,500 calories a day you may actually be eating 3,000-3,500!
If you want to control your caloric intake (and your weight) it starts with knowing how much you are REALLY eating. Not a guess.
A great way to do this is by using some sort of food journal. With smart phones this has become very easy but a notebook and pencil are just as effective. I’ve been using My Macros+ for about 8 months. There are tons of options out there.
To start, keep it simple. Just write down the item and number of calories based on the serving size. For things like fruits and vegetables you can look them up through Google and estimate the serving size (or measure yourself).
Record everything including coffee creamer or other additives like BBQ sauce or olive oil. You’ll be surprised how these small things quickly add up.
It takes some work at first but as you learn more about the staple items you eat it starts to get pretty easy. At the end of the day you will have a much more accurate total of your calories. How do they compare to what you thought you were doing? I was amazed how far off I was!
Two healthy bonus points I’ve found:
- As I started to get more info on my calories, I naturally started to trend to foods that helped my goals. And I was at least aware of foods that were slowing down my progress (though I didn’t immediately stop all of them)
- By wanting to be precise in tracking my calories, my snacking slowed way down. Probably from pure laziness, I didn’t want to take the time to look up and then write down things like six crackers or a half eaten yogurt my kids didn’t finish.
#3 How are you sleeping?
I am seeing so much research on how important sleep is that I have put a big emphasis on my own sleep patterns over the last few years. And similar to everything else, I really didn’t know how I was doing because I had no baseline to start from.
But like most things, there’s an app for that!
I’m currently using two different apps and in the future I’ll be comparing them. But for now, I’m using the free version of Sleep Cycle on my iPhone and there is also a sleep tracker built in to the Fitbit Charge HR that I wear to bed. Click here to read my review of the Charge HR.
Both of these track your sleep in different ways. As mentioned before, I don’t know how accurate they are but they do give me a baseline to start from. And since I’m using the same tools, the measurements should be precise as long as I use them the same way each night. For example, place the iPhone in the same place and wear the Fitbit on the same wrist.
Whatever app you are using, the value is once again in the trends you find. You can compare your typical night’s sleep to how you sleep in a hotel, for example. Or how you sleep if you go to bed late, read before turning off the lights, have a glass of wine or eat a heavy meal.
The goal is better understanding your sleep and what affects it so that you can make decisions that will improve it.
Wrapping it up
In the end, we all want to be better at who we are and what we do. But it can be so difficult to move forward tomorrow when we don’t know where we are today.
By utilizing these 3 simple ways to improve precision with your weight, calories and sleep you are on your way to making better decisions. These really worked for me and I hope they work for you too!