Those of you who know me already know that I get excited about stuff that’s…well….not usually exciting. One thing I get super pumped about is food prep. I like planning. I like spending a whole morning cooking and organizing my meals for the week. I like knowing that this few hours will save me a ton of time throughout the next several days. Not only is the food prepped and ready to go, but I also don’t have to spend time THINKING about it.

You know what I’m talking about…. You are either at work at 4pm wondering what’s for dinner and remembering the fridge is bare. Or, you open the fridge and it’s full…..but everything requires actual cooking and it’s already 7:30pm. The kids (and you) need fed NOW.

Both of those scenarios often have the same outcome – heading out to get something to eat. Ugh. Going out to eat is fine, but throwing your hands up and heading to the drive-thru because you’ve not planned well is the last thing you want. When we make rushed, frustrated decisions like this, rarely are they decisions that benefit us long-term.

So, I’m going to take you through my food prep from yesterday – where I cooked and/or prepped the following:

  • One whole chicken
  • A pot of paleo chili
  • A pot of beef-cabbage soup
  • An entree of chicken, baked sweet potatoes, and asparagus
  • Snacks consisting of fresh cut veggies, hummus, and salmon
  • Boiled eggs

One thing I always thought was lacking when I read about doing all this was the “little” things that truly made the tasks easier. Once prepped enough, I came up with some of these on my own so I want to mention those to you along the way.

Soups Need Time

The first thing on my agenda was to get my soups going. The paleo chili wasn’t for me, but it needs to simmer most of the day before being ready for my family. I’m not lying when I say this is the best chili I’ve ever had. It’s “paleo” so there are no beans. The other soup was on my assigned meal plan for the week from my trainer, a beef-cabbage soup. I started my morning by browning all the ground meat for these two soups, as well as cooking the vegetables that will be put in the chili.

Two crockpots later – they are both well on their way!

TIP: For the chili, I end up getting two pans dirty: the skillet that cooks the meat/veggies and the crock pot. That’s it. My whole tomatoes, sautéed veggies, and spices go into the crockpot where I then use an immersion blender to liquify it all at once. No transferring liquids between pots = no splatter.

I Ain’t No Chicken

I then set out to cook my whole chicken. Normally, I just do chicken breasts but the dark meat has some nutritional benefits, so I did the whole chicken this time. One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my Instant Pot. We use it 3-4 times a week, and it’s always used on prep day. I have the 6-quart pot and it’s plenty big for what we use it for. I had to search for a recipe to do a whole chicken because if it comes out too dry – I won’t eat it. So, I did some searching and settled on this one. It came out PERFECTLY!! I had more than what I needed to do my own meals for the week, so the extra will be used for whatever is cooked for the kids on night.

TIP: One of the things that the recipe calls for is to let the chicken cook in a bit of oil at high temps before starting the pressure. Obviously you need to do both sides. In the past, I’ve had one helluva time getting the chicken back out of the Instant Pot to turn it over. It’s hot! However, a few months ago, I bought these nifty little things because our oven mitts kept getting super gross and washing them never seemed to get them clean. (Okay, full disclosure – I’ve gone the silicone direction for a ton of things in the kitchen lately!) With these babies, I was able to simply reach down and removed the chicken, flip it over, and gently set it back inside the IP. I then just washed off the gloves!

Veggies & Hummus & Salmon

My veggies were then cut up while all that was busy cooking. This week, I chose zucchini (yes, I eat it raw), red bell peppers, sugar snap peas, green beans, and asparagus.

Nothing fancy here – I just cut them up and measured out 2 cups and put them in containers with a small soufflé cup of hummus. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been eating hummus again (besides the fact that I love it) is that many brands are super thick. Hummus is expensive!


TIP: Use a good quality oil to dilute your hummus if you find it’s too thick. I like mine with a lighter consistency and the additional oil will not change the taste at all. Also, always read the label when you purchase hummus! There should be NO SUGAR!

As for the salmon…I eat salmon nearly every day. Three ounces in the afternoon with some veggies. I’ve discovered that my Instant Pot can take frozen salmon and have it done in 4 minutes! (Obviously, there’s the additional time to bring it up to pressure.) FOUR MINUTES! I put the frozen salmon fillets on the trivet, set the timer for 4 minutes, and walk away. I use a bit of lemon pepper seasoning for the salmon.

The Dreaded SCALE!!!

Calm down!

I’m talking about a food scale.

