Meal prep sounds great in theory to many people, it’s kind of like those great ideas we pin on Pinterest for organizing the house or all the great workouts that we will try; some day. So far I have shared ideas on how to physically meal prep and make healthy adjustments to your eating habits. This week I am going to share some tips regarding how to prepare emotionally manage making changes in your eating habits as you adapt a healthier lifestyle. I understand emotions are a complicated thing and one little article is not going to cover every situation. This is a starting point to give you just a few tools to guide you through the emotional aspects of dietary changes.
First off is to understand why you are changing your eating habits or the way that you prepare meals. Do you have an illness that prompted this change? Is there a history of a family illness that has prompted your interest in changing? Are you concerned about your weight? Do you want to be an example and ensure that your children or grandchildren have healthy eating habits? Understanding your why and writing it down is the best place to start.
Understand that change will not take place overnight. There may be back steps along the way If you are changing your eating habits to lose weight do NOT count solely on the scale to track your progress. Take pictures and measure yourself. Also remember even if you do not see any changes, you are only helping yourself by eating better. Stick it out. It is easier to continue on the right path then to get off track and find your way back to the path and begin again.
Do not focus on what you are not eating. A positive attitude can make such a huge difference in your success. Rather than saying, “I can’t have potato chips (or whatever the temptation may be)”; you can say “I am in control of my health and this apple is providing fuel for my body.” Focus on what you “can” have. Think about how amazing that salad, yogurt parfait or healthy prepared snack is going to be. Filling up on healthy food will reduce the temptation to snack on “junk” food.
Set daily goals. It could be to not consume sugary drinks, exercise for 30 minutes, and eat enough fruits and veggies. Then track the number of days in a row that you achieve these goals. Choose to reward yourself when you reach a certain number of days in a row. Just don’t make the reward and ice cream sundae. See how long of a streak you can keep going.
When do you find yourself most tempted to stray from meal planning and healthy eating habits? Have a plan in place for staying on track.
- If you get a snack attack before lunch, try eating breakfast a little later and make sure you are eating a good balanced breakfast.
- That afternoon snack attack catches many people heading to the vending machine. Have some healthy choices in your desk. If you get sweet cravings try a fruit bar. Sometimes I find chewing a piece of gum helps – have you seen all the flavors available? If you like salty or crunchy snacks try some protein chips.
- Is there a time of day when idle hands or stress lead you to reach for an unhealthy snack? Get up and move or work on a project that keeps your hands busy. Drink a glass of water or if you are looking for something with flavor try something like Amino Energy to quiet your cravings. Another option is to brew yourself a cup of tea.
- When you first start thinking about that chocolate bar or ice cream, set a timer for 20 minutes. Try one of the methods above to resolve your craving and when the timer goes off decide if you really want to spoil your streak.
The whole purpose of meal planning is to be physically prepared to eat healthy throughout the week. The same approach that we have for preparing meals or meal components ahead of time applies to the emotional aspect of meal planning. Spend some time each week reviewing how the past week went. What really worked for you? What did you struggle with? Then make your emotional plan for using your strengths to help you overcome those weak spots just as you should revisit the foods that you did or did not enjoy as part of your meal plan.
You can do this. You can be the healthiest version of you. It won’t happen overnight, you might not get it right all the time. Changes are a learning process part of that process is finding what works best for you. Be patient with your self – be patient with those around you that may not understand your choices.