Meal Planning: The most helpful pain in my ever-developing butt

**I started writing this two Fridays ago and am just now getting around to finishing it! I’ve been incredibly busy (in a good way!) which makes this even more applicable.**

The two biggest foes I’ve faced in my weight loss journey are poor planning and poor attitude.  I could probably write seventeen posts on my attitude roller coaster so for today, I’ll just focus on the planning aspect.

There’s a girl in my office who has a homemade sign up at her desk.  It says, “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” It’s in an awful font, it’s aligned terribly and capitalized poorly but the sentiment rings true. Any time I’ve decided to wing-it with what I’m eating, I make less than ideal decisions.

Before we committed to getting healthy, I wouldn’t have any idea what I was going to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner until I was hangry (hungry + angry) and then I’d grab something in a crazed fury that rivaled a pregnant woman’s 2 AM quest for fried pickles. I rarely ate breakfast at home, would buy lunch out every day and faced with an empty refrigerator each evening, would order out or pick up a frozen pizza for supper. I realized I had a problem when the lady behind the register at Dunkin Donuts saw me in line, smiled broadly and said, “Large coconut iced coffee, cream only and a sausage egg and cheese on a croissant?” Uh… no, thank you.  Just a hot, steaming bowl of shame this morning, thanks.  But I digress.

Soooo buttery
Soooo buttery

Obviously, I had to drastically change my ways in order to reach my goals.  I’ve heard tell of people who can lose weight and never eat at home but I am not one of those people.  If faced with the decision between the grilled chicken salad and the spicy sandwich with waffle fries and Chick-Fil-A sauce, it’s no contest.  I don’t have the willpower to turn that buttery piece of heaven down in favor for something more healthy.  So what could I do instead? I planned my meals, grocery shopped for the whole week, purchased healthy snacks to keep on hand at home and at work and I bought this lunch container so I’d pack a lunch every day.

5158_box-appetit-lime2011-closed

Meal planning was kind of fun at first. There are so many great ideas on Pinterest and in healthy cookbooks! But after a while, I got real tired of having to pick, shop for and cook 5-6 recipes a week.  It got more and more difficult to be creative and I got super resentful. But for me, it’s like laundry or cleaning the bathroom.  I hate doing it but if I don’t, I’ll end up on a TLC special.

600lblife

So, how do I plan my meals?

  1. Make time
  2. Gather the necessary tools
  3. Assess my schedule
  4. Assess my stockpile
  5. Find recipes
  6. Put them on the calendar
  7. Make a list
  8. Shop

Time

I like to devote about an hour on Saturday or Sunday to planning. This doesn’t include grocery shopping time.

The Tools

The internet and cookbooks, Google calendar, OneNote (or other list-making app or pen/paper)

Schedule

I try to figure out what I’ve got going on this week.  What nights am I busy? Those are the perfect opportunity to make a low-prep salad or a slow cooker meal. What nights do I have free? Those are great for experimenting with more labor-intensive recipes. Do I have plans to eat out with friends? That’s a night of no cooking!

Stockpile

I look through the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what I’ve got on hand and then try to find recipes that use those ingredients.  That way I can keep my shopping costs down and I’m not throwing away rotten vegetables every week.

Recipes

My first stop is Pinterest. I also check out a few of my favorite cooking blogs.  Pinch of Yum is a great resource for flavorful, healthy recipes and she even has an eCookbook! If I don’t see anything that strikes my fancy, I’ll pull down my Cooking Light cookbook and pick out a dish or two. Occasionally I’ll make up a recipe.  This is kind of rare but usually yields decent results.

