This piece was originally written for Health Alliance’s Blog and features information about Health Alliance’s products and services. Visit that site for more on my healthy journey and many more health and insurance subjects.

We’re diving back into Rally this week, and I’m picking my missions. But first, an overview of some of the things that you can do once you’ve registered on Rally.

Once you’ve taken your health assessment and are in Rally, there are four major categories to explore.

The first is missions. Missions are little challenges meant to help you make healthier life choices. There are really amazing options on here, and they’re still making more. Based on your assessment, some are recommended for you specifically, and then there’s a whole list of other ones you can explore.

Missions cover a wide range of options. From eating or exercising, to managing your medicines, cutting your tobacco use, getting enough sleep, to having a healthy and fulfilling social and personal life. This is great because it means you don’t have to start too big! It means that maybe you start exercising by stretching or dancing during the week. Or maybe you try going meatless on certain days, or using a smaller plate before you dive into a diet.

The second category is challenges. Challenges are when you compete against other Rally users. They move you along virtual courses and let you unlock achievements and earn coins (we’ll get to those.) Right now, there is a challenge going on called SF Stomp. As you keep track of your steps, you travel a virtual course across San Francisco. Leaders reveal interesting facts on a real-time map. If you’re a competitive person, this is a fun way to get started being active.

The next part is the communities. Communities are a place you can talk to others about causes and treatments for issues and to just get support. There are ones for depression, women’s health, pregnancy, parenting, diabetes, smoking, and many more. It is always comforting to know that others know what you’re going through, even if they can’t actually help. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and it’s nice to know that if I need someone to talk to, I just have to hop online.

The last category is the fun one, rewards. Every time you log on and work on missions, even when you take your assessment, you can earn coins. Once you have coins, you can use them to enter sweepstakes for real prizes. Right now there are gift cards for Whole Foods and Amazon available, or the UP by Jawbone, which is a wristband that tracks your movement, and sleep with an app, or even an iPod nano to keep you moving while you workout.

So now that you have a good idea of how everything works, I’m going to tell you about what missions were recommended for me. Rally recommended that I focus on fruits or vegetables, avoid processed foods, cook at home more, run 30 minutes, walk three miles a day, work up a sweat three times a week, dance anytime, or bike for 20 minutes a day. These all sound great, but so do a lot of the ones that weren’t recommended for me.

I’m going to pick two to start working through. Because I’m also working on some other things, I’ve decided to start small with one that was recommended for me and one that wasn’t, each lasting for a month. This way I feel set up for success. If I feel really comfortable before that time’s up, I will start adding to them.

The first one I’m going to do is Dance Anytime. Its description: As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can dance! It’s awesome cardio, feels great, and you can do it anytime – try putting on music and moving for 20 minutes after dinner!

I chose this one for a few reasons. First of all, my dance moves could really use some work. I also didn’t want to start with too big of a fitness mission and fail miserably. But right now is also an extremely busy season for the Communications department at Health Alliance, so I also wanted to do something that was going to decrease my stress, not add to it. And I’m sure it will drive my dog crazy, so I will probably get a good dose of laughter in too.

The second mission I’m choosing is Track What You Eat. Its description: Are you aware of everything you are eating? Track it! You can take pictures of meals with your phone, jot down notes in a little book, or use an app. The results might surprise you.

Even though I think I could’ve handled adding more fruits and vegetables to my plate, I chose this one first for a reason. I rarely eat real meals. I usually eat a real lunch. Usually. The rest of the time, I munch. I eat a breakfast bar here, a smoothie there, a thing of candy as a snack, and when I worked at Starbucks I lived on straight coffee and milk. I have been this way for years, and it’s a real problem. I will consciously skip eating dinner if I know it means I can have a cupcake later. Instead of rewarding myself once in a while, I deprive myself so I can have things that are bad for me anytime I want.

This is not a good system! Not only am I hungry a lot of the time, I also probably don’t save myself very many calories in the long run, and I skip healthy foods not because I don’t like them, but because they aren’t as snackable.

So I’m hoping that by keeping track of what I’m eating every day, I will be forced to think about that instinctive bag of chips instead of justifying it later by skipping a meal. And once I see it all written out, I bet I will realize that I’m still eating just as much by skipping meals, but more of it is bad for me. I fully expect to be a little horrified.

I’m also going to try a different method of tracking my meals each week. So while I can test out which method works best for me, maybe that can help you if you start your own food tracking in the future.

So starting tomorrow, I’m keeping track and I’m dancing, and I will be keeping you updated every step of the way. Join me on my healthy journey.

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