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I’mma just come right out and say it…planning is nerdy.  And meal planning for weight loss seems like a good idea in theory.   But in reality your life is too crea for it to work, right? It would never work for you.

Which is fine.  But please, humor me for a sec.

We can both agree that losing weight takes time.  

meal-planning-weight-loss-agreed

Between the meal prep, cooking, working out you’re looking at at least 5-10 hours a week.  

And your weekdays are chaos.  Work, getting the kids ready for school, sports at night, trying to put a decent meal on the table then having some you time before you start the shit show again tomorrow.  Like the great Gwen Stafani once said “This shit is bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s”.

When it comes down to it, people get stuff done that is either important, or what seems important.  

The Missing Piece of Consistency 

Consistency is the biggest roadblock between you and the body you want.  I have the data to prove it:

While eating is ahead of consistency, IMO they are two ways to say the same thing…consistency.

Ya know what helps with consistency?  A plan, and here’s a study to prove that.

Researchers compared the difference between motivation alone vs motivation and intention (planning). Here’s what they found:

* The Control Group was instructed to keep track of how often they exercised over the course of two weeks, and given a few lines of a neutral book to read. The results: 38% exercised.

* Group A (Motivation) was also instructed to keep track of exercise frequency, but instead of reading the portion of the neutral novel, they were told to read a pamphlet outlining the benefits of exercise on heart disease risk. The result: 35% exercised.

* Group B (Intention) was treated the same as the Motivation group, except for one thing: they were also asked to set a schedule for when they would get exercise over the course of the two weeks, as well as how long the workout would be and where it would take place. The result? An impressive 91% exercised.

The study concluded that setting an intention allowed people to delegate control of their behavior to the environmental cues (their schedule), so when they see their schedule, it triggers an automatic behavior.

In other words, the decision to exercise was pre-made, so they didn’t struggle with it when the time came.

Guard That Shit

Let’s look at it another way.

We can agree that money is important.  It’s nice to buy things and it makes us feel like we are successful.  So you guard your money.

You put it in banks and not under your mattress.

You invest it to make more.

And the thought of wasting money pisses you off.

And the pretty sweet thing is, you can always make more money. The thing you can’t make more of is time.  This isn’t the Justin Timberlake blockbuster In Time ( I hope you picked up on the sarcasm).  You gotta to guard that shit.

meal-planning-weight-loss-in-time-movie

The one workout you got in this week because things kept coming up won’t get easier next week.  I promise you, next week won’t be less busy. Was there ever a time that things didn’t come up at free random?  Your life isn’t going to get less crazy next week or next month. Plan for it.

Setting a schedule is like the scaffolding used to hold up a building.  Schedules give us a framework. A framework of success…sorry I had to. 

When you don’t have a framework, decisions become chores and the stuff you want to do goes out the window.  

Identify Your Values 

meal-planning-weight-loss-Nir-Eyal

Let’s try something real quick.  Think about your perfect weekday.  And yes I said weekday on purpose. I want you to factor in work.  Now where does your time go on this perfect day outside of work?

Family?

Fun?

A hobby?

A nap?

Your perfect day shows your values.  And your values are the little things inside yourself that guide your actions.

But most people don’t make time for their values.  You get distracted with your Instagram feed, what some idiot is saying on Twitter, or you’re just buried in work.

Days and months go by on this path and you neglect your values.

Your diet falls off because you don’t have time to cook.

Can’t get to the gym because you have a big work project.

Don’t have time to play with your kids because you’re looking at butts on Instagram.   

This keeps you from living your best life and you start to become someone you aren’t proud of.  The weight packs on and 6 months down the road you’re like WTF happened?

Meal Planning For Weight Loss

If you spend more time on picking out what you are going to wear than figuring out what you’re going to eat, you’re going to have trouble with consistency and seeing results.

Leaving things to chance is a fools game.  So the first step to making a schedule is to identify your values.

What is the shit you want to do along with the shit you need to do?

Think/Write out the things you need to do:

Work -gotta pay the bills

Family time – Can’t disappoint your people

Now what are some things you need to do to get in shape? –

Cook – need food

Workout – gotta get buff

Prepare for the next day – If you don’t plan, you plan to fail

Meal Times – gotta eat

Finally, whatever else tickles your fancy.  These are the “want to do’s”?

Set Priorities

Next set your priorities.  Number your activities 1 through whatever based on what importance.  Set your most important task first 

Then look at your week and schedule blocks of time for these tasks.

A big part of this is assuming nothing is off the table.  A great example is working out in the morning. It’s fine you aren’t a morning person.  You’re talking to the guy that used to play Madden until 4am, then sleep til noon everyday.  Believe me, I get it. But the good news is you can become a morning person if you need to. When you come in with assumptions you’ll always find ways things can’t get done.  And guess what, they won’t. Be optimistic that you can get everything done now, and when you review become a realist.  

meal-planning-weight-loss-schdule

Here’s my schedule, let’s break it down quickly.

Here are my values arranged by their priority:

My wife and son

My workout

Eating healthy food

My website

Video games

Since the morning is when I’m most creative and everyone is still in bed, that’s when I get my workouts and website work in.  No distractions.

Right after work and before I pick up my son I stop at home to prep tomorrow’s lunch from last night’s leftovers or food I make on Sunday morning.  

Then I pick up my son and I’m in charge of cooking so I make space for that.  And if I’m not actively stirring or checking something in the oven I’m playing with my son.  I’ll admit sometimes it’s stressful with a yelling 10 month old while I’m trying to check on the vegetables and it would be a lot easier to order a pizza or pick something up on the way home but that would go against my core value of eating healthy food.

After dinner and the weekends are all about family time.  And if we aren’t doing anything on Friday night, it’s usually Video Game Friday where I get a few hours to myself to play.

Social media and email are necessary for the website so it’s scheduled in small blocks of time.  Other than that I don’t check it. In fact, I turn all notifications off on my phone so I’m not tempted.

Each week my life is in line with my values.  And if there is something else I’d like to add in, I schedule time for it.

The Feedback Loop 

This is arguably the most important part.  Also, the most forgotten.

Let’s say you make a schedule and Week 1 you follow it about 50%.  You figure it’ll never work for your life so you trash it.

Bad move, bro.

Your first draft is going to suck.  Accept it. If you can follow it anywhere near 50% I’d consider that a huge success.

The power of the schedule lies in the review sessions.

Each week look at your schedule to review.  And this is where you become a realist.

Where did you succeed?  

Where did you slip up?  

How can you make the slip up happen less?  

Do you need to allocate more time somewhere?  

Goal isn’t to be perfect, but to refine.  

Like making a good quality alcohol, you want to get all the crap out.  This review session is your distillation process.

Knowing you’ll slip-up is the secret to sustainable schedule making. Every time you fail, you have an opportunity to learn, adapt, and improve how you use your time to better accomplish what you want.  

You don’t want to make changes on the fly, that would defeat the purpose of a schedule in the first place. Instead, build in a way to review and revise.  Once a week for 15 mins is all you need. 

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