Planning Your Way to Health

Who doesn’t want better health? I’d love to be healthier, but it’s easy to lose track of that goal after weeks of hitting the Snooze button and heading over to the local pizza joint for a slice of pepperoni and cheese. I’ll eat better tomorrow, I keep promising myself. Well, with the D*I*Y Planner, I can’t fool myself any longer.

If you want to improve something, you need to measure it. If you want better health, you need to keep track of what you’re doing and what you’re eating. The Matrix form (available for Hipster, Classic and A5) gives you a way to keep track of meals and exercise over 31 days, with an extra column for other things you want to note: how much water you drank, how early you woke up, how many calories you consumed (or burned), how happy you were with the day… Anything goes!

I’m not in the best of health, but I’d like to get there. The Matrix form gives me a way to keep track of what I’m currently doing so that I know what I need to focus on. This month, I’m trying to get the hang of cooking for myself and I’m also working on getting more exercise.

Here’s a copy of my filled-out Hipster-style Matrix card for August. My handwriting isn’t that small, so I enlarged the form to a letter-sized template I use in my three-ring binder. I use five columns to keep track of exercise, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and daily expenses (not shown here). This month-at-a-glance view lets me see:

  • how much exercise I get aside from my usual ten minutes’ walk to the lab
  • what I need to defrost for lunch and dinner the next day
  • whether I’m eating out too often, and how much I spend doing so

Here’s a closeup:

Close-up view

I’m a starving grad student, so “good food” is anything better than instant ramen. Adobo is a Filipino dish that works wonderfully as leftovers, and lasagna is another great freezer-friendly recipe. I have yet to figure out how to work vegetables into my diet (the huge pack of frozen broccoli in my freezer just tastes blah), and I know I should be exercising more.

With an instant report card that tells me how I’m doing in terms of health and nutrition (horribly!), I’m more motivated to improve my lifestyle. When I’m particularly happy with a day’s results, I add smilies. (Snack on brownies, add frownies!)

How are you working on improving your health, how are you using your planner to help you keep track of your life, and do you have any tips for a starving grad student trying to figure out how to live a healthier lifestyle?

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