For the first 6 months of 2015, I tracked several health habits every day. Tracking a streak is a psychological trick that makes you increasingly resistant to breaking it. I have a streak of writing new fiction every day for about 2.5 years now, so I figured I could track health stuff pretty accurately. Also, I wanted to see how many days I really did eat vegetarian, how many days I actually exercised, etc.

Here’s how I did:

Longest streak (days)

Success rate

No bread

5

27%

Meditate (at least 5 minutes)

12

41%

Exercise (climbing 9 flights of stairs counts)

26

43%

No Poultry

8

60%

No red meat

24

88%

No cake

32

88%

Eat fruit

31

92%

No french fries

93

99%

No cookies

83

97%

No chocolate

93

96%

No potato chips

181

100%

No soda

181

100%

Eat veggies

181

100%

Lessons from doing this tracking:

  1. Avoiding foods is tough out there in American society. Birthday cake? Meat entree for dinner? Whatcha gonna do? Say no like a poozer? This is harder with cake and poultry than it is with red meat and sugary drinks. People will watch you eat that cake like a pro, but they don’t notice if you drink water.
  2. I like bread. Many a bread streak was busted because I wanted toast with my baked bean breakfast. And I had that toast. And I enjoyed it.
  3. I had trouble deciding how much meditation counted. Daydreaming? Spacing out? Focused meditation? For at least 5 minutes?
  4. Got the veggie eating thing down.
  5. I wasn’t tracking other important things: hugging my kids, kissing my wife, being thankful/grateful for something.
  6. I was avoiding any documentation of my night-time bouts of tortilla chip addiction. The crunch, the salt, the seltzer! It is my only unhealthy vice.
  7. I am definitely post-soda, post-lemonade, post-sugary drinks. I don’t track my green tea consumption, which is about 3 cups a day, and I don’t see any point in doing so.
  8. Exercise included climbing 9 flights of stairs at my DC office, with about 8lbs of backpack, at a rapid pace. No, it’s not a real cardio workout, but I’m breathing hard at the end and it’s 9 freaking flights, so I’m counting it.
  9. My growing desire to eat vegan more often means tracking eggs/dairy in addition to meat.
  10. Tracking all this stuff wasn’t as hard as I thought, but on the other hand, I don’t think it has changed any habits for better or worse.

Why did I only track 181 days (6 months)? Because I realized I wanted to track different things, and have started doing so at the year’s halfway point (my birthday). Eating veggies and avoiding soda and potato chips weren’t too hard. So I’ve added and subtracted to the list and restarted counting. Now I’m tracking this stuff for my 42nd year.

10 things I learned from tracking my habits
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