This week, I planned on talking about working out, but because it’s back to school time (le sigh) and teachers all over the country are about to hop on that conveyor belt that is the new school year, I thought I’d share some tips on how to start the new school year off on the right foot. Actually, if I started on one foot, I’d trip and fall because I have terrible balance. Let’s get started on both feet. K?
“But Rachel, I’m not a teacher, so this doesn’t apply to me.”
Yes, it does. It applies to all of us. Maybe you just got back from vacation. Maybe you are ready to finally start eating healthy and exercising. Maybe you read last week’s post, but you weren’t quite ready to commit. Maybe you’re like me: you’ve yo-yo dieted for years, and you’re ready to do it the right way. Whatever the case may be: if you’re starting over, beginning for the first time, getting back on track, or just trying to start out the week with a goal and purpose, this is for you.
Let’s get to it.
1. Shop with a purpose. Plan out and write down your meals for the week – even if your meals include eating out – and go grocery shopping.
Okay, be honest. Does this scenario sound familiar? You get home from a long day at work. You sit down on the couch, scroll through Facebook for a bit, and then the hunger hits you harder than Rocky Balboa. You look at your hubs, your mom, your kids, or your cat and ask, “What do you want for dinner?” That conversation lasts approximately 27 minutes until one of you suggests McDonald’s (or Taco Hell, or Cane’s, or some other fast food restaurant). Two Hot ‘n Spicys, a large fry, some honey mustard, and a Diet Coke later, you’re feeling like crap and promising yourself that you’ll do a better job tomorrow.
I know, it’s sounds familiar to me too.
Look, I get it. Life is busy! All of our lives are busy. My busy might be different than your busy, but everyone is just as busy as everyone else. We aren’t special when it comes to our level of busyness, even though it sometimes feels like we should be.
Alas, we all gotta’ eat, and whether you realize it or not, we all meal plan. Some people plan ahead of time, and some sit on the couch for 30 minutes trying to figure out what drive-thru to hit up. Really, unless you’re having prepared meals delivered to your house every night by a meal fairy who decides what you’re going to eat, cooks it for you, and drops it off, you meal plan. We all do. But, by spending a few precious minutes on the weekend or on our day off to plan as opposed to emotional planning when we are so hungry that we just want food to insert itself into our mouths, we are setting ourselves up for success during the week.
So, here’s what I do:
First, I make a Monday through Friday meal plan. It might look something like this:
M – Grilled chicken and roasted potatoes/veggies
T – Taco Tuesday
W – (soccer) pick something up
Th – Crockpot pork tenderloin, rice, and premade salad mix
F – Fajitas
Next, I make my grocery list with all the ingredients I need for my dinners. After that, I throw in all the other stuff I need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
By making your list, you know what you are cooking throughout the week. And, hey, if you decide taco Tuesday needs to be on Monday instead, that’s fine. This just gives you a rough plan for the week.
On the days that you know you’re going to have to eat out, have a plan of attack there too. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’re just going to wait until after football practice, go home, and eat a salad at 10 pm. It’s not gonna’ happen. You’ll be so hungry at 10 pm, you’ll eat your salad as an appetizer and then have Pizza Rolls as appetizer number two while your Easy Mac microwaves. Why in the actual hell does that stuff take three and a half minutes, anyway? Some days, it just makes sense to eat out, and that’s okay. Own it. And then plan for it.
For example, our go-to is Wendy’s simply because it’s right by our house. If I know I’m going to hit up Wendy’s after my son’s soccer practice, I figure out what I’m going to eat ahead of time. Like I mentioned in my last post, I plan from dinner backwards, so by putting that spicy chicken sandwich in MFP, I can work the rest of my day around all that deliciousness. As you can see, I have an affinity for all things spicy and chicken-y. Side note: 9/10 times, I’d opt for the grilled chicken to save 140 cals and 14 grams of fat, but you get the point.
2. Pack your bags. No, you’re not going on vacation again. Pack your gym bag. On Sunday night (or the night before you go back to work), pack the essentials you need for the gym. That takes one more excuse out of the equation. If I go home after work, it’s really difficult for me to make myself get back up, change, and go work out. If I don’t pack my gym bag, I’m setting myself up for failure. It’s all about eliminating the things that cause us to fail. In fact, this year, I am going to try something new. I’m going to pack my gym bag for the whole week and see if that helps. Let’s make gym prepping a thing.
If you don’t have a gym membership, that’s a-okay. Pack your gym bag anyway. Either change before you go home, or change right when you get home and knock out that workout right away. The longer you put it off, the less likely you are to do it.
3. Never miss a Monday. This one is often thrown around in the fitness world, but it is so true. Have you ever said, “I’ll start that diet on Monday” or “I’ll start working out on Monday”? Yeah, me too. There’s something about Mondays that just has this power over us. We see Monday as a fresh start, and I have no clue why since Mondays are often the toughest days of the week. But the saying is true. Make it your personal goal to eat well and exercise on Monday, and it will set the tone for the rest of the week.
4. Pick out your clothes. I sound like your mom, right? Seriously though, picking out your clothes the night before you go back to work takes a little stress out of the first day back at work. The less stress you have, the lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is “the stress hormone.” While cortisol does benefit our bodies in some situations, too much of it can make it more difficult to lose body fat. Picking out your clothes the night before is such a simple thing to do, but it makes a big difference. Oh, and just as a side note, do you know what lowers cortisol levels? You guessed it: regular physical activity (among other things such as getting enough sleep and limiting caffeine).
5. Make it all (or at least fifteen minutes) about you. The night before you go back to work, carve out a few minutes of “me time.” Take a bath, paint your toenails, meditate, or do something else that will slow you down and give you time to mentally prepare for the week ahead. This sounds like such an obvious thing to do, but when is the last time you actually did it? I used to think it was selfish of me to make time for myself when there are so many things I could or should be doing. In reality, it’s selfish of me not to. By taking time for myself, I am able to center myself, and by doing that, I am giving my husband, my kids, my family, my students, and my co-workers the best version of me.
Alright, so let’s wrap it up. Plan your meals, pack your bags, never miss a Monday, pick out your clothes, and carve out some me time.
Think about it. Before our children go back to school, we do everything we can to set them up for success. We buy the supplies they need, and we go clothes or uniform shopping. The night before, we make sure their first day outfit is picked out, and we either pack them a lunch or we make sure they have lunch money. We make sure they get plenty of rest, we make them a good breakfast in the morning, and we try to plan for a stress-free morning. Why aren’t we doing the same things for ourselves? Why aren’t we making time to set ourselves up for the same success?
What it all boils down to is planning. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Let’s all plan to smash this first week of school!
Action Item (I mean, in case the five action items above weren’t enough):
- Suggest your pro tip for getting your groove back in the comments. We can all learn from each other!