When I first started training as a coach, I never expected planning to be a prominent feature of my work with clients; after all, I was one of the most disorganised people I knew! My complete lack of organisation was reflected in my own levels of stress throughout my life and it was only after working with a coach myself that I began to appreciate the importance of structure, routines and time-tables; suddenly I became significantly more productive and effective in my work, together with being generally more satisfied in life.
You might be reading this and be thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know this, but what's this got to do with health?"
What's planning got to do with health?
Just imagine, you're a successful company exec or entrepreneur; you manage a team, you have big responsibility, you have a full schedule and maybe even a PA to make sure that everything runs smoothly. You make hundreds of important decisions every day. You work very hard and, after a long day and potentially also a long commute home, you realise that you have no idea what you want to eat for dinner; you have nothing in your fridge, and you're just too tired to even think about it. What do you do? Rummage around in the back of your cupboards and have that old tinned stuff that you bought over a year ago? Get a take-away? Go to your local Italian? Grab something ready-made from the supermarket on the way home? Skip dinner entirely?
Now imagine a new scenario; you're a successful professional, you balance a structured schedule with spontaneous creative thinking and brainstorming. You have your energising lunch that keeps you going through the afternoon. You're in a good mood despite the pressure and you finish the working day with a real sense of achievement. You arrive home and immediately start throwing together a wonderfully tasty and healthful meal without much thought. You don't feel too full, bloated or guilty after the meal as it's bursting with all the nourishment that makes you feel great. You sleep really well and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.
The second scenario isn't utopia, it is possible; what it takes is planning and organisation.
By taking the decision-making process out of the equation, you are dramatically reducing stress (which in itself creates free-radicals that are detrimental to your health), and increasing well-being. By planning your meals you eat better, by eating better you feel better, when you feel better everything is easier. Fact.
How do you plan for great energy and optimal health?
This is best done on the weekend, or when you have the headspace for it.
Step 1: Know what meals work for you; what foods do you enjoy that also make you feel physically and mentally at your best? Make a list. (If you don't know what these are, make an appointment with me now!)
Step 2: Know how many meals need preparing; How many meals a week do you / would you like to prepare yourself? Work out when you are at home, how much time you have to cook, who else is eating with you at each meal. Check your diary to anticipate likely changes.
Step 3: List all the meals for the following week and create a time-table. Some people get into a rut with recipes, so it's a good idea to add one new recipe to trial out, or plan to make something you haven't had in a long time. Additionally, I recommend that you consider cooking up bigger batches so that you can either have the remainder for lunch / dinner the following day or freeze it for another time.
Step 4: List the ingredients you need for the recipes. This is groundbreaking stuff, I know!
Step 5: Add all the extras. Remember to consider the cooking basics you might need, eg. extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, pink himalayan salt, herbs, spices, etc. Don't forget to include whatever you need for breakfast and snacks, too!
Step 5: Decide when you're going to do the shopping. Block out the time in your diary and create consistency. My personal preferred way of shopping is doing it online as it saves me time and means that the shopping is really focussed, ie. I only get what I need. I highly recommend organic veg box deliveries and there are plenty of other online places you can get all your other day-to-day needs. If you have an outstanding local farmer's market, that's a lovely thing to do, but don't allow it to become a burden.
By taking the time to do this planning once a week, you remove the stress later on in the week. You also ensure that you waste less food, that you make better choices, that you are supporting your health and feel better about yourself. This in turn improves the relationships around you. It's really a win-win-win situation!
For those of you who love spontaneity and being creative, you can still be creative with the recipes and also allow yourself space for spontaneity within your planning. Howevever, if you get stressed about dinner-time, it's a very good idea to get more organised and simply adjust the plan to suit to your needs.
If this post struck a cord with you, now is the time to do something about it: What action are you going to take in the next 24 hours to make a change in your life in order to reduce your stress and increase your vitality? If you're already pretty good at planning your meals, can you add any more useful tips? I love your comments, please share them below!