Bigger than Biceps: How to make a lifestyle change by planning meals and workouts

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We've all been there: slowly getting pulled into the overnight weight loss pills advertised on television after feeling the lowest of low about bad eating habits. A cheap pill isn't going to get you magical weight loss, but lifestyle changes and hard work and dedication will.

The first step in changing your lifestyle is to plan. Plan your workouts, meals and sleep schedule. Nowadays, we're busier than ever and can't spare even a half hour for a quick walk or dinner with the family. Make Sunday's the holy day of meal prepping. Make tupperware your best friend by investing in a lot of it. Especially the kind with two or three sections.

The key to meal prepping is to cook food in bulk and divide. You can search Pinterest for thousands of meal prepping ideas or just cook what you like to eat the most. Personally I like to portion out my lunches and then have an idea for what I want for dinners because I can spend more time putting those together. Analyze your week and figure out when you'll have more time for what meal.

This is where the dedication comes in. Don't prep for the entire week and fail by going out for lunch on Wednesday, then out for dinner on Thursday, unless you planned to do so. Planning ahead will help you avoid failing and that's when you fall back for a quick fix or a weight loss pill. It will also prevent you from eating outrageously portioned restaurant meals that don't necessarily satisfy your nutritional needs and leave you too full or hungry in the next hour.

I'm not saying everyone is the same and follows these patterns, but I've been there and know plenty others who have as well.

Once you have meal ideas in mind and portion food out, plan to eat every three hours. Why? So that you train your metabolism and so that your body knows when it will get food. That doesn't mean eating huge meals every three hours, it means having oats and egg whites for breakfast, a cheese stick and banana three hours later, then a salad and an apple three hours from then, and then a yogurt, hard-boiled egg and granola three hours from then and then grilled chicken, asparagus and rice three hours from then. Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.

That's just an example, and it can get more complicated when dissecting particular nutrients. It will also vary depending on your schedule. Some people work overnight and some people don't go into work until noon, so the meals will differ. By following this pattern, your body knows when it will get food and wont starve and hold onto the nutrients it has. It will be able to use that meal for fuel and be ready for the next.

Maybe before you even start planning out meals, it would be a good idea to write down what you naturally eat to get an idea of your eating habits. I find that most people don't eat breakfast, consume most of their meals in the latter part of the day, eat only when they're hungry or find themselves saying "I forgot to eat today." No. That just doesn't happen. It's so, so important to do the opposite of those three things.

Shopping also becomes easier when you plan your meals, especially if you're a creature of habit. By eating the same type of meals every week, a grocery budget becomes consistent, which is another advantage. This leads to my next suggestion of clipping coupons.

Even though there's not usually coupons for produce, there are generally specials for buy one, get one free, or discounted prices for members and cardholders. Some grocery stores even give you a discount on gas with participating stations. If the grocery store isn't your thing, local farmer's markets should be starting back up again if there wasn't a winter market and if it's every week, you can at least budget for produce and meat. On top of getting sustainable, antibiotic free food, you're supporting local farms and shops, again, another advantage of a healthier lifestyle.

For those who are rarely home, there are plenty of companies with refrigerated lunch bags that fit six meals. One example is from isolator fitness and even though the bags look bulky, they satisfy your weight management need and come in a variety of colors and styles.

By having control over your nutrition, you'll start to feel more confident, prepared, and organized to have a better lifestyle.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney is a health and wellness reporter at the Bennington Banner and can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118. or on Twitter @MC_McGeeney.


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