- I used to be fit, but then I had children and kid food isn’t the healthiest….
- I would eat more healthy foods, but my husband doesn’t like vegetables…
- I like healthy foods, but my kids/husband/partner won’t eat anything but pizza…
- I get busy trying to get the kids off to school, and McDonald’s is on the way to work…
- It’s just so hard with all the junk food in the house…
- My kids take up all my time—I never have time to eat/go to the gym/etc
- I can’t seem to make time for the gym because my family needs me…
These are all very common statements—I hear them each at least once a week. Almost everyone seems to remember a time when weight wasn’t an issue and it was easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle. For many, getting married, having children, or moving in with a partner can be major disruptions in a fitness regimen. Face it—when you live alone, you live without the responsibility of what other people eat and you aren’t on someone else’s schedule. But even living alone is not without challenges—there is no accountability. With no real reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, one can sleep until 11:00 a.m. and the next thing you know it’s dinner time and you’ve done nothing!
So what’s my point? Being healthy is not about isolation. It can’t be. In fact, if you can only achieve it in isolation then are you really healthy? We need partners for accountability—someone to encourage us and push us to keep our commitments during those moments of weakness. We need people to motivate us. Married with children is the BEST time to establish a healthy and fit lifestyle, because when we do so we set an example for our children that they will have for the rest of their lives. Healthy eating does not have to mean cabbage soup and tofu or a really expensive grocery bill. It can mean flat bread pizza—with extra cheese for your husband or children. It can mean modifying all of your favorite recipes to include vegetables where you didn’t know they could go! It means setting good habits, understanding how to balance your meals, and making good choices. It’s not as out of reach as many people think it is. I promise!
When I take on a new client, I expect progress. In fact, I refuse to stand there and watch someone do dumbell curls when I know that as soon as she leaves, she’s going to be a mess. I ask a lot of questions—allergies, injuries, family history of illness, food aversions, craving times, etc. But I also ask questions about social life and home structure—because I know that in order to see results, the magic plan I come up with has to support and be supported by people at home. It’s your job to make fitness a priority in your life, but I consider it part of my job to come up with a plan that is compatible with the parts of your life that are important to you.
People want to be “healthier” but have no idea where to start. Start with a PLAN. A
routine that is manageable and realistic—I don’t care if you eat tuna fish and oats six times a day (don’t take that literally…I do care), but for goodness sake, have a plan and follow it! For several of my clients who have children, I have found that meals 1-4 on a plan are easy enough, but things fall apart at dinner. For clients who are single, they fall apart over food preparation–they don’t want to cook for one person so they gravitate to fast food and the freezer aisle. So once you identify your weaknesses, why not plan for these disasters ahead of time? Keep reading. It’s about to get dense, so stick with me to the end of this, and leave me a comment if you need clarification.
If you took my advice in the last post, you looked up your maintenance calories. If you didn’t, look them up here (keep in mind this calculator puts you in the ballpark, but experience helps you hone it–my maintenance calories are a little lower than the calculator comes up with).
Let’s say, to choose a round number to work with, your maintenance calories (the number of calories your body needs in order to maintain its current weight) are 2,200. We decide that to lose one pound a week (=3,600cal/week), you have to have a deficit of 500 calories a day (for some people, that’s one latte and two sodas!). So you need to eat 1,700 calories a day if you want to lose one pound per week. Let’s say we decide you should eat six times a day. You have, roughly, 285 calories per meal (1,700/6=. Now, some meals will be higher than that, and others will be slightly lower than that. We are looking for an average. Meal 1, for instance, should consist (arguably) of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This means that in order to balance that meal properly, you’ll need at least 300 calories to work with. A post-workout meal, on the other hand, which could be a banana and why protein shake, is more likely to be around 200 calories. Meal six might be cottage cheese, which is about 150 calories.
So let’s say you’ve averaged it out so that once all the other meals are accounted for, you have about 350 calories to work with at meal 5 (“dinner”). That’s a lot of stinkin calories to work with if you’re trying to achieve a relatively clean meal that tastes good! That’s three hard taco shells, 1/2 cup pintos, and ¾ cup of lean ground turkey. Live without some cheese or use a tiny bit (grated carrot is a good sub). Your family can enjoy tacos their way, while you manipulate the recipe to fit you own needs. You can do this with so many other things! Make oven-baked chicken nuggets (coated in raisin bran or corn flakes), or flatbread pizza (using THESE), or baked sweet potato “fries.” It’s possible to cook a dinner your family loves while maintaining a meal plan that will help you to reach your goals.
So create a plan. Decide what you’re going to eat every day for breakfast and lunch. Plan two meals in between. Stick to it. Make sure you have what you need—if you’re going to eat oatmeal, for instance, make sure you have oats on hand! Prepare those meals ahead of time and have them ready so that you can take them with you or pull them out of the fridge when it’s time. I highly recommend having two “lunches”. I swear by it. Let’s say you go with chicken, rice, and veggies. That’s 300 calories on the dot if you follow appropriate serving sizes. The alternative might be a protein shake and some nuts, or greek yogurt and some granola—both of these are easily skipped.
This reminds me: People tend to think of snacks as little mini meals, but in fact they should be thought of as meals or you will have the tendency to skip them because you overlook their significance. The meal you eat after meal 3 (lunch) is not a snack—in my world, that’s called meal 4. Treat it like one, and eat it like one. If you skip a meal on your plan, you will be hungry when you don’t want to be and you will make mistakes. Don’t be that guy. Half of what prevents binge eating and emotional eating is…well, eating. If you eat what you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to, you’re much less likely to binge.
Once you have 5 meals planned, leave dinner open. Shoot for balance, make good choices, and eat within your calculated calorie range. This way, your family or friends don’t feel totally shafted just because you’re getting healthier—and if you do this right, you can introduce health in a way that they can appreciate rather than fear.
Dinner ideas on 350 calories or less:
Note: these ideas are for people hoping to sustain a healthier lifestyle. The idea here is to show you how you can set and maintain a plan that is reasonable and achievable in the long-term. If you’re looking for a short-term, ASAP weight loss plan, then these meals may not be for you.
Flatbread BBQ chicken pizza:
1 flatout (90 cals)
1 tbsp bbq (30 cals)
1 oz cheese (85 cals)
4 oz chicken (120 cals)
3 crunchy shells (140)
4 oz lean ground turkey (120)
lettuce, tomato, etc
1/3 avocado (90)
Oven “fried” chicken tenders and sweet potato fries:
chicken, cut into strips (4 oz, 120 cals)
3 cups corn flakes, flax flakes, or bran flakes (you have to eat a full cup to get 120 calories…you might get a quarter of a cup per serving of chicken here)
spices–I like Mrs. Dash
1/2 cup milk
1/2 medium sweet potato, julienned (6 oz, 150)
Whisk egg and milk together; set aside. In a plastic bag, mash up the flakes and add seasoning. Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture to coat, then place them into the bag a few at a time and give it a good shake to coat the pieces. Bake on 425 for about 15 minutes–adjust time depending on the size of your pieces, as larger pieces may take longer to coat.
Coat sweet potato lightly in Pam cooking spray. Lay flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes.