The healthiest I’ve ever been in my life was right after I moved back home from college. I didn't bench press, or lift heavy weights. Most of my exercises consisted of push ups, sit ups, lunges, squats, and cardio. My diet was way better as well, but when we talk about health, it's not just our physical health that matters. Mental health is equally as important. I was not able to find many jobs after graduating. The jobs I did find, I had been competing with business professionals who had been recently laid off from their jobs do the low recession. I was working from 7:50am to 3:30pm in a school district and the jobs I applied to within my field of Geography & Environmental Studies, were not amounting to anything.
I had enough of the bs after I applied for an environmental engineer specialist position. I had to take a placement test before the interview and was the youngest of the group. There were people in their 40s and 50s despite this being an entry level position. I took the test and I placed 13th out of the 50 individuals who took it. They hired the first 10. So sad. I had to wait a whole year if I wanted to apply again. Why are these baby boomers taking the entry level jobs. Had my degree I worked so hard to earn been all for nothing?
I decided to move back to LA to be closer to my friends because although I was healthy and fit, I was not truly happy. I worked five days a week and went to the gym four days a week, and dreamed of the weekend to grab food and drinks with the homies. What did I learn? You have to balance your health and your happiness in order to be truly mentally and physically healthy. Without going off too much on a tangent, here are some questions to ask yourself you are thinking of meal prepping. Dang M. Night Shamalan, I know. Keep reading if you are curious…
Is it something you want to do?
Or is it something that others are forcing upon you? Nowadays, there is a trend to exercise often, drink more water, count calories, have only one cheat day, not eat after 9pm, etc. While all of these are fairly healthy things to consider, it is very important to make these decisions on your own. These can be quite controlling when others are peer pressuring or forcing you to change your normal habits. I would recommend starting small. For example, I love drinking, but unless it’s a special event or dinner, I try to limit drinking alcohol for the weekends. This allows my body to slowly get back into the rhythm of things.
Is eating healthier important to you?
For me, my family is at risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. This means that if I don’t try to take steps now, I’m going to develop them sooner or later. I love candy, ice cream, and all types of dessert. I learned about myself and discovered that if I have those items, I tend to eat the whole bag, carton or box. So, if I buy some I like to offer them to friends so that I can make them happy and they can help me out so I don’t eat everything. Bottom line, you can still eat what you like. Portioning and self control is key here. Trust me, keeping a nice pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer and thinking about it all week is all the better when you get home on Friday to break that plastic seal, open the lid, and find that gorgeous, pristine curvature of untouched of ice cream goodness waiting for you, and only you. That’s love. Now where was I…
Do you have an evening where you can cook for two hours?
I ask this because although it takes about an hour to cook everything, sometimes you may want to diversify your meals in terms of vegetables or meat or there might only be a fixed amount of counter space or open burners on your gas or electric range. For those newbies don’t forget to cut your vegetables first and then the meat because it can be unsanitary for you to do it the other way around. Let’s avoid food poisoning people. For those elite meal preppers out there, using the oven could take longer, as baking may require longer amounts of time. You don't necessarily have to meal prep on the weekend either. If you have a free evening on a weekday, why not fill the time chopping up veggies and seasoning meat to prep for the rest of the week. Your Netflix shows will still be there and if you are a real multitasker, than you can position your laptop near the kitchen and do both at the same tiiiiiiiiiiime. Yeeeeah YEIIIIIII!
Do you have access to a grocery store nearby?
This is crucial because most produce doesn’t keep well, even if you place them in the fridge. Also you may be able to pick some up on your back from work or the gym. After about a week they start to wither, rot, or lose their flavor and it just looks sad. Buying in bulk is cheaper than getting individual items. This is where you go for the family pack of chicken, carrots, onions, etc. You don’t have to be married to take advantage of these sweet meal deals. Btw, you know you are getting old if you have a favorite grocery store. Now you are thinking about it…yeah you have one.
Have you tried it before?
If you have not, just do it! Getting started is the hardest part, but once you do get started, it gets easier each week. If you have tried it before, it just makes it easier to do it again. You will start to get faster each time and as you start cooking new one meal dishes on weeknights, you will give yourself a chance to experiment with other types of meat or vegetables. I tend to make my own kinds of dishes on Fridays or Saturdays so I can try to think of a new meal for the Sunday meal prep.
Being healthy doesn't only mean on the outside. Taking care of your mental health will cause your body to love you equally as much. You will smile more when you surround yourself with better choices in terms of people and food. The friends who encourage you to be a better you are the ones to keep. I'm happy with where I am at and I'm hoping to keep improving.
Meal prep only if you think it’s something that could help you and you want to make the decision on your own. It will end badly if someone else decides for you and you are setting yourself up for failure. If you are unsure of what to make, look for inspiration on instagram, on google, or experiment with your own dishes on other days. Once you find a meal to make, make sure you buy enough ingredients. You might think there are too many ingredients to buy for a recipe or it may seem like a lot to cook at once, but you have to remember that each meal will be portioned for one serving size a day. You may need a few pans or some more counter space, so plan ahead and try to play a little Tetris consolidation. Good luck, stay tuned for more cooking tips, and Happy Meal prepping!