Saturday, June 8, 2013

Why Pre-Planning Works for Me

I learned early on in my weight loss journey that pre-planning was definitely in the cards for me.  I have a better week and even a far simpler day when my meals are planned out for me.  It makes avoiding temptation easier and it even gives me things to look forward to – whether that is dessert, a snack, or even a particular meal of the day.

Undoubtedly pre-planning takes a little getting used to, especially if it’s not something you did prior. I do not feel it takes a whole lot of work – if I had to guestimate I would say it takes me about 3-5 minutes to pre-plan my entire day the night before.  Once I know what I’ll be having, I then pack those items up to have in the refrigerator so when I need to leave in the morning I can grab my bag (without having to think) and off I go. Now I choose to pre-plan the night before because when I wake up in the morning I already know what I’m having for breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner.  It simplifies my routine and I love simple.  Dinner is always noted in my tracker and my nightly snack is occasionally jotted down, but there are times where I leave myself with 2-6 points to figure out what I want for snack that night (depending on my mood).

Pre-planning can help you in a multitude of ways.  It can help you watch your spending on groceries (if you’re on a budget you can pre-plan a weeks worth of meals based on your budget and pick and choose from that meal chart). It can push along your weight loss by keeping you focused and on track.  It can be that unseen “angel” on your shoulder giving you the strength to resist the daily temptations that come along with life and food.  It just makes things so much easier.

I personally meal plan daily because I find it to be easier for me, but I have also planned my meals for an entire week – including breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner.  I usually pre-plan weekly meals when I really need focus and structure, particularly when I’ve been in the same food rut.  I like to switch up what I’m eating and when I’m stuck I put everything on paper because it forces me to think outside the box.

Typically I plan my meals around what is in the house (cabinets, freezer and refrigerator), but since I do grocery shop 3-4 times a week (usually it’s to run in to get fresh produce or vegetables and a few other odds and ends) if I see something I want to make I’ll pick it up and incorporate it into the meal plan for the next day.

Breakfast items are typically staple; so I plan those according to what I feel like eating.  Sometimes it’s a “true” breakfast: eggs, home fries and sausage/bacon – other times it’s a deli meat sandwich or even cereal.  There have been a few times where a leftover hamburger has been my breakfast!  The beauty of pre-planning is you really can see and adjust where you spend your point allowance.  For instance, there are instances where I know lunch and dinner are going to be higher in points, so I’ll keep breakfast under a certain amount of points but I ensure it is are going to be equally as filling.

9 times out of 10 I bring a packed lunch from home with me to work.  For years I’ve instilled in myself that it’s just ridiculous to spend $10+ for a meal at lunch for something that I may not necessarily enjoy.  Occasionally I do decide to have lunch out on the go, but I try to ensure those meals are as pre-planned as possible. There have been instances where what I have brought in to eat was just not edible (which I’ve learned try not to bring something in you’ve never eaten before) I do make the exception to grab a quick bite out.  But I try to stick around the same points plus value my original pre-planned lunch was at.  For example, one time I brought in vegetarian eggplant hamburgers with salad and wheat flax pita bread.  The whole lunch was to be 7 points plus.  I had never tried eggplant hamburgers before, but I was feeling adventurous.  When I assembled my hamburgers and took one bite I was completely repulsed. I couldn’t even stomach it with a blocked nose (not that I’d want to spend 7 points plus on something I had to block my nose to eat!).  I ended up needing to reevaluate my lunch plans. Do I go to Subway? Do I go to McDonald’s? I wasn’t feeling either option – so I ended up at the local grocery store, picking up a frozen dinner for 5 points plus and some fresh fruit.

Dinner is normally my biggest point allowance and consumption.  I don’t cook just for myself; I cook for others, so I have to take into account the pallets of others.  Not everyone is going to like the same things, so it’s all about finding a common ground and introducing new foods in fun and unique ways that are flavorful and enjoyable.  I cook because I enjoy it, but I’m not going to make two separate meals – well that is, unless I REALLY want macaroni and cheese (my boyfriend will not eat a food dish that has cheese in/on it – outside of pepperoni pizza) or I want a lower point pasta.  In those instances I’ll throw another small pot of water onto boil – but other than those 2 instances our meal is our meal, no exceptions. Plus, I find knowing what we are having for dinner ahead of time gives us a meal to look forward to.

Understandably life happens and sometimes plans change.  There have been many times where dinner is completely planned out and the phone rings and we’re extended an invite to come over or go out for dinner.  Yes, I follow Weight Watchers but that doesn’t mean I cannot go out for dinner or eat someone else’s food.  That’s the flexibility with Weight Watchers – I can go out and enjoy myself and not feel guilty because I can dip into my 49 weekly points if needed. It’s nothing I get stressed out over, as long as I have the points I’m golden.  The only extra work is deleting what I’ve already tracked in my tracker and replacing it with the new meal I’ll be having in replacement of it.

One of the reasons I love pre-planning is because it keeps me honest and it keeps me incredibly focused. How? Well, yesterday was National Donut Day and I love donuts (probably just as much as I love pizza).  I still eat donuts whenever I want one because it’s a food I enjoy. Well, on this grand day donuts were being given out free to customers who ordered a coffee beverage from two of the local coffee shops in town.  I didn’t order a coffee from Dunkin Donuts, but I did order a coffee from my favorite local coffee house (who also, BTW, sells THE best donuts).  I decided to bypass the donut – letting my boyfriend get 2 donuts for himself.  Why? Because I didn’t plan on having a donut – but I DID plan on having a piece of cake I had made the day before.  That piece of cake was delicious and far better than the momentary enjoyment I would have received from the donut.  Plus, my cake was 4 points plus compared to the 9-13 points plus that donut would have cost me.  Now – if I decided that I really wanted that donut, I could have just juggled up my day.  I would have not had my piece of cake, I would have not had my Pringles and I would have dipped into my weeklies for the remainder of the points I’d have needed to cover it.

I enjoy this method because it keeps me on track and focused, but it also allows me flexibility.  What I have written down is not etched in stone.  If things need to be changed up, I can do that, without guilt.  But I also know I feel like a rockstar having gotten through a whole day, resisting temptation and feeling satisfied with my choices.

Do you pre-plan your meals?  If not, is it something you consider trying?

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