Healthy-Habit Check-in: Track Your Progress without Counting Calories

Written and medically reviewed by Rich LaFountain, PhD

Life gets hectic. And the more hectic it gets, the easier it can be for your health goals to start slipping — often without you even noticing.

The solution is to check on your habits every so often. To check on your nutrition habits, for instance, “conventional wisdom” (a la, the diet industry) would have you log every meal and count every calorie for a few weeks. If you enjoy analyzing every morsel that passes your lips and then painstakingly entering it into an app, spreadsheet, or notebook, that’s certainly an option. However, we suggest a more mindful, “higher level” check-in approach. How consistently have you been fasting lately? What do your meals look like? And how are you feeling about it all?

To help you perform this self-assessment, we’ve created this guide to a healthy-habit check-in. 

Why Check-Ins Are Important

A big reason so many diets fail is because the level of self-scrutiny they demand is simply unsustainable. Most people don’t have the time or mental capacity to be monitoring every decision they make in a day and how it’s impacting their health.

Periodic check-ins, on the other hand, help you to monitor your progress towards health and longevity at a cadence and from an altitude that makes sense for you and your health goals. In most cases, quarterly or even biannual check-ins are all you need to confirm your healthy habits are intact and serving your goals — or, alternatively, need some tweaking.

Check-ins are especially important because habits have a tendency to drift over time. “Habit drift” refers to gradually (and usually unintentionally) abandoning a habit or replacing it with another behavior. It can start during “one of those weeks” full of stressful life events; it can also happen when you put a habit “on pause” for travel or vacation and then struggle to reincorporate it when you return. No matter the reason, check-ins help you recognize habits you’ve let drift so that once they’re front of mind again, you can decide if and how to reintroduce them to your routine.

Getting Started With Your Check-In

The first thing you want to do is get a few check-ins scheduled in your calendar. Check-ins work best when you do them regularly, so you can compare your progress over time. (After all, the purpose of checking in is to discover trends!)

A check-in will last about a week, and the cadence of your check-ins is ultimately up to you; however, it’s a good idea to check in at least one to two times each year. Most people do a check-in as part of a New Year’s resolution, which makes June or July a great time for a second check-in. If you’re forming a new habit or have time-sensitive goals, more frequent check-ins (every month, every other month, or quarterly) can help you stay on track. Put a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget!

Next, consider finding a check-in buddy. Research indicates that strong relationships are a key source of resilience and health, making your community one of the most important contributors to your overall health. The more you and a friend or family member can support one another on your respective health journeys, the greater your accountability and the better your chances of success! And if your family and friends are not quite ready to join you on your journey, know that Zero is here to be your health and longevity partner for the long haul.

Finally, when you’re ready to start a check-in, make sure you have the Zero app downloaded to your phone — you’ll need it to log some simple check-in metrics around fasts, meals, and mood. Then, you’re ready to go!

The Check-In Checklist

As you complete your check-in, consult this checklist to make sure you’re examining key metrics. Remember to use your Zero app to track data pertaining to your fasts, meals, mood, and other healthy habits.

#1) Fasting

Fasting serves as a great support structure upon which you can build other health and longevity habits. You don’t need to fast every day, and you don’t need to fast for a super long time, but regularly fasting at least 12 out of 24 hours a day is important for your metabolic health and chronic disease prevention. To figure out your baseline, track your fasts for a week and see how long and how often you’re actually fasting.

Use Zero: Log your fasts with Zero for a week.

If you’re already using Zero to track your fasts, you know what to do! If you’re new, just open the app and tap “Start Fasting” when you’re ready to begin a fast. When your fast is over, tap “End Fast.” Rinse and repeat for seven days! 

Look for: Fasting 12+ hours most days.

#2) Nutrition

Fasting is a powerful tool for health and longevity, but it’s not the only tool. Nutrition is another tool at your disposal — and if your nutrition is lacking, your fasts will be more difficult and less effective. 

To evaluate your nutrition, aim to log what you eat to break your fast every day throughout the check-in period. Hopefully, you’ll find that your habitual diet is mostly minimally processed foods, little sugar, and adequate protein. However, if you discover you’re falling short, know that you’re in good company.

Research indicates nearly two thirds of the calories consumed by an average adult in the U.S. come from ultra-processed foods. These foods are hyperpalatable, which makes them both tempting and easy to consume in large quantities. By performing this nutrition check-in, you can discover whether ultra-processed foods have snuck into your regular diet and make a plan for shifting your nutrition habits to better align with your goals.

Use Zero: Log your Fast Breaker each day for a week.

As soon as you end your fast on your Timer, tap “What are you eating?” below. Select the approximate size of your meal and the general type of meal (ketogenic, balanced, etc.), write a quick description, and take a photo!

Look for: Protein and minimally processed whole foods at most meals as well as feeling comfortably full and energetic after a meal.

#3) Mood

You’re probably pretty good at muscling through the challenges and stressors of daily life, but every so often you’ll want to stop and consider how you’re truly feeling — especially so you can connect how you’re feeling with what you’re doing. In particular, connecting your mood state with your fasting, nutrition, exercise, sleep, or restoration habits is a great way to identify trends. Do you tend to feel irritable and hungry an hour after you break your fast? That’s an indicator your Fast Breaker needs some adjusting (perhaps more protein to be satiating or less additives and more whole foods). Are you in a good mood on the days you hit your Activity goal? Just noting that trend can help keep you motivated to continue hitting your goal!

The research concurs that mood logging is an impactful self-monitoring tool you can use in-app to understand the benefits of your personal health habits. Log your mood at least once a day for about a week to establish a baseline you can use to compare at future check-ins.

Use Zero: Log your mood at least once a day for a week.

The ideal time to log a mood is either 30–60 minutes after your Fast Breaker or before bed. By logging your mood after you eat, you can take a beat to observe how your meal made you feel (and adjust accordingly!). By logging your mood before bed, you can reflect on the day as a whole.

To log your mood, tap the (+) symbol in the upper right corner of the home screen. Then select “Mood Journal,” choose the emoji that reflects your mood, and write a quick note. Don’t neglect the note! It’s especially important for helping you connect what you ate or what happened that day with how you’re feeling.

Look for: Patterns and correlations.

It’s worth noting that this part of the check-in doesn’t quite lend itself to a checklist the way fasting and nutrition do. When you look back at your moods over the week — which you can do by tapping on the Restoration Pillar to easily identify days with a mood log — see if you can connect your moods to any other healthy habits. On days when you felt gloomier, did you fast? What did your Fast Breaker and/or other meals look like those days? On days you felt happier and more energetic, did you meet your Activity goal? What did your Sleep look like in the preceding days?

The more often you log your mood alongside your other healthy habits, the better chance you’ll have to objectively see how those habits are making you feel. Purely relying on memory is an unreliable strategy; most people have difficulty accurately remembering details in the short term, like what color dog just walked by or the name of someone they just met, never mind how they felt a few days ago or what they ate for last Tuesday’s Fast Breaker. Therefore, getting into the habit of logging your mood will make these check-in weeks that much easier (and more useful!)


Healthy habit check-ins are a great way to keep tabs on your health and longevity lifestyle without going overboard and getting burned out. With every check-in, you’ll see where your habits are strongest and where they could use work. You’ll find opportunities for improvement, but don’t forget to celebrate success along the way!

Rich LaFountain, PhD
Posted in Health & Science

A weekly digest with the latest science and motivation.