Wellness Wednesday – Meal prep, homeostasis, and why I don’t eat salads

Hey heathens. Welcome to my first official wellness wednesday post, and thanks for joining me.

We’re officially 8 days into a new decade, and January trends are in full force. My classes at the gym are full of new faces. A bunch of my colleagues suddenly have new haircuts or glasses. And my Instagram feed is swamped with dry January, veganuary, and other motivational posts that all boil down to the same thing – ‘new year new me!’ This 2020, the new roaring 20s, a big deal, right? Everyone wants to start the decade off on the right foot. The strength of the resolutioners is more intense this year.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support starting new healthy habits, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s even better when those behaviors gain some momentum and staying power, and actually become habitual. But for a number of reasons, resolutions often aren’t successful, and by the time the next new year rolls around, we may not even remember what we resolved just one year ago.

Some of the most popular resolutions are related to wellness. Most often, eating better, working out more, losing weight, and improving overall health are among the top ranked resolutions. Again – this is a good thing! But not necessarily if it doesn’t have staying power.

One of the only ways to successfully adopt a new habit is to do it in a way that works for you and your lifestyle by fitting in as seamlessly as possible. If you need to make major, disruptive changes to your routine to implement a new habit, it’s less likely that you’ll stick with it. Humans like sameness, it’s hardwired into us. Our bodies work hard to maintain homeostasis; if there is a disruption to our physical condition, the body is triggered to respond and works to stabilize the impact of the disruption.

The same goes for our minds when we’re trying to adopt a new habit. For example, consider the popular resolution of eating better or losing weight, which both involve cooking more and meal prepping. If you want to switch from eating junky processed foods to all real, whole foods, it’s best to take it slow. Immediately making salads for every meal is not the way to go; it’s a major disruption to your normal routine, and eventually your body and mind will work hard to get you back to a place of lesser disruption. In this case, it may involve reverting right back to the convenience foods that were your standard (maybe because they were quick and easy).

Meal prepping can be horrible, I will say it, I really have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s time consuming, requires planning, and takes time that I would really rather use for anything else I could possibly do on this earth. But it’s something that I know I have to do, because nourishment from food is an important part of what keeps me well, whether I like it or not. Meal prepping can be tedious and very annoying, but I work hard to keep the big picture in mind – it supports my physical health, which impacts my mental health, which all supports and promotes a more vital existence, which is one of my top priorities.

So since I’m not a masochist and I don’t want to hate my life every time I go to cook for the week, I’ve figured out how to make meal prep work for me. To make meal prep work for you, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:

What’s happening this week?

Essentially, where will you be eating? Does the food need to travel with you on a commute to work? If so, what’s the kitchen/prep situation like where you’re going?

These are the most important and first things to consider, because they set the stage for what you will be able to do with food for the week. Check your calendar or planner to see what’s on deck. If you’re traveling, going to a show after work, taking a day off to relax, going to the gym, whatever, your meal needs will change. If you’re scheduled to out to lunch with a friend, boom, you don’t need to prep a lunch for that day and can eliminate a portion from your recipe. If you’re going to exercise, you may want to plan for pre- and post-workout nourishment. If you’re traveling somewhere that has uncertain food options (vegans, you know what I’m talking about), you may want to account for that by making food to bring along with you, or making a plan to grocery shop when you arrive. Google the locations of local grocery stores, and make a plan for how to get there and back.

If you know you’re going to be busy with a bunch of shit to do, and won’t have much time to cook, be flexible and allow yourself to get takeout for one or two meals, or cook something that is virtually prep-free. Being kind to yourself and allowing a ‘cheat’ meal here and there is better for your overall health than stressing about how to cook one or two more meals when you’re already swamped.

What do you want to eat?

This is on par for importance with the last question, because there’s no point in making food that you don’t actually want to eat. You won’t eat it, and if you do, you won’t enjoy it, and that sucks!

I’ll use the example of salads again, because they are so stereotypically healthy, and everyone that wants to eat healthier eats at least a few salads in the attempt.

I fucking hate salads. I’ve been trying to fool myself into liking them for years but have had very little luck. I may change my mind in the future, but for now I’m here to say, if you hate salad, don’t ever make another salad again. It’s a waste of your vital energy and time on this earth! (Please don’t evangelize me by sending your aMaZiNg salad recipes.)

The other thing here is that you should eat what makes you feel nourished. To me, that’s never a fucking salad so I don’t eat them. It’s winter, so I want to eat savory flavors, soups, and roasted things. Emotions, seasons, your childhood, stress levels, innumerable things can impact what makes you feel nourished, and it can change. You should listen to your body; it is perfect, and will tell you what it needs. Go with your gut.

Your nourishment needs will change based on what’s happening in your life. As an example, lately I’ve felt most nourished by food that is low stress to prep, recipes with only a few ingredients, and meals that I can make without a recipe at all. That food is supporting and nourishing many areas of my life by being easy and virtually stress-free to prep, with little advance planning required. When my life circumstances change, I’m sure my nourishment needs will too, and I’ll go back to cooking all the delicious recipes that rabbit and wolves has to offer.

How many times can you eat the same meal?

Batch cooking is pretty convenient, but only if you can stand to eat the same meal for a few days in a row. Be realistic and honest with yourself – there are probably some things you think you can eat every single day without fail, and maybe that’s true. But there’s no reason you should force yourself to eat the same meal for seven days in a row, just because a recipe makes 8 servings and it’s easier that way.

If you don’t want to eat the same meal day in and day out, consider meals where you can switch out one or two ingredients easily to create variety. Smoothies are an easy example of this; the same base ingredients, for example plant milk, almond butter, and chia seeds, can be blended with almost any combination of fruit and still be delicious. If you’re a smoothie person, make up some freezer bags filled with portions of different fruit that you can easily combine with your base ingredients, throw in the blender, and mix. You could do the same for a savory meal – I’ve been really into stuffed potatoes and squash lately, and it’s easy thing to create different flavors with. Roast a bunch of potatoes, and stuff with different combinations of beans and veggies. You’ll end up with meal variety that requires little extra prep.

Those are the big ones, but I recommend considering the following too:

  • How much time do you have to cook?
  • Is your kitchen ready for meal prep? Do you need to clean dishes, put dishes away, take out the trash, clean out the fridge, etc?
  • Will any food need to be frozen and defrosted later on? (This will impact how you store your portions.)
  • If needed, is there anyone that can help you with meal prep?

Considering all of these factors will help minimize the stress and generally awful feelings around meal prep, and can help you work it into your life in a sustainable way. By reducing stress and maintaining homeostasis as much as possible, you are much more likely to maintain your new meal prep habits. Achieving that resolution is possible.

Ultimately, meal prep is about improving your health and overall wellness, and it creates peace of mind to know that you have a week of nourishing food ready to go. Nourishing in the deep sense – if you plan your meal prep in a way that considers every step in the process, the planning, preparation, and end results all contribute to your wellbeing.

Thanks for reading, see you next week!