Tracking information about yourself is very much like scientists tracking the weather over time. While day-to-day data points mean relatively little, when looked at as a whole, you can see evidence of change.
With a routine chosen and (hopefully) started, it's time to track your progress. Just because you're new doesn't make tracking any less important. In fact, tracking now is what will keep you motivated on those inevitable days when you feel like everything you've done up to this point has been for nothing.
Not only is this necessary for making sure that what you're doing is working, it downplays any mean comments you may hear from others. Data doesn't lie, but people do.
What to Track
You need a scale. It's the one expenditure you have to make. Luckily, there are some pretty great Sunbeam scales at Walmart that cost less than $15. You could probably even find used scales on Amazon for less. Maybe one of your friends has one they don't use anymore you could get for free.
Weight is necessary for the diet portion of your work. It is numerical evidence that you are taking in the correct total number of calories every day.
There is reason to believe that weighing in every day is extremely beneficial for holding yourself responsible for your goals. However, once weekly is also great.
At the same time of day. Our bodies naturally shift a few pounds here and there based on water weight, food intake and even colon fullness. By remaining consistent, you increase the likelihood these variables remain constant.
Personally, I always take my weight in the morning right after my morning bathroom break but before I start to hydrate.
You can use an online tracker, like with the MyFitnessPal app, or you can start your own spreadsheet to keep things completely private. So long as it can plot a graph, you're good. Why a graph? You'll want a visualization of your overall trend toward losing or gaining weight. It's great to see how far you've come.
I cannot stress enough how imperative it is to get into the habit of tracking your calories now. You cannot make adjustments with estimations. You need cold, unfeeling numbers. Do not wait as long as I have. The earlier you do this, the easier achieving your body goals will be.
Each week, write down where you weight totals are. Example:
This reminds you where to start the next week. It also is verifiable evidence that you are gaining strength. Feel free to start a spreadsheet for these numbers as well.
Each exercise, write down the key elements that prove you're improving in the cardio routine you've chosen. For running, it could be:
If you're doing something indoors, like Yoga, note how long you could hold each pose before having to rest. Each time you go back, force yourself to go just a little longer or a little farther.
Finally, set up one day each month to take pictures of your naked or semi-naked body. You'll want a front, side and back pic. Through progress pictures, you begin to see exactly where fat is shedding and where muscle is building. It's also a great way to reflect on what you currently like and what areas you really want to improve. For me, it always has been, and will forever be, my legs.
A Note on Progress Pics
These will be unflattering. Unless you have great lighting, a perfect pose and Photoshop, you're going to look pasty, lumpy and otherwise unappealing. This is okay. These photos are for you and only you. Embrace your body for what it is. Only by accepting your flaws can you figure out what to work on.
Co-host of HeroesForge, founder of Battle to Be Better, gamer, singer and all around happy person.