I used to have a plastic dial-type scale but recently upgraded to a digital scale since I started measuring and weighing nearly everything I ate. My meats typically get prepped in 3-ounce serving sizes…..MUCH easier to do with a digital scale. (The scale I’ve linked about has over 14K reviews on amazon. I don’t own this one – I got mine at Target.)

My containers, digital scale (to the far right), silicone oven mitts, crock pots, Instant Pot….

Putting It All Together

I wish I could say that assembly is easy, but I find it to be the most difficult part of food prep because I simply don’t have enough room in the fridge for every meal or snack to have it’s own container. I also wish I could say that I used awesome glass prep containers, but I don’t. I use plastic. These are the best I could find, and are also economical and easy to clean. If I’m just going back and forth to the office for the day, I use these. If I’m packing for night shifts, I use my 6-Pack Fitness containers with the actual cooler as these don’t fit as well in my cooler.

However, as I look up the links for you, I’m wishing I’d noticed THESE!!! How fun! I may have to order!

Time Spent Now = Freedom Tomorrow

I can’t stress enough how much time all this will save me this week. You guys know my schedule! It’s either commit to this, or I may as well not even try. I’d much rather commit!

I feel better. It’s much less stressful to NOT think about my food all week. Plus, if some of this can double for the family meals – it’s even better.

*My book – Weight Loss that Works: Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available on KINDLE! And, it will be available in paperback shortly! I’m overlooking the proof as we speak.

*Some of the links above are “affiliate links” – meaning I get a small percentage if you order the product. This does not cost you any extra! Please note that I do not endorse products that I’ve not used myself. If I’ve not used them, the text will say so.

You may have heard the term “macros” thrown around if you’ve been following anything relating to dieting or weight loss. If you aren’t familiar with what it actually means, it’s okay….you can admit it. We’re all friends here.

“Macros” is short for “macronutrients.”

I know, now you’re saying “oh….that TOTALLY clears it up for me!” (I can hear that sarcasm, young lady!)

Macronutrients

There are 3 macronutrients as part of our diet: Proteins, Fats, Carbohydrates. A macronutrient-based plan, or a “macro plan”, is a food plan that is based on eating specific amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. You may not realize it, but when you tried that low-carb diet last year….that was a macro-based plan. A low-fat diet is another macro-based plan. See? You know what this is and you’ve likely already tried it.

Where most people get lost is HOW to alter macronutrient intake so it results in weight loss, increased performance, increased muscle mass, etc. That’s right, how much of each macro you should eat depends on your goals – which adds another layer of complexity to the equation.

Down in one, up in another

The tricky part about coming up with a macronutrient food plan is knowing which of the three should be decreased and which of the three should be increased to compensate for the drop in calories. Stay with me here…I promise I’ll make this easy for you!

Let’s pretend you eat a 1200 calorie diet and that diet consists of equal parts fats, protein, carbs (33.3% for each). You decide you want to try that “crazy low-carb” diet that everyone is talking about. Your plan takes your carbohydrate intake from 33.33% of your calories down to 20% of your calories. You now have 20% carbohydrates, 33.3% fats, and 33.3% protein. If you add those up, it comes to only 86.6% of what you were eating before.

You can keep this lower intake if you wish, but now your total calories have dropped to 1040 because you reduced the percentage of carbohydrates you are eating. If you want to stick with a 1200 calorie diet, you’ll have to INCREASE the percentage of fats or protein (or both). But which…and how do you choose?

Macro Planning

Embarking on a macro-based eating plan is commonly done without a whole lot of thought. But, that’s exactly what needs to take place first – thought.

First – identify your goals. What are you wanting to accomplish with this new plan? Weight loss? Better marathon time? Heavier bench press? Pinpointing exactly what you are wanting to get out of the diet is essential to getting the macronutrient ratios right.

Second – establish your baseline intake. If you don’t know what you’re doing now, how do you know what changes to make? Perhaps you are already eating a low-carb diet. Perhaps you need to increase your protein. The only way to know these things is to keep track of your food intake over a few days.

Third – seek the help of professionals. Believe it or not, everyone needs something different. There are specialists who do just this this! Responsibly setting up your meal plan is essential for your success, regardless of your goals. Not only will professional guidance lead to better results, it can help save you time and money by cutting out all the guesswork.

Where to start….

