Friday, January 04, 2013

Planning for Success

A friend pointed out on my Facebook page after my post about losing 30 pounds that the key to any weight loss/fitness plan is consistency.  That is so true.  I already had a list of things I wanted to add to my original post floating around in my head, and that was at the top of the list.

One thing I wanted to stress when I shared about the tools that have been helping me to lose weight is that they have been so helpful because they have made it easier for me to follow through.  The last several years of my life have been full of excuses and Monday starts (and indulgence in the mean time).  That's how I ended up where I was at the beginning of this journey.  Once I began, I knew all of that had to stop.  The biggest key to my success has been choosing to do it now--whatever "it" is.  Exercising, eating breakfast, not eating sweets, not eating fast food, cooking at home are all choices I've had to make NOW rather than tomorrow...or Monday.

So whatever plan you choose to follow, the key will be how well you stick to it.  For me, that's one of the biggest reasons I need a plan.  I see things in black and white, so I need to know that I have a plan.  Your plan is important because it needs to be something that you can follow through with.

The Eating Part of My Plan

I tried to keep my goals for eating simple and straightforward because a girl can only handle so much change at one time and sill keep up with real life.  I had a few simple goals:

1.  Stop eating out.  I'm a mom, and I'm busy, and I stink at planning ahead in the kitchen.  When 5:00 rolls around, and I don't have a clear plan grabbing fast food always seems like the best answer.  But that was tough on our bodies...and our budget.

2.  Cook at home.  This is the flip side of the first goal.  I've always been bad at meal planning, so this was the most overwhelming for me.  Three meals a day for four people adds up to a lot of work in the kitchen even if you're not trying to measure everything and be aware of calories.  In the end, I've been saving recipes on Pinterest and trying out new stuff.  At my house everyone eats the same thing for dinner PERIOD.  I am not a short order cook, and I want my kids to develop healthy eating habits, too.

Now that I've got some standard things down, I would usually rather eat at home because I know I can have way yummier food and better stay within my goals. (Part of this goal is also to eat real food made from real ingredients which we tend to do anyway when cooking at home.)

There are a couple of tools that have helped me achieve this goal.

Pinterest - If you are not on Pinterest, then you should be!  You get to choose who you follow and which boards you want to see.  I've loved this site from the moment I found it two or so years ago, and I have found TONS of great recipes on there.  I can keep boards for main courses, soups, lunch ideas, tried and true recipes, etc. to keep everything organized.  You can even browse just the food and drink category.  It helps me keep track of links to everything I've come across all in one place...visually!

Calorie Count - The recipe analyzer on this site is the fastest and easiest I've found for getting an overall picture of a recipe.  I often find recipes on Pinterest and run them through the analyzer by copying and pasting to see if it's even worth pinning.

Skinny Taste - OK, so this is really a blog, but I have found so many yummy recipes on Gina's site that I had to recommend it to you.  Most of her recipes are 500 calories or fewer per serving, and they are still tasty. I tend to go with the full fat dairy products and tweak things here and there, but I've probably found more of our new recipes here than any other site.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to EatPlan to Eat - I am super cheap, and I normally would never pay for a subscription site.  That said, I know my track record for follow-through when it comes to meal planning.  I have never developed a system that didn't take a ton of time for me to maintain.  Plan to Eat has set up a system or me, and it gives me the tools to keep it going.

I can easily add recipes to my account either by entering them manually or with a bookmarked button.  Sometimes I need to copy and paste some information, but overall it's very quick.  If I find a recipe I like in a Martha Stewart magazine, then I can look it up on the web site, use the button, and add it straight to my recipe list.  I can add recipes I want to try soon to my queue, and then I have inspiration when I'm creating our upcoming meal plan.

I really love the planning feature because I can drag and drop my recipes onto the calendar, and it puts together a shopping list for me.  Then I can access the shopping list from my phone at the store and check things off as I shop.  I can even add other items to my shopping list before I head out to the store.

If something comes up and we get off track, I can easily move things around, and I don't have to redo the whole meal plan.  I really think Plan to Eat will save us money on our grocery budget while it keeps me organized in the kitchen.  They do offer a free 30-day trial if you're interested, so you don't have to commit up front.  There are so many other features that I haven't even mentioned!  This tool has been the most important in my being able to be consistent with my plan while saving my valuable time, so that has made it worth the extra expense.  If your current system is working well, then it may not be for you.

3.  Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.  I like to think more about all the things I can eat rather than the things I can't eat.  Plus, you can eat so much more (in volume) if you choose wisely.

4.  Stay within my calorie goals 6 days per week.  This can vary according to how quickly you'd like to lose weight and how active you are.  That's why I love having My Fitness Pal to help me track everything and earn extra calories.

5.  Don't feel guilty about going over the calorie goal one day per week.  I tend not to call this a "cheat" day because it's not cheating if it's a part of my plan.  Also, I don't want it to be an excuse to binge.  I do think there is some good in taking a break from calorie restriction.  It may keep your body guessing, and it's great for your sanity!  Usually, I plan this around an event when I know I won't be eating at home.

Oh, and there have actually been weeks when I didn't use my "cheat" day.  I intended to, but with making good choices and being active, I realized I stayed within my calorie goal after all.

There is so much more that could be said, but this is the basic plan I set up for myself.  It's doable for us, and that's why it's worked so far.  Do you have a plan for eating better in the new year?  Have you set goals for yourself?

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