Calendar

Once I’ve chosen my recipes, I put them on the Google calendar Christian and I share.  If I found it online, I include the link in the calendar event so I’m not searching through hundreds of pins and links when it’s time to cook. If it’s something I found in a cookbook, I include the cookbook name and page number in the body of the calendar event.

photo1

List

Finally, I go through the recipes one by one and assess what ingredients I need to purchase.  I like to organize my list the way the grocery store is organized.  I’ll list frozen first, then dairy, then dry goods, meat, vegetables and fruit.  But that’s because I adore grocery shopping and I have my store memorized.  This isn’t a necessary step but will probably cut down on how long you spend wandering the aisles or dodging other carts. If a recipe calls for something that’s optional or I’ve got something similar, I usually omit or substitute to keep my bill low.  When making a list – don’t forget about breakfast and snacks! Lunches take care of themselves because you can just eat dinner leftovers.

Shopping

I’ve found the best time to grocery shop is super early in the morning and the worst time to shop is a Sunday afternoon or right after work. I’ve also found it’s best to not bring Christian with me.  He hates it and I love it so it’s mutually beneficial to leave him behind.

Viola! I’ve now got my whole week figured out! I’ve copied this week’s menu below as an example.

Monday

Breakfast: Crunchy oat squares (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Chobani peach yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Boneless skinless chicken thighs with tomatoes and mushrooms and (1/2 c) brown rice

Dinner: White bean turkey chili*

Tuesday

Breakfast: Peach Melba overnight oats (minus vanilla extract and chia seeds)

Snacks: Chobani pineapple yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: White bean turkey chili

Dinner: Edamame and Tomato Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries*

Wednesday

Breakfast: Bran flakes (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Edamame and Tomato Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries

Dinner: Leftovers or make a salad

Thursday

Breakfast: Pineapple Coconut overnight oats (minus chia seeds and honey)

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: leftovers or a salad

Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Bake (minus cashews and cheese)

Friday

Breakfast: Bran flakes (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Mediterranean Chicken Bake

Dinner: Seared Indian Chicken over coconut rice

Weekends

I go a little more make-it-up-as-I-go on the weekends.  I finish up leftovers and will usually make an omelette with eggs substitute for breakfast.

 

What helps you stay on track? Do you find all this planning too rigid? What are your go-to recipes for a quick and healthy dinner?

 

*Recipes I made up.  Let me know if you’re interested in any of them.

 

tl;dr plan ahead or eat like that garbage disposal dinosaur from The Flintstones

 

 

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Tools of the Train

Workout clothes are difficult for me.  I want to feel comfortable in them and look good enough to not get discouraged and tearful when I see myself in the mirror at the gym. It took a little while but I finally found pieces that work for me.  I don’t have a closet like the one below but I have clothes I (most of the time) feel good in.

While it’s important to put a little money into your shoes and sports bras (at least if you plan to run and/or have boobs of any significance), you don’t have to spend a fortune on fitness wear. I joined my friend Gwen for a FlyWheel class once and was immediately taken back to my middle school days when all the other girls had this darling little matching t-shirt and shorts set from The Limited Too and I had an oversized beach cover-up t-shirt from the clearance rack at The Limited.  I settled onto my stationary bike in my Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ t-shirt (shout out to Lauren Waller!) and some pants from Target. I was, no joke, the only person in the room in something non-Lululemon.  I’ve since upgraded my wardrobe a little but that day, I stuck out like a plebeian thumb in a bourgeois exercise class.

While small, my current workout-drobe consists of:

This Bra

Knockout by Victoria’s Secret

Most pull-over-your-head sports bras smush and flatten without offering real support.  This bra looks and feels like a bra and minimizes jiggle and bounce. “Evonne, honey, I think you’re missing the whole point of having breasts.” Nobody wants to leave the gym with double black eyes from an unsupportive sports bra.

VS sports bra

These Shoes

Ghost6 by Brooks

I never gave running shoes much thought.  The only thing I really cared about was whether or not they looked coolish.  It made a HUGE difference switching to these.  I feel much sproingier and lighter and my feet don’t get fatigued.

brooks ghost 6

 

These Tops

GapFit Breathe V-neck T

I like these tops because they’re loose-fitting without losing all semblance of a shape, they come in flattering colors, the v-neck is flattering and they’re soft and breathable.

gap t

Training Tee from Victoria’s Secret

This is the shirt I wore in the 5K.  I like it because it’s thin and breathable.  If I’m running outside, it’s my go-to top because it doesn’t trap sweat.  If I’m in the gym, I usually wear a tank underneath because it’s kind of sheer.

