Many people believe that the secret to long term weight management is sacrifice and will power. When we don’t succeed, we blame ourselves and assume that our lack and strength and willpower are to blame. That is not the reason that approaches don’t add up to progress though. The real secret in this journey is neither of those things.
The secret is planning and organization.
A health improvement approach that works is one where we have planned for the everyday routine, bumps along the road, and detours. The more we are able to have plans in place, the better off we are - we feel in control and begin to see progress. Think about the grocery store, for example - if we walk in with a list and a reasonably full tummy the outcome is often far different than if we walk in there without a list and/or a rumbly tummy. On these occasions everything ends up in the basket - things we wouldn’t even normally buy - and upon or arrival at home and unpacking, we have to ask ourselves, “how on earth did that get in there?!” When it comes to dinner - without a plan, the clock strikes 6 pm, our stomachs are telling us it is time to eat and suddenly Skip The Dishes makes the most sense.
Here is the great news, wishing and planning take the same amount of energy, so instead of wishing for things to be different, let’s plan for it.
When it comes to eating at home, having a plan is a great way to balance your week and save time (and money). Meal planning and meal prep does not mean having equally portioned foods in matching containers all prepped in one day and stacked neatly in the fridge. It can if that is how you like to have your meals, but for most people it isn’t realistic or sustainable.
Here is my approach to meal planning:
Make a list of the events and commitments you have each week (this helps determine which nights need quick dinners)
Make a list of days I am very active (those days we will have the more caloric dinners)
Pencil in dinners for each night (these can be swapped around if need be)
If you find yourself staring at the page completely forgetting what you know how to cook and what people like to eat in your house (speaking from experience), take a step back, sit down and brainstorm a list of all of the dinnertime meals you and your family enjoy without assigning them to days; this is your master menu you can pull from each week adding new meals and recipes as you try them
From the list of meals for the week, make a grocery list; only buy what the meals require, any staples needed, and items for breakfasts and lunches
Plan for one night each week as leftovers for dinner to keep waste in check and take advantage of the delicious meals you have prepped
It is freeing to not have to ask yourself each night, “what’s for dinner tonight..?” This approach also saves money on groceries we don't need.
Here are a few more tips for conquering meal planning and prep:
Often a dinner early in the week is a soup or chili, we make double to help with lunches the following days
Make a pot of grains early in the week (rice or quinoa) and make lots
When prepping and cooking, make extra proteins to add into stir-fry and salads throughout the week and extra veggies to snack on or add to dishes later in the week - you already have the cutting board out!
Buy some pre-chopped, pre-washed vegetables; they can be more expensive but think of it like hiring your own sous chef
Have a few emergency meals in the pantry or freezer. These are convenience foods that may be more processed, but will still be far better in a pinch than a fast food meal
If you aren't a meal planner or prepper, give it a try. It may take a few weeks to figure out what works for your family but I promise you it a habit well worth getting into!