2016 is going to be THAT year” I mutter to myself as I woke up on New Years Day with a massive hangover from the previous evening’s festivities. “This would be the year I finally get into shape, I’ll be one of the fittest nurses on the floor, and I’ll take on the world!” I continue to say to myself the days going forward. And for the most part, I was sticking to my gym plan that was very diversified (Thank you, CrossFit.) But was I seeing results? Not exactly. Over the course of 5 months, from January to May, I only lost 8 pounds. Frustrated, I started working out more! My losses in weight were reversing and by the middle of May, I had regained 2 pounds.
In a poll done in 2015 by Marist College of New York (http://maristpoll.marist.edu/1222-weight-loss-top-new-years-resolution-finding-a-better-job-gains-traction/) losing weight is the number one goal set by Americans each year, at 13%, and yet according to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#72766a45304c) only 8% of people will achieve any sort of goals they set at the beginning of the year. So as popular and trendy as it’s been to be more fit, active, and healthy, for many it’s not achievable. With those statistics and countless failed personal experiences, the journey can be frustrating, but not impossible.
For achieving those weight loss goals, I’m certain that most Americans have a game plan in mind, whether that be engaging in yoga, going to a cycling class before work, going to CrossFit, utilizing the trainers at the gym, and making small lifestyle changes that could help their goals such as parking further away from work and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But for what you put out with your daily activity, you have to refuel your body properly to keep going. This is the area that most people fail at when it comes to achieving those fitness goals.
“It takes time to plan ingredients”, “It takes time to go and get every ingredient”, “It takes time to prep”, “it takes time to cook and clean”, “it’s not worth my time.
As a current nursing student at the College of DuPage, I agreed that there just wasn’t enough time between studying, going to the gym, and clinical experiences to spend some time to get groceries, prep it, cook it, then separate it into meal containers. I knew that it was the one obstacle that was in my way.
I needed convincing that meal prep was worth it. Benefits listed from ACTIVE.com (http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/5-benefits-of-prepping-your-food?page=2) and WellnessMama
- You’ll Save Money (ACTIVE.com) For those who think eating healthy is way too expensive, think again. Meal prepping will save you money because you can buy items in bulk and take advantage of your freezer. When you set aside time to prep your food, think big in terms of volume.
Don’t be scared to buy five pounds of chicken instead of one. You can cook one pound at a time if you want to, and freeze the rest so it will always be ready to defrost. You can freeze fresh herbs, baked egg cups and cooked turkey meatloaf. Always stock up on staples when they’re on sale, such as olive oil, spices and mustard. Not only will cooking your own food save you money; it will save your waistline as well.
From personal experience, I compared an entire week of going out compared to my grocery receipt which created 2 weeks of food at 3 meals per day and the savings were outstanding.Cost per day (eating out): $30 Cost of 2 weeks of groceries that created 3 meals per day: $40
- Eat Healthy Consuming a nutrient dense real-food diet is vital for so many aspects of health, but it also takes some advance planning. Meal Planning lets you decide before you ever go to the grocery store what healthy meals your family is going to eat during a given week so that you can only purchase healthy foods and know that you will use them. If you’re switching to a healthier diet, meal planning is especially important to help you stick to it while you learn the ropes.
- Don’t Waste Food One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a container of food in the back of the fridge and realizing that the contents resemble a science experiment more than they do food. We focus on a healthy real-food lifestyle and part of that is being a good steward of the resources we have. With meal planning, I know how we are going to use all of the food for that week before I even go to the store to buy it. I have a weekly game plan that even takes leftovers in to account so that food is rarely wasted.
- Less Stress Stress is bad. I realized that a major source of stress for me was realizing at 4pm that the kids would be hungry soon and that nothing was planned or defrosted for dinner. Just the general “what am I going to cook tonight” that was always in the back of my mind was taking up mental energy that I needed to use in better ways (like parenting five children). Just as with anything, having a written plan takes the uncertainty and stress out of the situation and I was surprised how much it reduced my stress just to have a plan and know what and when I would be cooking. As I’ve written about before, I have a template to make this process even easier
- Save Time Another great benefit of meal planning is the time it saves. Planning ahead allows me to cook things in bulk and freeze for a future meal or make extra of a protein to use in a quick meal later in the week. In the winter, I cook a lot of slow-cooker meals and pre-make many of these to keep in the freezer so that I can just stick one in the crock-pot and go in the morning on busy days.
- Add Variety It may seem that meal planning is rigid and boring, but statistically, families are more likely to eat the same meals over and over if they don’t meal plan. Meal planning allows you to ensure variety and avoid falling in to the trap of eating the same five meals over and over. As I talked about before, it is also easy use spices to mix up a recipe and make it unique:
“A basic easy recipe (like Chicken Squash Stir Fry or Pakistani Kima) can taste completely different just by changing the spices. Add some cumin and chili powder and you have a Mexican flavor, or some Curry for an Indian type flavor. Basil, Thyme, Oregano and Garlic give an Italian Flavor while Chinese 5 Spice gives an Asian Flair. I buy all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk since it saves money and I’ve found that they have extremely high quality herbs and spices.” You can also check out these ten money saving tips to eat healthy on a budget.
Going back to how meal prepping changed my entire outlook on my fitness goals, I started meal planning and cooking all of my meals in May. From May to August, I lost 15 pounds. I e the same type of workout regimen, I practiced the same lifestyle changes, but with making my own meals, I not only knew what I was putting into my body, I knew that it was aiding in helping it recover and build all while getting rid of the excess fat.
If you’re still not convinced but would like to give it a try, there are companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated, which not only send you the ingredients but have recipes designed around those ingredients.