When asked the secret of my success for the healthy lifestyle change that resulted in a 90-something lb. weight loss, I’d have to say preparation, hands down.
Don’t get me wrong. It took a village to transform my life:
- A nutrition counselor to educate me on healthy eating, challenge me to try new things and coach me through the rough spots
- Personal trainers who carefully guided my workouts, helped me to know my potential (and limitations), and kept me motivated to exercise at 5 a.m.
- Friends, family and co-workers who cheered me on, encouraged me on rough days and tolerated my newly found soapbox
- My employer, the City of Columbia, who not only introduced me to the Doctors Wellness Center program, but also paid for the first 12-weeks and a follow up maintenance period
But the thing that tied all of those things together? Planning and preparation.
Here are five tips that made a difference in my journey. In one way or another, they all go back to being prepared. Any of these tips could really be a post on their own, but for convenience, I’ll give you the “Readers Digest condensed version.”
- Make a weekly menu plan and cook ahead for the week: To eat healthy, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants. Unless you’re superwoman (or have a chef), you can’t cook every day either. On Friday, I look at the coming week, make notes of special challenges and plan several items I can prepare ahead of time. Over the weekend, I make several dishes, pack one-serving portions and pop them in the fridge and/or freezer. Soup, chili and bean dishes work especially well.
- Do prep work ahead of time: Let’s face it; some things just don’t lend themselves to pre-cooking and freezing. For that, I do as much as I can ahead of time – that cuts out quite a bit of time in the kitchen. One of my favorite recipes is Glazed Tofu. On Sundays, I mix a large batch of the sauce, divide it into portions and freeze it. The night before I want to cook it, I drain the tofu and pull out a sauce from the freezer. When I get home the next day, it’s as easy as throwing it on the stove.
- Expect the unexpected: Ever pack a healthy lunch and leave it on the counter? Or get stuck at your desk when you’d planned on eating healthy at home? Keep healthy, non-perishable food in the car, the office and in your purse. Bring several lunches for the work ‘fridge at the beginning of the week. Eat something healthy before going to special events. At first, it’s hard to hone those clairvoyant skills, but soon it becomes second-nature.
- Take your show on the road: Traveling for work or pleasure? With a little planning and creativity, you can do as well on the road as you do at home. Look at your itinerary and plan accordingly. If some meals are provided, check the menu and don’t be afraid to make special requests. Use the Internet to research area markets and grocery stores, restaurant menus and hotel amenities. Pack non-perishables like peanut butter and raisins, as well as non-breakable containers and a set of utensils.
- Schedule activity: Make exercise a priority. Schedule time on your calendar for it, and don’t let anything keep you from it. My job often requires me to attend evening meetings and events, so the best time for me to exercise is in the morning. Most weekdays, I’m at the gym between 5 and 5:30 a.m., back home in the shower by 7 a.m. I’m not a morning person by nature, but with a little preparation, it’s not so bad. Don’t do mornings? You don’t have to; just find your best time and work through the challenges that might stand in your way.
What changes have you made to accommodate a healthier lifestyle? Do you have a particular challenge you’re facing when it comes to improving your health? How have you (or could you) prepare to meet that challenge?