This year I thought I would do a little something different when it came to my personal goal setting. I have decided I am going to set one goal each month that has to do with something I am working toward on my health and fitness journey. Now this could be anything from my nutrition and eating habits, to my workouts to even something like my mental health and self care practices. I think this might be a more effective way for me to target specific things throughout the year and keep up with my resolutions even after the hype and energy of the New Year dwindles down. So, for January I have decided that my goal is to cook and meal prep more in an effort to stop reaching for those quick and easy processed foods as much as I have been. As I mentioned in my previous post, “A few small nutritional reminders to keep our bodies happy & healthy in the new year”, nutrition is definitely the weak spot in my overall health journey and I have vowed to make 2020 the year that I get more of a handle on it.
While I have definitely made some solid progress in the nutrition department, I still don’t feel that I am quite where I should be in terms of fueling my body with the best possible options to help it thrive. I do have a ton of food allergies that I have to work around, but I think I have almost been using that as an excuse to not try as hard as I should be to cook more and grab quick, pre-packaged options less. While I don’t eat out hardly at all, like maybe once or twice a week if that, I do tend to hit the grocery store and still reach for those dreaded processed foods that are in all honesty pretty terrible for us. I have never been all that interested in eating or food itself so for me just finding something quick to get me through the day has always been my MO. But as I get more and more immersed in this world of health and fitness, I am realizing how very unhealthy that mindset it. Most, not all, but most processed foods are sorely lacking in anything redeeming and pretty full of bad for us ingredients. More specifically they are:
- Full of Harmful Chemicals – Such as MSG, artificial sweeteners, BHA (which is a type of preservative both in foods and the packages a lot of food comes in), and a whole crap ton more which I can’t pronounce so figured I would skip trying to type also. These compounds have all been linked to several types of cancer, can damage our thyroids, have negative effects on our hormones and can wreak havoc on our fertility. YIKES! They are basically toxic to our bodies but staggeringly processed items still make up about 60% of the food we eat! No time like the present to change that statistic you guys!!
- They are addicting! – We already have a portion control problem, especially here in the US, where we are led to believe we need to be eating a lot more than we actually do and processed foods contribute in large part to it. I won’t go too much into the issue of portion control now, for more info on it though check out my post, “Portion Control: Know When to Say “When”, but it is a big problem with serious consequences for both our waist lines and general levels of health. Prepackaged, processed foods are actually engineered to make us want to eat more of them! Yep, they are made to be uber salty, overly sweet and generally exceptionally pleasing to our brains which makes us want to keep reaching for them long after we should have stopped and walked away. Very sneaky food companies, very sneaky!
- Low in Nutrients – So you are basically just eating empty calories while doing nothing to help your body along the way when you choose a processed food option. Most of them lack fiber, along with many of the other necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants our bodies needs to run at their best. Not to mention, prepackaged foods are often high in trans-fat, which again is the bad for you kinda fat that will clog your arteries, contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and can increase your risk of many forms of cancer. Choosing whole, unprocessed foods goes a long way in getting your daily intake of all the stuff we need to avoid so many diseases and maintain optimal health.
- High in Sugar – And more specifically, High Fructose Corn Syrup which is even worse than actual sugar! Besides just packing on the pounds and slowing down our metabolisms, excess amounts of sugar can also lead to higher cholesterol, a fatty liver, diabetes and again even certain kinds of cancer. Most people actually get the majority of their sugar intake from processed foods and beverages and probably don’t even realize it. Adding all that extra sugar is just another way the food companies make their products too appealing to resist. Our brains are really happy when we get that sugar rush but our bodies are screaming at us to stop! Listen to your body you guys, they almost always will lead you in the right and healthiest direction!
