Losing weight is hard work, whether you have 5 lbs to lose or 50. But if you’re motivated, you can definitely do it…as long as you plan ahead. When you’re armed with a plan – at a restaurant or party, on vacation, or during your nightly dessert craving – you’ll be much more likely to make good decisions that bring you closer to your goal. Here are a few examples of times when planning ahead really helps:
- When Eating Out. If you know you’re going out to dinner, plan to have an especially healthy breakfast and lunch (like oatmeal and a large green salad), so that you can be flexible with what type of cuisine is chosen/what you order that evening. Or, check out a restaurant ahead of time to see what healthy options they have and plan to order one of those.
- Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry. Nobody has the will power to make good food choices when she’s starving, so keep healthy snacks wherever you might need them to prevent becoming ravenous. Granola bars in the car, cut-up fruits & veggies in clear containers in your fridge, string cheese and whole grain crackers at work, etc. It’s also a good idea to have a little snack before going out to a restaurant, so you don’t spoil your appetite on the endless piles of chips or bread.
- Prep Healthy Snacks Ahead of Time. If it takes 5 minutes to cut up veggies for hummus, but 2 seconds to grab a cookie, which are you more likely to do? Make healthy snacks visible and convenient and unhealthy snacks hidden and inconvenient. (Or better yet, leave the unhealthy snacks for an occasional treat outside the house, rather than something you keep around). I find the best way to do this is cut up fruits & veggies right when you get home from the store so they’re ready to reach for.
- Pick 1-2 days per week when you’ll eat out, then eat at home the rest of the time. It’s very difficult to lose weight when you eat out all the time, because restaurant food is generally high-calorie and you have no control over your food. If you’re used to eating out a lot, start slowly by trying a couple of these ideas.
- Grocery Shop Regularly. If you open your fridge and find only ketchup and mustard, you’ll probably end up eating out a lot, which will make it hard to lose weight. So pick a day when you have time shop, make a list, and bring home some healthy goods you can eat throughout the week.
- Pick and Choose Your Indulgences. If you love ice cream after dinner, skip the cupcakes in the break room. If you like having wine with dinner, skip the fries with lunch. Whatever your favorite indulgence is, keep it in mind and schedule it into your day. You can’t afford to indulge in everything, but you can indulge in what you love most, if you plan ahead.
- Aim for a Balanced Day, Rather than a Balanced Meal. Most of us were taught to have a little bit of everything on our plate at each meal — meat, starch, veggie, etc. But it may be healthier to spread the balance throughout an entire day or even few days. For example, if you have eggs and toast for breakfast, a salad with chicken for lunch, fruit for a snack, and veggie pizza for dinner, that’s pretty balanced and also moderate in calories. If you had eggs and toast with fruit for breakfast, a salad with chicken and bread for lunch, fruit and nuts for a snack, and veggie pizza with salad for dinner — yes you would have more balanced meals, but you’d likely be eating more calories which would prevent weight loss.
Hopefully you can see how planning ahead is essential in every single one of these situations. If losing weight is your goal, making a commitment to plan ahead should be your first priority.