Post Race

These Pants

Nike Dri-Fit Fitted Capris

I look for a couple of things in a pair of pants. Do they give me the illusion of a butt? Do they come up high enough to cover my waning Dunlop’s Disease? Do they form a diaper-y wedge in front? If any pair of pants can answer yes, yes and no, they’re winners.  Bonus: they stay up when I’m running. Nothing makes me want to give up and head home like a pair of pants slowly making their way south while I’m struggling to keep going. I might buy myself another pair or two while we’re on the subject.

pants

These Socks

Women’s Sport Socks from Old Navy

Old Navy is a lot of things.  A treasure trove of workout gear, it is not… or so I thought.  A lot of their fitness section is kind of cute.  I can’t speak to how well their shorts, tops and leggings function but I can go on for hours about their socks.  I bought these socks because they were in the impulse bins by the register and now they might be my favorite piece of workout gear.  They don’t get eaten by my shoes, they breathe, they don’t get all stretched out and they’re cut just low enough to not look like mom socks and just high enough to stay put. Y’all, I am seriously excited about these socks.

socks

What gem am I missing? Do you have a headband you love? Mine always slide off the back of my head.  Have a suggestion for an armband for your phone? Or the perfect headphones? What makes you feel like a total badass during your workout?

tl;dr

don’t workout naked, you’ll chafe

5K report

This morning I ran my first* 5k! My goals were to run the whole thing without stopping and to finish in under 35 minutes.  I’m pleased to report that 1) I did not die 2) I ran the whole thing without stopping and 3) I finished in 30 minutes!

Baby's first 5k. Special shout outs to professional cheerleaders @xtianastro and Sarina.

A post shared by Sara Jane Castro (@saryjanecastro) on

The race wasn’t officially timed so I used the Nike app on my phone.  The GPS didn’t kick in right away and I forgot to hit the stop button until I’d been across the finish line for about 30-45 seconds but still! I’m super proud of myself for accomplishing my goals!

Before the race, I was a nervous wreck.  I welled up with tears like three times this morning because I was super scared.

Starting Line
Putting on a brave face for the camera.

Once the race started, I felt much better.  It was surprisingly much easier to run amongst all those people than it is to run alone. I’d pick out targets ahead of me to pass and I was delightfully distracted from any tiredness or pain by listening to an episode of The Bugle. I find it nicer to run with a podcast rather than music because I don’t know what’s coming next and I have to pay attention to the speaker rather than my run. Probably not a great plan if I was running to beat my time or something but it works for me now.

Since this race was called the Bacon Chase, they offered all-you-can-eat bacon, cups of bacon bits at the water stations along the trail and a bloody mary after the race.  I chose not to partake. Somehow the offer of greasy bacon and spicy tomato juice didn’t sound appealing when I’m drenched with sweat.

Bacon chase
Photos courtesy of photographer/boyfriend Christian Castro

I had a few very sweet supporters.  Christian stayed up way too late making signs and Sarina surprised me by showing up to cheer me on! I may or may not have welled up with tears again at the sight of them by the finish line.

Cheerleaders

Speaking of finish lines, Christian caught a picture of me smokin’ the old lady behind me.  Good thing she had a bloody mary to wash down all my dust she just ate.

Finish Line

At the risk of sounding like an ego-maniac, I’m incredibly proud of myself and I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out!  I felt good, comfortable and (dare I say it?) I’m really looking forward to doing more races in the future. Who knows? Maybe I’ll join Christian next year for the Indianapolis Half Marathon? We’ll see… first I need a hot shower and possibly a nap.

