Does your Meal Plan Feel like a Meal Drag?
When I first heard about the concept of meal planning, especially making a meal plan to lose weight, I wasn’t entirely keen on the idea. It sounded way too complicated, time-consuming, and restrictive for my busy, on-the-go lifestyle. I guess in some weird way, I thought I was better than that. I thought I had the grit of just “winging it” and coming up with spectacularly nutritious meals on a consistent basis.
But, as you probably can imagine, I failed miserably.
I often found myself in a pinch, scrounging for a last-minute meal or turning my pantry upside-down praying I could live another day without dying of starvation.
On top of that, I was experiencing near-constant lack of energy. My diet was so imbalanced that my metabolism slowed down to a halt and a feeling of lethargy completely took over my body and mind. I had trouble thinking or staying focused at work. All I could think about was food, and how much I wanted to stuff 12 Oreos into my mouth whilst gambling with my weight in “will-i-fit-In-my-clothes-tomorrow?” roulette.
I was a hot, over-weight, tired mess….and food had made me it’s bitch.
And it sucked!
So, with a humble heart, I decided to give this “meal planning thing” a try.
I knew I didn’t want to be controlled by my food and instead, I wanted my food to work in my favor, to give me tons of energy and help me reach my goal of losing 20 lbs.
I researched strategies, talked with experts, opened an excel sheet, and started to plan out my first 7 days of meals. Funnily enough, right after going through day 1, I noticed two things start to happen:
- The stress of having to “whip-up” a meal with all the right ingredients on-hand vanished. All the guesswork was taken out of the mix.
- My body was beginning to follow a new rhythm, where I no longer had intense cravings or felt the need to raid the vending machine.
After so many battles with fighting stomach aches, hunger pains, and my stubborn fat, I was seeing a whole new world with my meal plan. My stomach pain from indigestion was gone; my cravings were under control; and my pants were a hellava lot looser on me!
Now, you’ll notice I don’t even mention anything exercise related, and that is for a reason.
While exercise is amazing for building endurance, stamina, as well as increasing your metabolism, you will never ever be able to out-train a bad diet.
Which means, no matter how many squats, bench presses, or miles you jog on that treadmill, your body just cannot burn off that delicious 5-Guys burger and milkshake. Only a good, wholesome diet can really get you there.
So without much further ado, here are my 6 steps to effectively create a killer meal plan that will increase your energy, help you lose weight, and help you learn good eating habits.
How to Meal Plan to Lose Weight Like a Boss:
1. Get Into the Right Mindset
I always fell into the “lose as much weight as I can in 7-days” mode of operation when dieting. It was broad, sporadic, and a recipe for disappointment and loss of hope. When it comes to weight-loss, you need to allow your body time to heal, detox, and shed the weight over a period of time. This does take time, and that’s OK. Just know that every little action you do every day will really help you get one step closer to your goals, whether it be losing 1lb in a week or losing 2” from your waist.
2. Understand your calorie target
Ok, before you get discouraged, I will say that the way I meal plan does not involve calorie counting, and a big reason for that is because I despise the process and hate how it makes me feel about food. Meal planning, however, does involve creating a calorie deficit with the amount and types of foods you eat.
So firstly, you need to determine what your current daily recommended calorie amount is, based from your weight. One way I like to calculate this is by multiplying your weight (lbs) by 11.
For example, for Sally, who weights 140lb, her daily recommended calorie amount would be 11x 140 or 1,540 calories.
Then, if your goal is to lose weight, I recommend reducing your daily calorie intake by 20% of your recommended calorie amount. This is a slow-and-steady approach and will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
For example, if Sally wants to lose weight, she will need to target 20% of 1,540 calories, or 1,232 calories.
3. Choose your Meal Plan Based from Your Calorie Target
Now that you have your calorie target, your next task is to determine how many servings of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, grains, and fats you should ideally have everyday in order to safely lose weight.
Based from your calorie target, find the corresponding meal plan that matches:
- Calorie Target between 1,200 and 1,399 calories – Meal Plan A*
- Calorie Target between 1,400 and 1,599 calories – Meal Plan B
- Calorie Target between 1,600 and 1,799 calories – Meal Plan C
- Calorie Target between 1,800 calories and up – Meal Plan D
*if your calorie target falls below 1,200 calories, round up to 1,200 calories.
Once you know your meal plan, refer to the graphic below for details on how many servings you should have per day of vegetables, grains, fruit, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Now, I want to stress this very clearly….do not starve yourself with your meal plan. You will hate life and will give up on your diet if you do this. The point of a meal plan is to create a sustainable food guide so that you can have more energy, get your health back on track, and not feel sick or bloated all the time. Look at it as a gateway to eating better for life, not just for 7 days. So please be kind to your body.
4. Decide how many times you would like to eat during the day (3 times, 5 times, etc.)
One of the things I advise in my Meal Plan Strategy guide is scheduling 5 meals throughout the entire day. I am a firm believer of eating more frequently during the day, particularly 5 times a day. It may sound totally unconventional to what we used to hear from dieting; but honestly, eating more smaller meals spaced out throughout the day helps keep your metabolism going at a steady pace, which means your energy levels are maintained AND your fat-burning potential is elevated.
5. Choose foods that are high in nutritional content and avoid processed food:
This includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and pseudo-grains like quinoa, seeds, nuts, and dairy. These foods, especially in their most wholesome -raw- forms hold the greatest amount of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to properly function: meaning higher metabolism, higher energy, less fat, etc. On the other side of the coin, be sure to limit your intake of highly processed foods like white bread as well as food products laced with added sugar.
For a more detailed guide on what types of foods to watch out for, read my Simple Guide to Clean Eating post.
6. Decide on what meals you would like to make and write them down
Once you know what foods you can and cannot have, start thinking about meals you can make that include those foods and jot them down. I personally like to use a simple 7-day meal planning calendar template (which you can access when you download my meal plan strategy) that I print out and stick on my fridge for reference throughout the week.
I cannot stress enough how important this step is. Writing down your future meals for the week can help you anticipate what you will be having as well as developing your grocery list so you can get all the ingredients you need.
7. Be sure to drink lots of water!
Water is soooooooo amazing for you! Seriously, it helps flush out those nasty toxins, hydrates you so you feel energetic and focused, and helps your body not confuse cravings with thirst.
Did you learn any new meal planning tips? What strategies do you have to meal plan like a boss? Comment and share below!
If you liked my tips and would like to really dive into creating a stellar meal plan that walks you through setting your calorie target to choosing from a huge list of nutrient-dense foods that will help you burn fat and increase your energy, you can download my free 4-Step Fat-Burning Meal Plan Strategy ebook here.