Where I resist my own efforts to change my habits, I look closer. And over the past year or two, many people have suggested to me that I try a portion-controlled meal plan. I hate the idea, and I resisted until now.
Making necessary lifestyle changes to get from sedentary to an active lifestyle is daunting. Seems like no matter what I do, my old habits are lurking like a dump truck ready to offload into the slightest gap in my efforts. Still, I’ve changed my exercise pattern substantially, and I feel the results—I now get much more exercise than I used to.
Still, I started this journey about 100 pounds overweight, and I’ve only lost 13 pounds altogether. I know that muscle is heavier than fat, and I’ve lost many inches, but there are still many pounds to shed to reach my health goals. And by now I know that portion control is an issue for me. Or so I thought.
So here’s the drill. I’m starting my fourth day on a (modified) Beachbody program called Country Heat. It’s got workouts based on country line dancing. Doing it at home is great because of my two left feet. (Side note: whenever I couldn’t figure out the dance video, I reverted to some “crazy dancing” until I could catch back up. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Not.)
The program came with recipes and guidelines for using Beachbody portion control containers. So you start out by figuring out what your calorie target is, which tells you the plan to follow. In my case, that means four containers of veggies, three containers of fruit, four containers of protein, three containers of carbs, one container of fats, one container of seeds and dressings, and four teaspoons of oils and nut butters. The containers are not equal size.
I typically prep meals for the week on Sunday, and I did that this week, too. The difference was that I used the containers to plan my shopping. I make a dish called Mel’s Grub, an invention of my sister Melanie which incorporates a protein source with a bunch of veggies. It can be modified all different kinds of ways and it seemed like the perfect place to start. I used organic chicken thighs as my protein source. I had six, and I measured one against the protein container. Perfect fit. I had already broken down my menu and I knew that for lunch and dinner I’d have one protein to one veg, so I chopped up six containers worth of veggies: squash, kale, bell peppers, scallions and cilantro, and cooked the whole batch up. To measure out the portions, I scooped out one protein and one veg per serving and dished out my lunches. I did the same with breakfast prep and snacks.
So today, for example, on my deadline day at this newspaper, all I have to do for breakfast is grab one pre-prepped baggie of vegetables and scramble it up with two eggs. This makes a breakfast much bigger than I typically eat. I have lunch and dinner prepared ahead and snacks ready, too. Today one snack is an apple with gouda cheese, and another is a protein shake. The shake has another container of fruit and another of veg, this time raw.
It took extra time in planning, but the weird thing is that it hasn’t changed my eating habits much. My lunches are pretty much the same as they were before, my breakfast too. Even my snacks are pretty much the same.
Even in just a few short days, I can see exactly where I need to focus some effort in terms of making changes: fats. Every other category has been very easy to stay within, but not fats. I enjoy half and half in my coffee, which the program calls for me to eliminate. Sorry, Beachbody, not today. Giving up the cream in my coffee means giving up my coffee.
It surprised me a bit to see that all that planning didn’t change my meal prep much at all. I already ate a diet made up of whole foods, and I already avoided processed and junk foods. The measured portion sizes match my typical lunch serving.
I view it as training. Training my eye and my stomach to what a good portion size is for me. And training my mind to how much food to prepare, and when to stop piling it on my plate.
Part 2 of my October experiment is using the dance program daily. I had planned to do that three times a week, but I’m going to go ahead and try for the six days Country Heat lays out. The best thing about doing a dance routine at 6 a.m. is that by the time I get to work, I’ve already met half of my day’s step count goal! That feels good.
The last part of this experiment will be measurement. My measurements are bust 42 inches; waist 41, hips 53, thigh 33, and upper arm 15. While those numbers still give me a bit of pause, especially to make public, here’s a cheerful thought: When I started this journey, my waist was 54 inches. I’m just going to sit here and let that sink in.
A month from now, I’ll post my stats again and we’ll see how the experiment went. My take on it a few days in? So far, so good.
Do you struggle with portion control? What are your strategies for managing your meals? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-286-1212, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing it!” I’d love to hear from you.