If my exercise plan is great, but my diet plan is not, then I will let the exercise slip. Or the other way around. It’s almost inevitable. I need to have enough structure to keep me occupied, but enough flexibility to keep me from getting bored.
For example, when it comes to diet, I’ve done so many types that I’ve lost count. Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem come to mind, because they both had something I needed, but lacked the strength of the other plan. I liked the flexibility of Weight Watchers, but if I could convince myself that 16 of the day’s 20 points can be spent on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and small fries, I’d do it. Justifying “bad habits” allowed me to slip. However, it had the accountability of the meetings and weigh-ins. Nutrisystem, on the other hand, had a structured meal plan to follow EVERY DAY that kept me on track. I lost more weight on Nutrisystem, but then I got bored.
With fitness, barring any injuries or real life issues, I had fewer problems as long as I could work my exercise into the day. I found it easier to set up a plan (workout 3 times a day for 4 to 6 weeks) and remind myself that it only adds up to 12 to 18 workouts.
But if my eating schedule wasn’t figured out (I feel better with about 5 small meals per day), then I was likely to let my exercise slip.
“Oh, I’ll get my workout in a half hour after I eat!” Yeah, but 3 hours later I still hadn’t eaten because I didn’t know what I wanted.
THIS HAS CHANGED!
It wasn’t easy, and I can share the details in another post if people are interested, but I sat down one weekend and put together a plan based on pretty much ALL THE RESEARCH I had put together from last year and previous diet attempts.
I knew I needed: Structured meals that ensured I got the required numbers (calories, nutrient macros, timing, etc.), but allowed for flexibility in foods and schedule. I needed to plan what to have pre- and post-workout to replenish my body’s energy stores as well as feed developing muscles. I needed to figure out how these meals would fit in with a workout schedule, so I had to plan what I was going to do as far as strength training and cardio. The day’s workout would determine my nutritional needs.
I wanted to work on the timing of which foods to eat to keep me sated throughout the day, but I wanted flexibility in those meals so I didn’t feel like I was eating the same boring “Grilled chicken and a salad” every day for lunch. This also had to keep in mind my personal tastes, like the fact that I’m not a fan of the soup-and-salad lunch. It also meant I had to plan meals and figure out which ones I had to cook, and figure out the most efficient way to work cooking into my daily schedule.
Working around the needs of a new roommate posed a challenge, too. I no longer wanted to be someone’s personal chef (even if it was my meal as well), but I had to make sure that if I made a meal for the both of us that it sated both of our needs and tastes. Thankfully, she’s very supportive of this effort.
Finally, I wanted to make sure that I had a “Cheat Day” worked in, so we could still enjoy going out from time to time and not feeling deprived of (most) foods we love. Likewise, I needed to work in days off from exercise to keep from burning out or causing injury.
You know what? Once I figured out some basic meal requirements and put the structure in place, suddenly planning meals themselves and even grocery shopping trips became SO MUCH EASIER! I have a regular shopping list, know how many days worth of salads or eggs to have on hand, how much of X type of meat to buy, and what kinds of snacks to get. I know that if I need 32 oz. of V8 for the week, and my 64 oz. bottle is mostly full, I don’t need to buy any more that week. I know I need Y number of oatmeal servings, and can easily see if I have enough or need more. There’s less grocery waste going on, as well as less time being spent at the grocery store. (As well as less temptation to buy things that I know are bad for me!)
When I don’t have to worry about figuring out dinner every night (“Tuesday will be stuffed peppers, Wednesday will be grilled salmon…”) I have more time to focus on my workout and other Real Life Things. No more wandering in the kitchen for an hour, trying to decide what to cook.
It feels good. I finally have a food plan that keeps me on track, and I have checked it against my daily nutritional requirements to make sure I was getting enough. I have an exercise plan that keeps me going. It’s making me stay motivated, yet streamlines my day so I can spend more time doing Other Things that I didn’t have time for before.
And I can even say it works! Last week I got back on track, losing nearly 2 pounds!