Post Race

*I’ve signed up for two 5Ks in the past but never run them.  One I walked with my college friends Rebecca and Diana and the other was one to support an animal shelter. Susie and I were so late for it, the 5K was over so we just walked around and pet peoples’ dogs.

tl;dr

ran a race, it was cool

Gooooooooooooooooooooooals

Since the World Cup is just around the corner and Christian is watching the Mexican national team play Bosnia as I type this, I thought I’d discuss goals.

When we first committed to getting healthy, our goal was just that: to get healthy.  I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by setting lofty goals I couldn’t meet.  However, I quickly learned that without smaller, clear milestones ahead of me, it was very easy to stray from the path.

The sales guy at the gym asked me about my fitness goals. Did I want to get in shape for the big 10-year reunion? Nope. I skipped it. Was an ex getting married? The perfect way to spell regret is with a bangin’ bod. Negative. There are no exes and I definitely wouldn’t go to their weddings. What was I trying to achieve by joining the gym and changing my eating habits?

Mindy

First and foremost, I wanted a lifestyle change.  I wanted to cook, eat and move in a way that would keep my body running for many years to come. I wanted to lower my risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  I wanted to be able to run and play with my future children and teach them how to make good food and exercise choices. I wanted to be able to walk into a store and not feel the need to only look at the accessories because I know nothing else will fit me. I wanted to stop feeling so disgusted, ashamed and uncomfortable every time I looked in the mirror (this one will take more than just physical changes but we’ll talk about that another day.) Basically, my goals were to be a healthy, happy person. Good goals for anybody but they’re all big picture.  I needed smaller, attainable achievements to keep me going.

I started by saying I wanted to lose 5 pounds in the first two weeks.  Not a bad start.  Other goals along the way included new pants sizes (I’ve gone from a snug 18 to a roomy 12 – depending on how generously they vanity size), running one mile without stopping, wearing shorts at all, wearing sleeveless tops at all, going an entire month with no cheats* and signing up for a 5K. My current goals are: to hit the 55 lb mark by June 27th, to run the entire 5K on Saturday without taking any breaks to walk, to drink one liter of water a day and to log every calorie I eat in MyFitnessPal.

The last time these shorts fit, I'd done a 12-week all liquid diet and was a senior in college. It might be time to get myself a new pair.
The last time these shorts fit, I’d done a 12-week all liquid diet and was a senior in college. It might be time to get myself a new pair.

I’d love to hear from you! What are your current goals for yourself? How do you stay motivated? Do you reward yourself with a treat or is the satisfaction of accomplishing something enough?

*I used to LIVE for cheat days and would think about nothing but the sweet, sweet freedom of eating all the things I wasn’t “allowed” to have.  I also had a really hard time not “rewarding” myself for doing well by eating poorly.  If I’m just exercising so that I can put away an entire pizza, I’m not making any headway. I’m now more flexible and if I absolutely cannot live without something that’s not on the plan, I have it.  It takes a lot more will power and reasoning with myself to decide if it’s worth it and I’ll often find myself winding back through the aisles of the grocery store, putting items back on the shelf.  “Cheating” isn’t as special when you do it all the time.  Then it’s just life.

tl;dr

pick a prize, set your eyes on it

An Eight Letter 4-letter Word

Exercise.

The bane of my existence. My archenemy. A cursed necessity.

The first month of our new lifestyle, I was in full-blown denial.  I was convinced that I could lose weight just by changing my eating habits.  Surely I could cut enough calories to avoid getting my heart rate up! For heaven’s sake, I rode my bike from time to time and walked up the escalator on occasion! What else could I possibly be expected to do?! Besides, I was going to be money-conscious by NOT joining a gym.  To quote pretentious trainer Trey from Broad City‘s Soulstice, I was going to “use the city as my gym.”

treybroadcity

My plan was to go for nice, brisk walks a couple nights a week and stop taking the elevator between floors at work (never mind that I only had to go between floors like once a month.) It became evident that this strenuous regime wasn’t going to get me six-pack abs and Michelle Obama arms. Christian, on the other hand, was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and seeing real results. His weight was coming down at twice the rate mine was.  Sure, he happens to be a man and men happen to typically lose weight quicker than women but I couldn’t help but face facts: I had to get serious about exercise.

