Category Archives: Tools For Weight Loss Success

Tools For Weight Loss Success: Minimize Decision Making

I’m writing a weight loss success post with the fact that I gained 1.1 pounds this week at the top of my mind. I can tell you exactly why that happened. I let myself make too many decisions.

I didn’t plan my meals in advance.

Not a single one. I grabbed whatever was in the fridge (which wasn’t much, since I hadn’t gone grocery shopping). Dinner included beef hot sticks or a cheese plate multiple nights. Not exactly low-point choices. Lunch came from the work cafeteria more often than not. Every time I was hungry, I had to decide what I wanted to eat. I can’t leave those decisions to chance when I’m trying to lose weight. This week, every single meal has been planned out in advance.

I gave in to temptation.

When I was stressed, I ate way too many of the Dove Promises that my boss had given me, which had happily hid out in my desk drawer for the last 6 weeks. I never should have left them there, forcing me to make a decision whether or not to eat them every single time I got to my desk. They should have immediately gone into the department candy cabinet, which is two floors away from me.

While working at home, I ate three sweet & salty peanut bars in one afternoon. That is terrible. Avoid these things like the plague; they’re crack disguised as a granola bar.

When attending a cookout, I didn’t think about what I would eat ahead of time. I tried every single dessert. I had two beers, and two glasses of wine. I went out for late-night Pho after the cookout. That evening alone, I probably consumed at least 50 points. Ugh.

I probably made these decisions because I hadn’t been fueling my body with filling, healthy food. It was easy to go for the high sugar, high fat choices when I wasn’t eating correctly.

In order to be successful at weight loss, I need to make as few day-to-day decisions as possible.

Woman being wound up like a toy
Sometimes you just need to put yourself on auto pilot.

I once attended a Weight Watchers meeting that said we make at least 200 food-related decisions every day (although we may only be conscious of 10-15 of them). Every time I need to decide what to eat, my reptilian brain is telling me to eat salt, sugar, and fat. My logical brain knows better—that I need protein, fruits & vegetables, and whole grains. By removing the decision point from each moment and putting myself on auto-pilot, I’m much more likely to be successful. Here’s what this looks like when I’m firing on all cylinders:

  • I plan and pre-track a week’s worth of meals on the weekend.
  • I prepare as much food as possible during the weekend for the week ahead.
  • I grocery shop, with a list based on my planned meals.
  • I don’t keep snacks in the house that I’d regret choosing to eat.
  • I bring a morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack to work with me (what I pre-tracked).
  • I have a pre–determined fitness schedule and stick to it (this hasn’t happened in a while, but I was extremely successful when I was doing this).
  • I include special events in my weekly planning, and plan to enjoy myself while staying within my weekly points.

Even with all of this preparation to minimize decisions, I still find myself making food choices every single day. Yesterday, in the afternoon, I really wanted chocolate even though I had my planned yogurt snack at work. I bought the chocolate … and then later ate the yogurt snack. I adjusted my dinner points to somewhat accommodate the chocolate, and dipped into my weekly points a bit. It’s ok if I cave into a decision like that once a week or so, but make it a daily habit and I’ll see my success stop very quickly. Today was better. I wanted chocolate, but stuck to my plan.

Do you have any tips to put yourself on auto pilot and avoid making daily decisions related to food? Please share in the comments.

Check Out My Guest Post On Half Size Me!

I took an interesting approach to stick with my weight loss goals for my last business trip. Just a few days prior to leaving, I emailed Heather, the host of the Half Size Me podcast, and asked if she’d be interested in publishing a guest blog post about sticking to a weight loss routine while traveling. Literally hours before I left for the airport, I got confirmation that she was interested in publishing the post! So, for five days I thought about how every single choice I made would appear to strangers on the internet. If you’d like to read about my trip, check it out on HalfSizeMe.com: 10 Tips For Weight Loss While Traveling

Tools For Weight Loss Success: Dish Up In The Kitchen

In a recent Weight Watchers meeting, we were asked to consider a new routine we wanted to add to our life. One of the routines was something like “think twice before reaching for seconds.” When I read that, I realized I’ve started eating my meals in a way that makes seconds a non-issue.

I often cook large portions, even though there are only two of us eating dinner. We like leftovers for lunch and weekends, and if I can spend an hour making 8 servings or 2, I’ll choose 8 every time!

However, I’m never tempted to go for seconds because we don’t put the extra food on the table. Yup, we dish up our food right next to the stove, making sure we have appropriate portions on our plate before we sit down at the table to eat. I often have my food scale handy so I’ll know that I’m eating 3 ounces of steak and 150 grams of potatoes, for instance. What makes it to the table is what I’m planning on eating.

If there are leftovers, they are often already in a tupperware container by the time we sit down. If I’ve made something in a pot or large pan (like a soup, stew, or stir fry), I’ve already run it through the Weight Watchers recipe builder and indicated how many servings I intend for the recipe to make. However, it’s impossible for me to know the actual serving size unless I know the weight or volume of the total dish. To do this efficiently and without making a mess, I use a 1-cup ladle to transfer my soup/stew to a large storage container, or put the entire stir fry on the scale to get the total weight. Then I just need to divide by the intended number of servings to know how much food to put on my plate.

