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What is Self Monitoring?

What is Self Monitoring?

Self monitoring is a a strategy that we use to help us learn more about ourselves and our ability to manage our behaviours. We can self monitor in many different ways e.g.

i. Weighing daily or weekly to learn about our weight trends

ii. Using a calendar and ticking the days when we achieve 10,000 steps or more

iii. Keeping a gratitude journal and entering a note each day to remind ourselves what we are thankful for

iv. Using a photo app to take photos of our meals and snacks to keep us mindful of our goals.

How is Self Monitoring used?

Self-monitoring is a cornerstone of both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).  When used well, self monitoring can help us to keep complete and accurate records of our behaviours, which can feel personally helpful, but is also useful to any clinicians who might be supporting you.

How do I Self Monitor?

       Focus: The most important thing to identify is the thing you want to monitor. If you want to look at managing your weight better, then just start with monitoring your weight. Weigh yourself weekly or daily and capture the information somewhere – you can then discuss the information you have collected with someone who might be helping you.

       Timing: Ideally you will weighing yourself at the same time each day or week, as this will help you to create a habit around weighing. This in turn takes the decision making out of your head, as eg you always weigh first thing in the morning.

       Review: Again, ideally, you will look over the information you have collected at a particular time. You might choose to look at your information at the end of the day, or the week, or the month. The idea is to make a plan based upon the information you have collected, about yourself.

Interestingly, we know that when individuals collect information about themselves – self-monitoring –  they are more interested in investing  in making changes.

The benefits of Self Monitoring include:

1. Facilitating self-reflection – this is where we start to think more about how we behave, especially around food. Self monitoring can help us to identify feelings, emotions and spontaneous behaviours, so that we do not mis-remember or forget how we behaved in a particular circumstance.

2. Connecting the dots – when we have a more complete picture of how we behave, we can look at patterns eg how I might behave on the weekend, versus how I behave in the week.

We can look at triggers eg my route home involves walking past countless  small supermarkets which trigger me to purchase somethings sweet.

Being able to identify thoughts and patterns can then help you to come up with strategies to deal with tricky scenarios.

3. Encouraging skill utilisation – if we actively self monitor in the moment, eg sitting down with a cake or a biscuit whilst tapping it into a food diary app, this might help us to choose to behave differently. We might choose to eat only half the biscuit or decide not to eat it at all. This is an example of noticing our behaviours, and coming up with other ways of responding.

4. Making a routine of regular eating – if we have notifications or reminders to eat on an app, it helps us to regularly log what we are having and create good habits around a pattern of eating. You don’t have to use an app on your phone, you can have a meal plan and simply tick when you have consumed that meal. This is particularly helpful when struggling to eat enough, and particularly helpful too if you spend the day grading on snacks.

Where to from here?

So I think you can see why self monitoring is considered a foundation of lifestyle related behaviour change. I can’t think of any behaviour I might want to work on, where monitoring will not help me to move forward.

If you want me to help you figure out how to best use self-monitoring for your particular lifestyle related health condition, get in touch.

Felicity Lyons

Hi there! My name is Felicity. I am a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist with a proactive approach to healthy living. My job is to interpret the complexity of nutrition science and translate it into messages and guidance that you can understand. Healthy Living? It's easier than you think!