The truth is, I was terrified of the thought.  I cried every time I imagined putting on exercise clothes and walking into a gym.  There were mirrors everywhere! And fit people!  I knew I didn’t belong. So I made a compromise.  I ordered a yoga mat from Amazon and resolved to wake up early three times a week to do a few on-demand yoga videos.  I did it once. Just once.  And that yoga mat? It does a fine job collecting cobwebs in my coat closet.

Yoga Mat

So I joined a gym.  I knew that if I was paying for something, I was going to use it because I’m cheaper more cost-conscious than I was scared. I bought a few pairs of workout pants and shorts and a few workout tops. I hated the way I looked in them and I wanted to cry every time I set foot in that Ke$ha-blaring fitness mecca.  But I did it.

I started by riding the stationery bike for about 15 minutes, casually using the rowing machine for about 10 minutes and alternating between walking on the treadmill or ellipticalling(?) on the elliptical for about 20 minutes (I tried to avoid the treadmill and elliptical on the days I wore shorts because of the dreaded bunching caused by thighs rubbing together.) I didn’t feel comfortable using any of the weight machines because I just knew I’d be in some toned guy’s way.  I didn’t dare enter the locker room for fear of exposing my dimpled flesh to the size 4s who were at the gym just to burn off last night’s vodka cranberries. Christian was pushing himself on the treadmill and getting pretty good at running.  We’d work out together a couple times a week but I certainly didn’t push myself.  If something got hard, I’d quit. I needed guidance.  I needed a trainer. {UPDATE: Somebody asked how often I worked out.  In the beginning, we went to the gym 5-6 days a week for an hour. Now I workout about 4 times a week. Two one-hour sessions with a trainer and I run outside two days. I usually take Wednesdays and Fridays off.}

About a month after I joined our gym, the fitness manager made a cold call to offer me a free training session.  I trepidatiously accepted.  This was going to be scary. Working out with a man? A fit, toned man I don’t know? Yikes. I applied extra deodorant, made sure to pull my stretchy workout pants up high enough to prevent as much Dunlop’s Disease* as possible and arrived for my session.  It was hard, man. But I did everything he said, even when I was sure I would die if I had to do one more rep.  I wanted this to work.  I wanted somebody to tell me what to do and whip me into shape.  And I was way too scared to oppose him! He has muscles and stuff! I wore this watch during our session and was THRILLED to learn that I’d burned over 700 calories! I signed up for more sessions on the spot.

This is the bod I'm working towards.
This is the bod I’m working towards.

The trainer I was assigned to was a young, blonde, incredibly fit and incredibly beautiful girl, Leah.  I was even more intimidated by her than the fitness manager. But two minutes into our conversation, that all disappeared.  It only took a handful of sessions before we were like old friends.  Old friends where one friend makes the other do challenging exercises she would never do otherwise. I meet with her twice a week and I can see huge improvement in my muscle tone and overall fitness.  Thanks to her tutelage and encouragement, I’m running my first 5K this weekend!

Personal training isn’t necessary for everybody but it was something I needed.  I didn’t know what to do with myself in the gym but now I’m able to get the most out of my workouts, even when I’m on my own. It’s definitely a luxury expense but one I wouldn’t want to do without. I was always the kid who got a P for Participation on the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge in elementary school. (Picture me hanging from the pull-up bars like the Hang In There kitten.) I was also the kid who forgot to wear a bra the day we had to run one mile in 9th grade P.E. I never thought I’d be someone who was into exercising but I feel great after a hard workout and actually look forward to doing it now. (I don’t, however, look great after a hard workout. See below.) As my friend Mike said, “The key, like any exercise plan, is to find something that you like/want to do.”

Attack of the Killer Tomato Face
Attack of the Killer Tomato Face

*When your belly done lopped over your pants.

tl;dr

exercise sucks, ya gotta do it, getting guidance helps, watch broad city