I’ve never needed to go back for seconds when I use this technique. Occasionally my husband will, but he’s allowed to eat whatever he wants 🙂

So, if you’re struggling with adding additional food to your plate during meal times, try taking the serving dishes off the table and portioning your food directly onto your dinner plate.

Have you tried this technique? Do you have any additional tips & tricks?

Race Giveaway

You may know that the half marathon I’m training for is the Women Run Pewaukee Half. Well, Running Diva Mom is currently hosting a giveaway for a free race registration on her blog. Posting about it here gets me an extra entry, so while I hope you choose to enter…I hope I win! 🙂 I haven’t actually registered for the race yet, so it would be amazing to win the entry fee. The giveaway runs until March 3.

Tools for Weight Loss Success: Weekly Meal Planning

I’m going to start a new semi-regular feature on the blog: Tools for Weight Loss Success. I don’t anticipate that any of them will be earth shattering, but if they will help one person “put it all together,” they will be worth it. I’m going to kick off the series by writing about meal planning.

Why I Plan My Meals

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll notice that I often post my meal plan at the beginning of the week. Creating this plan is something I’ve been doing for months…probably close to a year. I make a weekly meal plan for quite a few reasons:

  • I love to cook, but don’t get home until 5:30 each night. Planning my meals for the week allows me to do necessary prep on the weekend so we still get a home-cooked meal each week.
  • I like to cook with seasonal ingredients. In the summer and fall, I often go to the farmer’s market and buy what looks best, then come home and plan my meals around it.
  • I hate going to the grocery store for one thing. Planning my meals allows me to make just one trip to the store per week.
  • I prefer to take my lunch to work. When I know what we’re having for dinner each night, I know if there will be enough leftovers for both of us to take lunch, or if I need to plan a separate dish for my lunches.
  • I follow Weight Watchers, so I like to know that I’ll be on track with my points for the week, yet leave a little room for splurges.
  • I avoid wasting food because I plan for leftovers.

How I Plan My Meals

On Saturday or Sunday I sit down with my breakfast and pull up my Weight Watchers meal planner. I take mental (sometimes physical) inventory of what I already have on hand that can be used, paying special attention to what must be used before it spoils. If I have a lot of ingredients that have to be used, I search for recipes that use those specific ingredients. Some of my favorite sources are Skinny Taste, Skinny Kitchen, Weight Watchers recipes, and some of my printed cookbooks. I find five recipes that look good, and slot them in Sunday – Thursday.

Then, I add my breakfast for each day. I thrive on routine, so it’s usually the same breakfast for the entire week.

Next, I take a look at the portion sizes of the recipes I’ve chosen for dinner. I allocate some of the leftovers to my husband’s lunches, and if there are any left over I slot them into some of my lunch menus. If there are still holes in the menu, I plan on making some soup, chili, or a rice bowl. I add these to my meal planner.

At this point, I look at the nutritional profile of my menu. I try to follow the Weight Watchers Good Health Guidelines, so I’ll make sure to have two full servings of dairy, at least five fruits/vegetables, 2 teaspoons of healthy oil, whole grains and lean proteins. These could be added as part of a meal or a snack.

If I’m not yet at my daily point minimum, I’ll add in some snacks. If I’m already at or over my point minimum, I’m done. (Because I’m following Weight Watchers, I can add fruits/veggies as snacks when I get hungry because they aren’t allocated Points Plus Values).

Now I know what we’re eating every day, it’s time to make a shopping list. By following this method, I usually have a pretty short list. Every week I end up buying yogurt, milk, and some fruits and vegetables. Some weeks, that’s really all I need.

After I go shopping, I determine if anything can/should be made ahead. For example, if I’ve chosen a noodle casserole dish for Monday’s dinner, I’ll probably make it on Sunday afternoon/evening and put it in the fridge so I just need to heat it in the oven when I get home from work. While I’m making the casserole, I might have a cut of meat cooking in the crockpot so it can be shredded and stored in the fridge. If I need rice for the week, I’ll make that on Sunday night and portion it out as I need it from the fridge. If I need to take meat out of the freezer, I do that on Sunday so it’s sure to be thawed when I need it.

How Much Time It Takes To Plan

I probably spend 20-30 minutes planning my menu and one hour grocery shopping. My prep time varies based on what I’ve chosen for the menu. Some weeks I only spend 30 minutes prepping things on Sunday. Other weeks I find myself in the kitchen for 4-6 hours cooking soups, stews, prepping produce, and baking breakfast options for the freezer. These weeks are far from the norm, and can totally be avoided by choosing easier-to-prepare dinners.

In the long run, meal planning saves me time. Most nights, dinner is on the table 30-45 minutes after I get home, and it’s cooked from scratch.

I Love Meal Planning

I probably love meal planning so much because I love food, and I love to cook. It has a lot of benefits even if you’re not trying to lose weight. However, if weight loss is one of your goals, it’s a very valuable tool. Making all your decisions for the week at once makes it less likely that you’ll get off track and just order pizza because you don’t know what to make for dinner.

Do you meal plan? Do you have any tips & tricks to share?