Lose Weight: Use a Meal Plan
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach or without a shopping list. Don’t worry, I’m raising my hand too! I’m willing to bet that the times you did, you let a few comfort foods slip into your shopping cart. Without a shopping list to guide you, the food you buy is the same-old, same-old—nothing new and exciting, except maybe that bag of sweets that also slipped into your cart.
If you are trying to lose weight, the above scenario is a recipe for the opposite—weight gain. Unfortunately, it’s all too familiar for a lot of us. However, there are easy natural remedies for weight loss that are fun and simple. Even better, they’ll save you money too!
A Blueprint for Weight Loss
When you want to have a fun and memorable vacation, you don’t just get on a plane and see what happens. You plan it. You research not only where you want to go, but also where you want to stay, what you’d like to do, and so on. And if you are really meticulous like me, you plan for rainy day activities, too. The purpose of those plans is simple—to have a successful, fun vacation.
That technique is also the most successful approach to weight loss and weight control. If your “destination” is to lose 10, 20, or even 100 pounds, you need an actionable plan to lose it and keep it off. That plan involves the two most obvious components, diet and exercise. But I’d like to focus on meal planning and portions. What you eat is very important to a successful diet, but not enough attention is paid to how you eat.
Steps in the Right Direction
Weight loss is largely a matter of becoming a better eater. A lot of people have the right idea of eating better but the wrong techniques. Eating smart isn’t just about buying healthy foods. It’s about planning and portioning your meals.
Meal planning may seem intimidating at first, just like the prospect of losing a few dozen pounds. But I’m here to break it down for you in digestible steps so that you can start planning meals and losing weight beginning this very week.
Step 1: Dedicate time to researching meals you’d like to eat as part of your healthy diet. Don’t just look up meals while you are doing something else; devote your full attention to it. Look up healthy recipes (Not to brag, but the recipes on my website are a great place to start) and envision yourself making them. If a recipe seems like too much of hassle, move onto the next. There is an endless supply of healthy recipes. That said, I’d like you to find at least 21 recipes. Not just dinner, but breakfast and lunch too. When you find them, save them in one spot for easy access.
Step 2: Write your week’s menu using the meals you picked out. A friend of mine writes his family’s weekly menu on a dry erase board in a visible place in the kitchen. This visualization matters because it reminds you of your plans and makes you look forward to these meals. But you could just as easily use a notepad or create a document on your computer or tablet.
Step 3: Make a shopping list before shopping (and remember to bring it!). Be serious about this list. If something you want is not on the list, don’t buy it. And that leads me to my next point: Never ever shop on an empty stomach. A brain and body that is hungry is vulnerable. In that state, a person is more likely to make an unhealthy decision or give in to temptation.
Step 4: Prepare Your Meals Promptly and In Advance. So you came home from the grocery store with bags full of produce? Great! Now don’t let half of it go to waste like so many people do. Start prepping these meals ASAP. I’m not saying to cook all your week’s meals in one day. But what I’m saying is that prep work saves a lot of time when you do cook your meals. For example, chopping onions, carrots, and garlic in advance for 2 or 3 recipes will save about 30-40 minutes for each of those meals. Same goes for measuring and mixing spices in advance.
I do suggest that you fully prepare at least one or two full meals in advance and freeze them. If you have a big enough freezer (and enough casserole dishes), you can plan a two-week menu.
Step 5: Mangia! Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. But a crucial component to this step is portion control. If you followed those recipes to the T, then you also should follow their suggested portions. Remember, these steps are critical parts of your plan to lose weight and keep it off. Over-eating (even if it’s healthy food) works against this plan.
What Was That Thing About Saving Money Too?
Planning and portioning your meals can save you as much as hundreds of dollars a month. Think about how many times you did not want to cook dinner and instead ordered take out. Think about the extra food in the refrigerator you’ve thrown away in the past month because it had spoiled. Think about all the little calories that can add up between meals.
Translated into dollar amounts, these are giant wastes of your money. When meals are planned, time is saved. When meals are portioned, money is saved. When menus and recipes are followed, that’s less extra food you are buying and eating.
Money saved will add up, which is good because you’ll need to set aside some cash to buy a new wardrobe for the slimmer you!
It’s not the Destination That Matters, But Rather the Journey
Lastly, I want to revisit the vacation-planning metaphor. The vacation spot you plan to visit isn’t actually the destination. Rather, the destination is all the things you do there and on the way.
Now let’s apply this again to a weight-loss plan. The true goal of a weight-loss plan is losing weight and keeping the lost weight off. And that requires you to focus on the little things you need to do to achieve your desired weight loss target before and after you reach it.
It’s all about the journey, not the destination. And that journey is a lifelong trip. Meal planning and portioning are crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. And a healthier you will more likely be able to enjoy a longer, more active, and more memorable lifelong journey.