A not-so-beginner's guide to health tracking

As a productive individual, you're already used to tracking important metrics. Whether it is finances, KPIs, or number of Pomodoros. You're on top of it.

The problem is that often your pursuit of exceeding at these work metrics comes at the expense of your own health. Whether that's staying up all night to meet a deadline, not leaving your desk for hours on end, or forgetting to eat all together.
alt You know none of these habits are sustainable. The solution? Prioritizing your wellbeing through health tracking.

In this six-minute article, I will walk you through the three most essential health metrics you should be tracking and the best gear to do it with.

Food

It's the fuel that powers your life. Studies have repeatedly shown that the simple habit of keeping a food journal has a positive effect on how healthily someone eats. However, the problem with most food journals is that they revolve around counting calories, which is hard to keep up with for someone just starting out. Below are three different apps that make food tracking easy.

Beginner: YouFood

alt If you've never food journaled before, the place to start is with YouFood. This app makes meal tracking dead simple. All you have to do is snap a photo of your meal, and voila. You're done.

Intermediate: CalorieMama

alt So you've gotten the hang of snapping a picture of everything you eat. Cool, now it's time to slowly ease our way into calorie tracking. Enter Calorie Mama. After taking a photo of your meal, the app uses artificial intelligence to tell you how many calories you are about to wolf down.

Of course the AI is not perfect (yet) so you will have to do some occasional editing as to what the food is. But the more you (and all other users) log food, the better the AI overlords get at... slowly taking over uhhh, helping us get healthy.

Expert: Lifesum + Food Scale

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It does not get any better than Lifesum + a food scale. Lifesum is a beautifully designed app which makes calorie tracking enjoyable. The food scale is for you to more accurately log how much you're eating.

For the best results utilize the "friends" feature to tap into all the habit sticking benefits that come from social accountability. For those that are really hard core about their nutrition the built-in macronutrient tracker is amazing.

At the end of the week, make some time to review everything you've had to eat. This will give you a sense of how well you ate and show you what changes you need to make to your diet for the next week.

No matter which app you end up going with, be sure to make gradual changes to your diet, track as many meals as you can, and before you know it you'll be downing Kale smoothies like it was nothing.

Activity

We all know that we should be moving more. The latest research even shows that leading an active lifestyle is linked to a flood of positive benefits outside of just physical health. But how much are you currently moving?

Beginner: Phone's Built-in Pedometer

alt The easiest way to answer that is by using your phone's built-in pedometer. This will give you a rough idea of how many steps you are taking per day. Seeing how far off you are from the recommended 10k - 15k daily step count should give you an idea of what changes you need to make.

Intermediate: Wearable

alt Now that you are working on being more active, you will need a more precise way to track your activity. It's time to get a wearable. Here are the ones worth your money.

universal Fitbit Alta HR

Android LG Sport

iPhone Apple Watch S2

When deciding between a full-featured smartwatch and a Fitbit, the biggest difference as it relates to activity tracking is battery life. The Fitbit will average about 7 days of use on a single charge, whereas as both the Apple Watch and the LG Sport will average around 1- 2 days of use. The benefit of both smartwatches is that on top of activity tracking you also get the convenience of apps, digital wallets, AI assistants, and much more.

In terms of tracking activity you can't go wrong with any of the choices above, so the main thing is to pick the activity tracker that you will want to wear day in and day out.

Expert: Garmin Fenix 5 + Chest Strap

alt None of the previous wearables would be good enough for my friend Brian. Everybody knows a Brian, he's that friend who wakes up at the crack of dawn to get a quick 10k in before work. No biggie. Needless to say, Brian is a serious athlete and he demands the best data when it comes to activity tracking.

If you're a Brian, or are aspiring to be a Brian. Look no further than the Garmin Fenix 5 + chest strap. This combo will track all the things in the most precise manner possible. It's overkill for most of us, but not if you're Brian.

Sleep

Until just a few years ago it seemed almost fashionable to brag about how little sleep one got. Now with more research coming out on the subject and highly productive people advocating for better sleep hygiene. Prioritizing sleep is starting to come back in style.

Of course, not everyone is sleep deprived. Some of you might actually be getting too much sleep. Sleep tracking can help you find just the right amount of sleep you need to perform at your best. If you're reading this on your phone, then you are looking at the easiest way to get started with sleep tracking.

Beginner: Sleep Better

There are a lot of great apps that track sleep. My favorite one is Sleep Better. I enjoy it's clean UI, cross-platform support, and smart alarm feature. While your phone is a great starting point for sleep tracking, it has one huge drawback. Sleep tracking does not happen automatically. This can be an issue after particularly long days, whereas I'm collapsing into bed, opening up an app is the last thing on my mind.

Intermediate: Wearable

This is where wearables come back into the picture. Almost all of the wearables we covered in the Activity section of this article can automatically track your sleep, with the exception of the LG Watch Sport. The biggest downside to using any wearable is that if you can't stand sleeping with something strapped to your wrist, they obviously won't work.

Expert: Beddit

If that's you or you want more precise sleep data then a dedicated sleep tracker might be the best option. Out of all the different ones on the market. The only one worth your time is Beddit. It's an ultra-thin sensor that goes on top of your mattress and automatically tracks your sleep. Pretty simple.

Regardless of what sleep tracking tool you end up going with, the important thing is that you use the data to identify the patterns that lead to you getting a great night's sleep.

Additional Metrics

For all of you overachievers.

Mental Health: Pacifica

alt There is no better way to track your mental health than using the Pacifica app. Pacifica is a full-featured app that uses concepts from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help users with depression, anxiety, and the stressors of everyday life

Ergonomics: Standing Work Session Tag

alt While sitting may or may not be killing you. Anything in excess is bad. So sitting all day is something you should probably avoid. The easiest way to do this is to use your preferred time tracking app to tag which work sessions you spent standing vs which sessions you spent sitting. If you need a time tracking tool I may know of one...

Posture: Lumo Lift

alt Science shows us that good posture is correlated to a plethora of mental and physical benefits. However, most of us spend our days slouched over our screens. Out of this disconnect comes Lumo Lift.

With this tracker, you get a gentle reminder every time you slouch.


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