Pack your lunch

Monday Mantra:

Feel a little bit good, feel a lot bad later. Feel a little bad now, feel a lot good later.

This is to remind me that eating that cupcake will only make me gassy and bloated, and while waking up at 5 AM to work out sucks, it is worth it in the end. Repeat it as needed, every day, every hour, whatever you need.

I’m not gonna start with the basics. Everyone knows to eat right and hit the gym. That’s the “easy” part. These other tricks are the seemingly simple things that will make all the difference but for some reason they are SO HARD. That’s where I come in- some of these I mastered, some of these we are going to master together.

On to the trick of the day! It’s a super simple one. But it’s one I see people around me struggle with constantly.

Pack. Your. Lunch.

Yes! Women who eat out for lunch, even just once a week, weigh more than those who don’t. And while eating out in general can cause weight gain, lunch is a big one that can be easily fixed.

My first job out of college was awful. Lunch hour was our sacred hour. If you didn’t go somewhere for lunch, you were stuck and no one wanted to be in that God-forsaken office longer than they needed to be. So it was Subway, Panera or (worse of all) the greasy local pizza place. This did not help my post-grad body. When I quit, I got a job nannying. You can’t just run out to grab something to eat when you’re watching an infant and a preschooler. And the mom didn’t exactly buy “lunch-appropriate” food for me. Or even snacks. It was the one babysitting job where I had no desire to raid the pantry.

So I had to bring my lunch. If I didn’t bring it, I didn’t eat. I carried this over in NYC too- mostly because I was poor but it had become a habit as well. But I made some rookie mistakes that led me to fall out of the habit on occasion (3 out of 5 days I did bring lunch though. That’s always remained pretty consistent). And if you’re in a job where you MUST escape the office- take your packed lunch to a park and eat it there. Just remember to grab a napkin and silverware if necessary.

Here are some of the traps I fell into early on that I hope I can help you avoid.

Mistake #1: Overcomplicating it. I tried to bring a little variety to my lunch so one day was a sandwich, one day a pita, one day a wrap, one day a salad, etc. Not only did this lead to longer prep because I had to make up a combo or look at a recipe for ideas but it added to my grocery bill too. Keep it simple. I make the same salad every day- that may sound boring but I have perfected the combo for myself and I know exactly what ingredients to buy each week and I can throw it together in under 15 minutes. I  give myself variety with breakfast, snacks and dinner.

Mistake #2: Not prepping the night before. If I was hungover before work (a common NYC occurrence), making a salad was not going to happen. Now I have my morning routine down to the minute so that if I don’t make my salad the night before, I will be late to work, which forces me even when I don’t feel like it. Also, why handle a sharp knife at 7 AM if you can avoid it? Eventually it just becomes routine. When the clock strikes 7:30 PM, I know I need to prep for the next day before I can relax in front of the TV or read a book.

Mistake #3: Making the meal TOO healthy. Listen, if you’re going to eat the same lunch every day, it needs to be healthy but it also needs to TASTE GOOD. You will not go more than two days eating dry lettuce or soggy leftovers. Choose something you know you will eat- if you don’t like salads, make a healthy sandwich every day. Or just bring your leftovers from your healthy dinner you cooked the night before. Make sure it’s something you want to eat.

My Veggie Mediterranean Salad Recipe:

2 handfuls of baby spinach (better for you than iceberg!)

5 grape tomatoes

approx. 2 tbs roasted red peppers, chopped

4 baby carrots, chopped

2 thick slices of cucumber, chopped

4 kalamata olives, halved (Healthy fats!)

1/9 of a block of feta cheese (full-fat. This is where that flavor comes in and making it something you actually want to eat.)

approx. 1 tbs sunflower seeds (for crunch)

Protein- normally 3/4 cup of chickpeas but sometimes I swap black beans or I’ll get a rotisserie chicken and use it for the week if I need something more feeling (i.e. that time of the month because, yes, you do burn more calories then).

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The ingredients for this recipe at MOST cost me $30 if I’m starting over from scratch. A bag of baby carrots will last me 2 months and the jars of roasted red peppers and kalamata olives last about a month as well. The feta takes 2 weeks to use and the sunflower seeds can be used for over 2 months as well. So on average I’m spending about $15 a week on lunch groceries max. Compare that to the MINIMUM $35-40 you’re spending on eating lunch out every week. Now, my budget is so that if I had to eat out lunch every day, I don’t know what I would do! It’s just not worth it to me to go to Chipotle. I can make a better burrito bowl anyways. I’ll save my money for dinners out that I can’t make- an amazing etoufee at a Cajun restaurant or the best pulled pork BBQ in Charlotte.

So what will you be packing for lunch tomorrow?? If you can just make this ONE change tomorrow- and the next day- and the next day- think of the changes to your wallet and waistline. What will you do with an extra $100 in your bank account at the end of the month?? And if you still think you can’t pack your lunch, let me know why! We’re in this together- let’s work as a team and brainstorm ways to make this work.

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