Tracking what you eat and do every day has long been recommended for people trying to live a healthier lifestyle, lose weight and exercise more regularly. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that subjects who kept a daily food diary lost twice as much weight as those who did not track their food intake.
Whether it’s a formal log, jotting items down on a sticky note, or sending yourself text messages, tracking and writing about behaviors can help you see what you’re eating, track your exercise, manage stress, or grief, and may help improve your overall health. Tracking can also reveal where – or when – you have challenges following a health plan.
Here’s a look at some of the journals available that are geared directly to improving your longevity:
12-week exercise and food diary.
Written by exercise physiologist Bob Greene. Greene became famous for his work as Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer, and they later wrote a book Make the Connection together. Though Winfrey’s own weight loss journey has had its ups and downs, with extreme losses and gains, this journal follows the moderate approach recommended in Greene’s companion book 20 Years Younger.
The spiral-bound book begins with space for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo, then has two pages to log each day’s physical activity, diet, skin care habits and sleep. Though sections for cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretches and core exercises are included on each page, Greene offers general guidelines about how many minutes to aim for each week, to never take off two days in a row, at three different levels of intensity. There’s also an inspirational quote offered on each day’s page.
At the end of each week, there’s a summary section to record whether goals were met, and a space for additional notes.
52-week exercise and food diary.
Based on the best-selling longevity books “Younger Next Year” and “Younger Next Year for Women”, this tidy paperback journal begins with a section on general goal-setting and recommendations to exercise six days a week – including four days of “serious” aerobic activity and two of strength training. Three lines for each meal offer just enough space to jot down what you’re eating, and reveal trends in snacks, “crap” or “booze”, you may be consuming. There’s also a checklist for rating the day as “amazing”, “not bad”, or “shameful”.
The book is both light-hearted in tone and strict in its recommendations. There’s not a lot of space for ruminating, but as a pocket-sized summary of a year’s good intentions, it can’t be beat. I admit I prefer spiral-bound journals, however.
10-week exercise and food diary.
Though technically not a longevity journal, this companion to The Mayo Clinic Diet, is based on a lifestyle that should keep you living longer. The journal offers an overview the diet plan (based on the Mediterranean diet, a great anti-aging plan), with pages for charting your motivation, and starting weight. It’s broken down into two parts, a two-week fast-track “Lose It!” phase, followed by an eight-week “Live It!” period.
The journal is probably best used along with its bigger diet book brother, but as a lifestyle journal it excels. Each day is spread over two pages, with space for logging activity and food intake, complete with a motivational tip like “Weight loss goals may change over time. Review them periodically and make sure they’re still realistic.”
I also loved the food pyramid on each of the 8-week “Live It!” pages, designed for checking off fruits, vegetables, etc. Easy to read, chart, and review, with a visual reminder of how healthy portions of different food groups relate to each other. If you prefer visual cues rather than charts and tables, you'll like this one.
Perhaps the most valuable component of this journal includes a “Habit Tracker”, encouraging you to add 5 habits (like eating whole grains, and more vegetables and fruits), break 5 habits (like no TV while eating) and adopt bonus habits (like eating “real”, unprocessed food and writing down daily goals).
A great journal.
8-week lifestyle workbook.
This is not a conventional journal; it’s more of a combined program and habits workbook, grouped into eight separate sections on building longevity habits, with weekly dividers. Author Mao Shing Ni holds a doctorate in nutrition, according to his website, and founded a wellness center in Santa Monica, CA.
Each week focuses on one area of health like improving sleep, reducing stress, boosting brainpower or eating like a centenarian, and begins with a questionnaire assessing your status in this area. There’s a little background on how each habit affects your longevity, and then advice and checklists for improving behaviors throughout the week.
Though the journal is based on Dr. Mao’s more detailed paperback Secrets of Longevity, it stands easily on its own as a beautifully-designed little spiral-bound chronicle of habits moving in the right direction.
Bottom line: All of these journals are designed as tools to chart your progress in the areas of eating right, and exercising more regularly. Though sometimes I get more excited at the thought of opening and admiring a new blank book –- rather than actually doing the exercise and diet work to record in it –- these journals offer an opportunity to track behaviors that will help you get healthier, and living longer.
Jack F. Hollis et al. “Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial.” Am J Prev Med. 2008 August; 35(2): 118–126. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.04.013