If you do a Google search, you’ll find lots of plans that may be able to help you set up a macro-based route. You are bound to find some local, in-person help. But, you are also likely to find many online options. One such option that I recently came across is Macros Made Easy – a program by Krista Moreland.

I actually reached out to Krista recently to get a bit more information. It was so refreshing to find someone with the same passion that I have for this stuff! I know that sounds completely geeky – and it is. Point being….I don’t recommend a lot of things because I can’t always guarantee the intentions of people or programs. Actually, in 4 years, she’s only the second person I’ve ever sent people to. So, I couldn’t wait to share this with you. She has a real fire inside her for helping people get this set up AND helping them succeed. I was truly impressed. Now, while my own book discusses macro-based plans – it’s not as in-depth as Macros Made Easy. I go over them as an option, she implements! So, go meet this rock star of a coach!

My ebook Weight Loss that Works: Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available here! Coming in 2019….an intensive, online program!

Weight Loss

Time to come clean

The past few years have been a bit of a challenge for me. I had a job that wasn’t what I expected. My daughter had a health scare (she’s fine). And I traveled 2 weeks out of the month to work as a physician in underserved locations from 2014-2016, leaving my family and routine behind.

Everyone has challenges, I’m no different. But what was different for me was the fact that I was supposed to be an expert on diet, lifestyle, and generally taking proper care of oneself. I confess – I was barely hanging on. I won’t even go into stress or mental health – that’s an entirely different blog post! But, I will go into my struggle to maintain my own weight through all of this – and how it continues to be quite challenging…..despite all the knowledge in my head.

Traveling isn’t easy on the body

I’ll start with the traveling. I actually did relatively well for a really long time. I hardly ever ate out, I traveled with meal replacements, and I stocked my hotel with real foods. I generally did well with my eating unless I was working nights – then all bets were off and I made horrible decisions.

But, working out wasn’t what I was used to. Hotel gyms aren’t usually motivating and I struggled to find outdoor fitness in areas I didn’t know. I had to take long breaks from crossfit, which made it just not worth going as I’d get so sore when I “started again” when I got home. Still – I made it work. I found a place I loved to trail run and that lasted until I was informed there were rattlesnakes up there. I then stopped running there unless it was really cold outside. It was also challenging because I’d be homesick and very tired after working all day. Coming home to a hotel every night isn’t fun, and many nights I went right to bed.

Still, I didn’t do too badly. The real challenge didn’t start until I stopped traveling….and started working nights.

Working overnight takes its toll

I’ve now been working exclusively nights for over 2 years. As the time has passed, I’ve noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to maintain my weight. It’s actually been very challenging.

But, it’s not supposed to be challenging for ME! I’m the weight loss doctor! If I can coach other people, I should surely be able to handle my own weight, right?

Wrong.

Working nights, for me, works for many reasons. And someday I hope to not have to do them, but for now – this is the way that works for me and my family. However, as time has gone one, I find I don’t recover from the shifts as easily and it’s easier than ever to make suboptimal decisions….particularly about food.

Don’t get me wrong – I still eat very well. Just not as well as I used to. The thing is, night shifts set a person up for weight gain just by staying up all night and disrupting the circadian rhythm. This causes cortisol (your stress hormone) to be all out of whack and leads to an inherently higher risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

You guys…. I had my wellness check a couple months ago and, to my horror, my fasting blood glucose was….101!! It’s never been above 70 before.

And cue the reality check!

A realistic assessment & solution

So, I was forced to take a good hard look at what the heck I was doing to myself. I recommitted to a low-carb food plan, but it was far from “clean.” I knew I needed some help with this.

So, I’ve hired a trainer that put me on a strict meal plan and training program. That’s right – I, the weight loss doc, needed help – professional help. I admitted to this woman who I was and what I did…and the fact that I just wasn’t being who I wanted to be from a health and fitness standpoint.

The exact day she handed me my plan, it was like a switch was flipped. I was all in. I drove to the store, bought what I needed. I ordered a few small additional pieces of gym equipment from amazon. And I started the next day.

My progress

I’m going to have to keep you posted on how this progresses. I’m already wearing my jeans more comfortably and I’ve lost a few pounds. But, even more than that – I’m having a feeling that I’ve not had in a long time…PRIDE.

