It is almost time to go back to school! I have a lot of family and friends who are moms and this time of year makes for some very long days. I remember living with my cousin and her family, prior to moving to California. It was always “go, go, go” in the house during the school year. Between school, homework, after school activities, appointments… it never seemed to end. Then, to get a healthy meal on the table after all of it… WOW. So, bravo to everyone out there, doing this hustle daily for their families.
Let’s get down to the reason why I am writing this post. This time of year can be hectic, which can lead to decision fatigue and quick, yet poor health choices. When everything is “go, go, go” decision fatigue can set in and our ability to make healthy choices can go out the window. It is not a question of will power or how bad you want it. Hunger has a huge psychological component. It comes down to primal instincts kicking in and cognitive resource depletion. A person literally does not have the cognitive capacity to not fulfill that primal hunger instinct immediately. Therefore, the brain goes into primal mode and does what is habit, requiring less cognitive resources. So, how do you combat a natural instinct? Set yourself up for success.
1. Meal Planning. Write down an actual schedule with what you plan to make that week. Mark or index the recipes that you are going to use so that they are easy to reference. When creating your plan, compare it to your schedule for the week. For example, on busy days, plan to toss a crockpot meal in before leaving the house that morning. This way the meal is ready by the time you get home. Also, you can make a crockpot meal overnight so that you have lunches available in the morning. There are lots of crockpot meals in the recipe index.
2. Meal Prep. This is a two-step process, one to prep for meals and two to have snacks ready to go. Take a little time on your weekend to prep for the upcoming week. Pre-wash and chop vegetables. This little bit of work can save so much time when making meals in the evening. Prepare quick snacks to grab throughout the week. Pre-slice fruits, divide up nuts or trail mix into baggies, toss vegetables into containers. Don’t let hunger catch you and the family off guard. Have snacks ready to go. Put them in a place where everyone knows to reach.
3. Build healthy habits. There is a difference between making habitual movements and effortful movements. Building healthy habits means that when decision fatigue starts to set in, your habits will be where your mind goes during that primal instinct phase. Train yourself to make those positive choices during that critical time. Break old habits of going for unhealthy, quick ways out. This is also where the second half of step 2 comes into play. Having pre-prepared snacks to ensure that you have a quick, yet healthy option available.
4. Portions and eating more veggies. The psychological component of eating makes a play here too. Our brains have the need to consume about 91.7% of what is served on our plates to get that psychological queue that we are full. So, make sure that you are getting enough vegetables! They are large key in a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate more dark, leafy greens and colorful vegetables. When filling up your plate, a majority of it should be vegetables. If you are not incorporating vegetables into your breakfast, start. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Toss in some spinach with your eggs.
5. If you fall off the wagon… don’t beat yourself up about it. It is what it is. Don’t punish yourself and lock onto a negative. Brush it off and start again with a renewed focus. A positive attitude can go a long way.
At the end of the day, keep it simple and have fun. This is a lifestyle and about building healthy habits. I am constantly building and rebuilding. As my Dad always reminds me about life, which can be applied to this and most things… “It’s a journey, not a destination.” So make it your journey and set yourself up for success.