So, of course the bottom line here is processed, prepackaged foods are NO BUENO! While I logically know this to be true, the problem still remains that they are just so dang easy to reach for when you really don’t care what you’re eating but just need something to ward off that dreaded LBS (low blood sugar) midday. I guess this is where willpower, planning and keeping my goals in sight comes into play. The one thing I have on my side is I really do enjoying cooking. In fact, I used to do it allllll the time before I was diagnosed with all my food allergies. Cooking was a creative outlet for me as well as a bit if a stress reliever. I liked searching for new recipes to try, then experimenting with different versions of them until I found something that was a crowd pleaser. Having vowed to start cooking more and been back at it for the past couple weeks, I am once again reminded of all the joy it used to bring me. While I do have to put quite a bit more thought and research into everything I cook and eat these days, it is well worth it both for the mental and physical benefits it provides me.
I’m off to a pretty good start with this goal of mine for January but to make sure I stick with it for the rest of the month and then hopefully the year and beyond there are a few things I think I need to do to set myself up for success. For instance, I know I need to:
- Plan, Plan, Plan! – As with most things health and fitness related, the more you plan the higher the chance you will be successful. I know I need to make more of an effort to plan out larger chunks of my meals, not just the one or two days in advance that I have been doing. I need to consistently plan out each week’s meals for all seven days, do one big grocery trip a week and stock up on all the ingredients I will need. This planning phase also needs to include some research into new recipes to try out and new ingredients to incorporate into my ever-expanding arsenal. There are so many wonderful, healthy, whole food options out there that I haven’t tried yet or haven’t made the most of in their different forms that I know there will be endless options to keep me interested and fulfilled.
- Prepare and pack my lunch ahead of time – Lunch is the meal that gets me. I have my breakfast down as it is almost always some variety of my superfood shake, dinner I almost always cook and usually do so pretty healthily, but man lunch is what gets me. I will freely admit I am lazy when it comes to this meal. I usually just grab a can of soup with my favorite gluten-free crackers or a cup of yogurt (I am currently obsessed with the So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut brand) or just a protein bar that I make sure to always carry in my bag with me. While they aren’t the most unhealthy things I could be eating, like the fast food I used to grab all the time, they are mostly prepackaged items as opposed to the whole, fresh foods that I could and should be eating. I just need to make more of an effort to put together healthier options the night before so I can get up, grab my meal out of the fridge and head out the door. Again, with just a little bit of thought and prep I could seriously improve my nutrition by making my lunches just as healthy as my other two meals.
- Be committed but also realistic – While I do want to explore new recipes and make much more of an effort to cut down on my lazy eating, I also need to plan for life. Life is busy. Life is hectic. Life can sometimes throw you curve balls. Keeping that in mind I know I can do more to plan for the days when life doesn’t go exactly how I thought it would. I think keeping easy and quick but also healthy backup meals on hand, such as my favorite protein pasta, frozen fish filets and even just a salad I can toss together will be key for the days that life is just well, life. I know sometimes meetings run late, after-work social activities pop up, or I will just get home and be too tired to follow a new recipe and that is ok. I also know sometimes I will just want to throw a frozen cauliflower pizza in the oven and pour a glass of wine at the end of a long day and that is ok too. Moderation you guys, I am a firm believer in it! Along the same lines, cheat meals are also going to still be key for me. Most Fridays night are eat-out nights which I eagerly look forward to and use as both as a tool and a reward. Allowing myself this flexibility is a key in my opinion to achieving my larger, overall goals. We need to be able to give ourselves a little bit of a break every once in a while so we don’t burn out and end up quitting altogether.
As I am sitting here typing this post today I have a big pot of lentil stew simmering (check out the pics below along with the superfood shake I ate this morning) that I made up this afternoon and a batch of homemade gluten-free cornbread in the oven as well. I had a blast putting it all together today (also it has been a great way to spend a snowy Saturday!) and will have plenty of leftovers for several meals this week. January’s goals are off to a good start if I do say so myself! I am feeling really motivated to keep this momentum going and happy that I am making more of an effort to take care of my body. I want to keep getting stronger, continue to build more muscle and knock out even more of my goals this year and I know continuing to improve upon my eating habits will go along way in getting me there.
Stay tuned for my February post which will be all flexibility. This is another area I keep saying I am going to work on but admittedly have not been doing such a great job with. If you guys have any resolutions or goals you set for the year and would like to share….I would love to hear about them (and see below for a quick poll about this site, please and thank you!!)! In the meantime, have a happy and healthy weekend everyone!