That’s right – one of the things I missed most about myself was the feeling of pride I’d have when I had a good workout, or ran a good race. I’d always been able to self-regulate and make myself do all these things from intrinsic motivation alone. (I once ran 16 miles on the treadmill because the weather was just too bad to go outside and I had a marathon coming up!) But, stress, work, lack of sleep….it all affected my motivation. I kept telling myself that I’d get back on track “next week” or “tomorrow.” And, I did an okay job of attempting it. But, it was never to the degree that made me proud of myself.

Of all the benefits clean eating and a good training program can have, feeling a sense of accomplishment is a big one for me.

Feeling like a fraud

The other thing that has bothered me me throughout this struggle is my ability to identify problems and help others, but I wasn’t able to help myself.

I felt like a big, fat fraud.

I’m trying to think of this a bit differently because I know I’m being hard on myself when I say that. After all – there are plenty of athletic coaches who are geniuses, but never played the sport they coach. Some people just have the ability to motivate others or have an eye for technique. I’d like to think I’m one of those individuals.

But, the bottom line is…. I wasn’t doing what I knew I should be doing! And that’s the part that bothered me. It would be one thing if I was running 40 miles a week and eating strictly clean paleo 100% of the time, but I wasn’t.

Now, I am. (Well….not with running and paleo….but I am 100% on a strict plan.)

Why bother disclosing?

As I considered writing this post – I kept being reminded of how vulnerable people are with me on a daily basis. Thinking about that, I knew I wanted to be just as vulnerable to anyone who trusts me. I also know I can better serve others as a physician and coach if I’m at my own best.

We all have different bodies, chemical physiology, schedules, and mental hangups. And none of us are “on” all the time. I struggle…a lot. I know many of you do too. And, when it comes to needing help – none of us are immune to it. I resisted admitting this to myself for a long time. But, finally, common sense kicked back in and I knew taking better care of myself means I can take better care of others.

My promise

I’m not going to pledge or promise anything to you.

My promise is only to myself – that I will do what it takes to be the best possible version of me, that I will do things the make me proud of myself and give me a sense of accomplishment.

By extension – this makes me a better clinician for YOU.

Stay tuned for updates!

My ebook Weight Loss that Works: Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available here! Coming in 2019….an intensive, online program!

Wait…this isn’t a blog about maintaining a well-kept home!  What gives??  

Stop sweating….I’m not going to discuss housekeeping topics!  (Ew…shudder….if you don’t already know me….  I’m the girl who will choose mowing the grass over cleaning the house any day.)

What is NEAT?

NEAT = non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Huh?

NEAT simply refers to the common daily activities that help burn calories such as fidgeting, walking, or standing.  It’s the energy you burn doing your everyday things but doesn’t include exercise.   

To put it simply, NEAT encompasses all the “little” things you do during the day that can add up to a LOT of caloric burn.  

Why NEAT is so important…

According to an article put out by the Mayo Clinic in 2015, NEAT activities can help a person burn an additional 2000 calories per day depending on the person’s size and level of activity!

That’s not even counting your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the calories you burn just to exist on this planet: digestion, thinking, breathing, cellular processes, etc.  It also doesn’t include your morning workouts!  It’s truly EXTRA calories you burn off by not being sedentary.

NEAT can also help prevent metabolic syndrome – which is a constellation of clinical symptoms that come just before a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.  

But I’m not sedentary….

Okay, maybe you are an active person.  However, I guarantee you still leave NEAT calories on the table.  Our modern world has made it so easy to avoid NEAT activities.  While these things are super convenient, they have contributed to a sedentary society in general.

Here are just a few ways most of us miss out on NEAT benefits:

  • Having your kids run and get things for you.  “Sweety, can you run upstairs and bring down that laundry basket?”
  • Taking the elevator/escalator instead of the stairs.
  • Using the TV remote control
  • Using the garage door opener
  • Winning the standoff for the closer parking spot
  • Not using that stand-up desk your boss made available to you (I wish!!)
  • Driving when we really could walk
  • Watching the kids play while you comfortably observe from the comfort of your lawn chair (GO PLAY!)
Using an automating lawn mower = missing out on a ton of NEAT!

So, while I don’t expect you to get up and manually change the channel on your TV (do they even come with buttons on them to do that anymore?) or get out of your car to open the garage door – I used those as examples of wonderful, modern conveniences that have stolen some opportunities for NEAT.  

Every moment you aren’t moving is a missed opportunity to help yourself avoid weight gain and metabolic issues such as insulin resistance.  (Insulin resistance is a whole ‘nother blog post…stay tuned for that one!)

