How Meal Prep Can Change Your Life: Part I: Eat Healthy (Without Trying!)
“Without trying!?” you say, “but, we all know that nothing good in life comes easy!” We don’t disagree. Still, before your life-savvy-self-who-knows-better-than-to-believe-any-old-crook-on-the-internet runs away crying ‘Gimmick!’, let us explain: This isn’t about magic pills, or sketchy ‘toxic sludge eliminating’ products touted by late night TV and radio commercials.
This is about motivation vs. habits.
Motivation [particularly good] Habits
Many of us who struggle with healthy eating rely on motivation to make the change towards healthier options. We feel terrible after eating holiday junk, so we channel those shameful feelings into anger, then motivation, then action. So… that’s great, right? Who cares what the cause is, as long as resolving action follows? Unfortunately, the cause matters.
Action only follows motivation temporarily. Motivation, being rooted in emotions, is fleeting by nature. “I want to!” turns into “I don’t feel like it…” which becomes “I don’t want to,” and thus secures the inevitability of failed New Year’s resolutions heard ’round the world. Anger and shameful feelings dissipate after a week or two, the convenience and comfort of old routines beckon, and ‘real life’ stressors take hold – before you know it, you’re back to old hat. Eating junk, feeling blah, letting workouts slide… the cycle begins anew.
The difference between you and these hamsters is that they’re having more fun than you. They’re also cuter.
When you realize you’re back at square one, what do you do? How do you break the cycle?
The blunt answer is to establish new habits without relying on motivation. Habits, unlike motivation, are not transient. The most classic example of a habit is brushing your teeth: Brushing your teeth is neither convenient nor particularly enjoyable, yet you continue to do it every morning and night. You know it’s necessary, and you’ve been reinforcing the same neural pathway since you were very little, so you probably never forget. Plus, even if you don’t feel like brushing your teeth tonight (because you’re lazy and comfortable on the couch), you will anyway. Because that’s just what you do.
The same holds true for those who eat healthy and exercise regularly. At some point, fitness became a priority, which developed into a habit, and then a relatively effortless (and enjoyable!) facet of their day-to-day reality. Now when they miss a workout, they suffer from lack of productivity, stiff muscles and fuzzy brains. There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you can relate.
He probably just missed his workout.
How do you shift from one bad habit to another good one? Accountability to a solid schedule, with consequences.
This is where the effort comes in. Change requires discomfort, and in almost all cases, some form of accountability to your goals. Whether that takes the form of telling friends and family, announcing on social media (where you dare not let everyone know that you didn’t follow through), or betting on yourself in the form of cold hard cash, something’s gotta give. In this fantastic article by trainer Eric Bach (which appears as click bait but manifests as quality material), he uses the organization of scheduling with the principle of loss aversion – the tendency by which people would much rather avoid loss than acquire gains – to inspire clients to stick to their exercise and nutrition plans.
Specifically, Bach has his client complete the following steps:
Step 1: Write out a realistic workout schedule for the month.
Step 2: Think of a fun event or purchase that costs $150. Withdraw this amount from the bank in $5 denominations.
Step 3: Acquire two envelopes. One envelope, labelled “Hits”, will store all the money at the start of the month. The other, labelled “Misses,” remains empty.
Step 4: For the “Hits” envelope, you must think of a charity or political cause that you despite. (This should be relatively easily, especially considering recent events.) Throughout the month, every time you miss a workout, you take $5 out of “Hits” and transfer it to “Misses”. Whatever you have acquired at the end of the month, you must donate to the object of your hatred.
Step 5: Attempt to complete all of your workouts throughout the month. The goal, of course, is to reach your $150 purchase or event without a slip up. If all goes well, you get strong and lean, plus an extra reward. If you miss, you get none of these things. But you learn, and you’re more likely to succeed the next time around.
You, at the end of the month.
In conclusion: Set a schedule, stick to it, and suffer the consequences if you don’t. When held up by the stellar pillars of scheduling and accountability, you should be stable and golden. Never mind that questionable beam built of wavering motivation.
All of this brings us back around to the original point: Eating Healthy Without Trying.
In order to regularly eat healthy, you must have established the habit of recipe research, grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, and portioning. And if you don’t already have this habit under your belt, you have to form it. (I now understand why my dear mother always said ‘You don’t appreciate it now, but one day, you will be thanking me for always having a healthy, home-cooked meal waiting for you after soccer practice.” I rolled my eyes like any teenager would, but darn it, she was right.)
When you learn to appreciate your food.
Here’s where we come in, along with the first life-changing benefit of meal prep: There are ways to make this process much more manageable.
Developing the skills it takes to cook quality, delicious, healthy food can be a very rewarding process – which, like anything hard in life, you should take pride in when accomplished! Realistically, however, a person can only be stretched in so many directions. There are going to be days and nights when you can’t be perfect, you can’t get everything done that you want and need to, and something has to give. Our mission is to allow you to succumb to convenience without regret, disappointment, or reaping any other not-so-great consequences. We can help you out by doing the menu research, grocery shopping, prepping, cooking and portioning. You go to our online menu, click buttons until you’ve chosen the meals that you want, and then pick them up on the delivery date and your chosen pick-up site. No habits to establish (unless you aren’t in the habit of clicking buttons – in which case, what, do you live under a rock?), no major chunks of time to set aside, no stress to be had about ANOTHER accommodation you have to make in order to be healthy. Just nutritious food, in a microwavable container, ready to be heated and eaten in just a few minutes.
See you next time, for How Meal Prep Can Change Your Life: Part II: Save Time!
*All images sourced from giphy.com*