Planning Your Way to Health

Food and ExerciseWho 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?



Sacha Chua is a master's student at the University of Toronto. She has far too much chicken in her freezer and regrets taking advantage of a recent sale. She has so far managed to survive her Cook Or Die experiments, and will write every Tuesday unless Something Bad happens.

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An add-veggies suggestion

Buy frozen spinach instead of broccoli. Microwave the spinach with some finely diced garlic, and you're ready to go.

(Off topic, I know...)

-- flexiblefine

Thanks for the suggestion

Thanks for the suggestion about frozen spinach! I've found that frozen carrots, corn and peas are far more manageable and more edible than frozen broccoli, and will try frozen spinach when I finally clear my freezer. =)

On the subject of frozen vegetables

More often than not, supermarkets puncture the formerly air tight bags, in order to fit more of them on the shelf at once. From their point of veiw, they can't lose: it will be off the shelf and in your freezer before it gets frostbitten and stale, and will only result in you returning to the store to buy more. Bastards!

So, I put all my frozen produce that comes punctured into freezer bags as soon as I get home - still in the punctured bag. First time round, it will seem like a whole load of freezer bags, but since you aren't going to through them have to throw them away, its not at all wasteful. I just leave them in the freezer when they are empty, and put a little baking soda in the bottom of them whenever I clean the fridge. And, the zip lock beats searching around for something to close the vegetable bag with when I've only eaten half of it.

Whic brings up another trick :> I close all my vegetable bags in the freezer that aren't zip tied with office binder clips. Any cubicle worker has access to an unlimited supply of these. My unlimited supply has manage to find it's way into a drawer in my kitchen :>

Tinned tomatoes?

Sweet matrix.

Being a grad student and having recently become a meal planner for my pregnant wife meant i had the unsavoury task of going from ramen to something more vitamin packed. Tinned tomatoes. I personally like the chopped plumb tomatoes, but tomato paste too is an insanely inexpesive thing to keep in the larder.

I gave up on broccoli in freezer bags pronto but the spinach and peas and carrots are very very workable in the freezer format :)

Avoid the frozen vegetable medleys which include lima beans - they're as tasty as cotton balls after being frozen.

re: spinach

I got through art school living off rice and frozen peas and carrots. I tended to save my "creative" energy, and every now and then men who loved to cook made me a really good meal.

When I was pregnant (and almost ate us out of house and home with my appetite) my husband found a sale on spinach which I put in baggies and the freezer. It was a good way to save pennies, until I found out that spinach depletes the body of calcium which is very important during pregancy. I ended up eating so much broccoli that I still have a hard time looking at it now. Seaweed and sesame seeds are great inexpensive sources of nutrition to sprinkle on things.

Great article by the way. I'm now inspired to use the matrix (or the new templates in the works) to help lose the last bit of my pregnancy weight. Dietlog was the one thing I really found the palm pilot useful for until it errr.. crashed and lost all my information for the last time. I've said it before, but "all rumours about Doug’s Palm Pilot being ruined in an incident involving my cooking are greatly exaggerated".

p.s. I recommend the president choice organic oatmeal!

jp
--
http://www.spaceabovethecouch.com/

Cannot get template

I am not able to view the template ?
Mac OS only ? or something else that I am missing ?

Doug -- This is really good. Great work as always.

Thanks, all !

Part of the kit

The "Matrix" template is available in the PDF of Doug's D*I*Y Planner kits, which are available at http://www.diyplanner.com/templates/official .