Monday, January 19, 2015

The One Habit of Highly Healthy People

Ok, I'm going to start today's post on a negative note, but it will get better.  I promise.

Did you know that experts estimate only 8% of people who set a New Year's resolution will achieve it?  

That means there is a 92% failure rate for New Year's Resolutions.  Now, I'm not a betting person, but I would never take those odds.  Ever.  

So what if there was one habit that if you developed and stuck to, could keep you in the 8% this year?

But I'm doing a group challenge....

I'm not trying to rain on your parade, especially if you are part of a 7/21/30 day fix/detox/challenge (and if you're not, I bet someone on your Facebook feed is).  Don't misunderstand me- I think it's great that you've joined a community of like-minded people to help you get started.

But I'm going to call a Spade a Spade today, so consider what I have to say advice for when your event ends. 

I would bet you dollars to grain-free, gluten-free donuts that there is one habit that you have neglected, failed to develop, or will let fall off the radar once you've lost your motivation:

Meal Planning

How do I know this?  From experience.

Most people who I meet that feel like they are not making progress towards their goals or tell me that eating healthy is too expensive are not meal planning.  

Meal planning is the act of writing out a menu for a set period of time, with a grocery list, while taking your schedule into account.  I recommend weekly meal planning, but depending on your schedule and the number of mouths to feed, it may work for you to plan twice per week or even every other week.

You may have followed someone else's meal plans in the past and that is a great starting point.  But what I'm referring to is developing the ability to write your own meal plans.

And quite frankly, not meal planning rips the control of your healthy right out of your hands and gives it to your boss, kids, and schedule.  All of which, if we're being honest, do not consider your health their priority.  


A 2007 study from Mintel found the top five reasons people do not eat healthy as:
  1. Availability
  2. Cost
  3. Confusion
  4. Time Constraints
  5. Taste Concerns
Meal planning addresses all five of these reasons:
  1. Availability:  I recognize that food deserts do exist in this country.  But for most of my readership, I believe availability refers to vending machines and fast food restaurants.  If you know that your cubicle sits in the middle of a fast food jungle, planning lunches and snacks will create a ready-to-eat nutrient oasis.
  2. Cost:  This one is major on multiple levels.  First of all, feeding a family of four from restaurants and take-out may cause you to take out a second mortgage.  But more importantly, consider this: According to the NRDC, the average American throws away 25% of the food and beverages they buy.  This costs families between $1300 and $2200 annually.  In fact, Americans throw away 10 times as much food as the average southeast Asian.  Seriously.  These statistics make me want to sit down and punch myself in the face.  Meal planning accounts for what is already in your fridge and keeps you from letting food go bad.  
  3. Confusion:  The grocery store can be an overwhelming and unforgiving place.  Especially if you go in hungry or without a game plan.  Walking into the grocery store without a list is akin to driving across the country without a map.  You may get to where you need to be, but it will take twice as long and be three times as expensive.
  4. Time Constraints:  It may seem counter intuitive to have to carve out 2 hours every Sunday to meal plan and grocery shop.  However, what you're losing on the front end, you'll save on the back end.  What if you didn't have to make three different stops at the grocery store throughout the week.  Or spend 20 minutes sitting in the drive thru every night.  It adds up.  
  5. Taste Concerns:  The best thing about meal planning is that you get to create the menu.  So if you don't like steamed asparagus because it tastes like a wet tree (true story), you don't have to buy or cook steamed asparagus.  

If you're not currently a meal planner, the thought of writing it out may be overwhelming.  No worries...

6 Simple Steps to Pain Free Meal Planning

1.  Block time every week to write out a meal plan.  For me, it's Sunday afternoon.  For you, it might be Tuesday night or Thursday evening.

2.  Review your schedule for the week.  Do you have a work function Monday night and soccer games Wednesday night?  Plan for those.  It may mean cooking extra so you have leftovers or reviewing a restaurant menu ahead of time so there are no surprises.

3.  Inventory your fridge and pantry.  Check all the drawers for any veggies that may go bad or hidden leftovers to use for lunch.  Incorporate those in your meal plan.  

4.  Write it out.  Find your favorite recipes, a few new ones, and write out a meal plan.  You can use paper, a white board, or a chalk board.  Keep it simple or make it fun.  Either way, just do it.

This is Eleanor, our meal planning pig.  Isn't she fun??

5.  Make a shopping list.  While you're writing out recipes, write down what you need so you don't forget anything once you get to the store.  

6.  Execute.  You've done the hard work, now follow through.  Don't let the lure of an unexpected office lunch derail your planning.  

And that's it.

I won't lie- it's a commitment and it may be very painful at first.  And it may require a mindset shift.  But if you really are serious about big changes this year, commit to making meal planning a priority. 

If you 're still struggling with what to put in that meal plan, check out my eBook, Fuel or contact me to learn more about personal health coaching!



So what about you.  Do you meal plan?  Do you wish you did?  Can you commit to this for 2015?

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