How to get more NEAT in your life…

If you want to reap the NEAT benefits, look at the list above and see if you are guilty of any of those things.  If so, can a few of them be traded for a manual task?  Or, a task you do yourself versus asking someone else?  

Other options for NEAT can include:

  • Parking farther away than you have to (everywhere)
  • Using your fitness tracker to reach a step goal
  • If it has the capability, set the reminder on your fitness tracker to move every 45 minutes
  • Even if something can be carried in one trip, divide it into two or three trips.  (Seriously, those marks the plastic grocery bags leave on your arms when you try to carry them all at once take all evening to go away!)
  • Don’t pull up and get the mail…park your car and walk back out to the mailbox
  • Yes, I know there’s a short route from your office to the break room – but there’s also a long route….take the long route
  • Make yourself get up and de-clutter an area of your house during each commercial break
  • Manually wash your car
  • Skip the drive-thru…park and go in
  • Chew gum (if that’s your thing)
  • Offer to give your sweety a back rub
You can take advantage of NEAT while you make your house neat!

One last thing about NEAT

Teaching kids to help out with chores is an easy way to teach NEAT.

NEAT is one of those things that is easy to forget.  But it’s also pretty easy to make a habit.  And one of the most important parts of healthy habits is setting an example for the little eyes watching us.

Be sure you engage in behavior that little ones will notice and, eventually, think of as normal.  

There are some very rare days when I just don’t feel like walking the length of the parking lot at the store so I’ll park close…even celebrating the first or second spot if I can score one!  My kids are generally shocked when I do this.  “Mom…why are we parking so CLOSE??”  Ha!  

And if I ask my teenager to get something for me, in the right situations, I’ve actually trained her to say “are your legs broken?”….as a reminder that I’m perfectly capable of getting off the couch and getting whatever it was MYSELF.  (She says it with no disrespect, it’s just a little inside joke.  She also knows if I answer “yes”…she better go get it for me!)

In closing…

NEAT can be an easy, great way to burn some extra calories, lose a few pounds, and help avoid some health issues no one wants to have.  

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

If you’re ready to stop the cycle of dieting for GOOD, let’s discuss ….book a call with me.  If I can’t help you, I’ll try my best to point you in the right direction.



Get my eBook here!

exceptional weight

Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you.  Right?  Let’s not even mention the info you get from your neighbor who is simply convinced her way is the only way to lose weight just because it was successful for her.

Think about it – throughout your life, how much information has been shoved your way regarding the “right” way to eat?

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat.  This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health. 

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what and how you eat and drink.

What you eat and drink

low carb diet
Fruits and vegetables should be a part
of every diet.

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat vs how much you “burn off” with activity) is being challenged by thoughts that other factors that may be just as important.  Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.  And, it’s certainly not going to work for 100% of individuals trying to lose weight.  I already know some of you eat much less calories than you should be, yet still aren’t losing!

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat (over-eating still does exist and we want to avoid it!)  but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.  

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged”/ “ready-to-eat” foods).  This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

Specialty oils can include: Avacado, olive, macadamia nut, walnut, etc
  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack.  You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein.  Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism and helps prevent muscle loss as you age).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones).  There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic eggs, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here.  Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink

Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mealtimes should always be an opportunity to pass
along proper eating habits.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.  This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.  Did you know that it takes a while for your brain to know that your stomach is full?  Sometimes, our mouths are faster than our bodies intended!

Mindfulness also means understanding why you are eating in the first place – Nourishment? Self-soothing?

And don’t forget about drinking your food.  

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.  

weight loss
Make sure you know exactly what’s
in that “healthy” smoothie.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and may be better than stopping for convenient junk food, but many smoothies are loaded with added sugar.  If this is the case, while your smoothie is providing nutrients – it’s also providing he same health consequences as a can of regular soda.  If you are going for smoothies or shakes, it’s always best to make your own so you control the ingredients.  Many smoothies made at popular venues have way too much sugar (or sweeteners).  

Remember, most commercial venues have their nutrition information online – take advantage of this and look up the calories, carbohydrates, and sugars before placing that order!

Summary:

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.  There are many parts to the weight-loss equation.  How much you eat is but one part.  It’s overwhelming to try to decipher all the information out there and put it all together.  But, it can be done.

Dr. Hodges’ ebook Weight Loss that Works:  Secrets to Restoring Confidence and Reclaiming Your Body is now available and can be ordered here.