My Indulging Moment

Ice cream and burgers and chips… oh, my! When we are faced with unhealthy foods we can’t help but be tempted.

Unhealthy food isolated on white background

These are two stories – one from my friend Karol and one from myself. We’ve been dealing with occasions to indulge transforming into overindulgence and struggling to get back on track and it presented an opportunity for us to talk about our personal stories as well as examine the tricky path of navigating sticking to a meal plan in a world that invites us to veer from it daily.

Karol’s Indulging Moment

I had a moment – no it was not a snackccident – during which I ate an entire bag of Recess. It was a moment of shoveling and total chaos in my mind and self control. Yes, it still happens. Yes, it does still happen to ME, very frequently but, sometimes I do indulge. Its human right, it’s normal – right? I was not feeling deprived, as I say nothing taste better than being fit and healthy and confident feels. Then why did I indulge?

I meal prep, I prepare every week, count my calories, macros, carbs, you name it. I am aware of all calories that go in, and out, of my body.

But, on this occasion, I threw discipline to the wind. I was invited to a sit-down dinner – a five-course meal, beginning with a cheeseboard to die for. Then we were on to courses two, three and four. The meal ended with a delicious chocolate desert. I felt had to eat it or someone might ask, “why are you not eating? Go ahead you been working so hard on you.”

The internal struggle is so hard for me. I did not not eat all of every meal – I wasn’t about shoveling it all down – but I felt unstoppable in the moment, all the while knowing this is not healthy for me physically or mentally.

It is true, we condition ourselves to feel this way, and when that moment comes when we feel we have been “deprived” we dig in. I finished it off with a praline later on that night, why not right? Yeah, NOOOOO!

I did not count my calories, did not log into to my Fitness pal. I almost blocked it out of my mind but, my body knows better. I took the next day off the gym, I needed to rest but I felt so bloated and yucky from my meal that I did get up and go to the gym, even if for a few minutes.

I picked myelf up and realized this is not ME and for me, I cannot indulge this way. I have to be accountable for me and it is so easy to turn and slip to a fall and to stay down and grovel and eat and not exercise, but, for me, I can’t do that.

I went grocery shopping the next night and it felt good to prepare myself for the week, now onto mentally preparing and being more mindful of the slip and to be selective when I indulge and yes, account for it in every way.

That is how I move on. Thinking back to the night, I realize had not done this in a long time and, as a result, I felt entitled. I wanted to be a part of the celebration, I did indulge but now back to ME – to my lifestyle of healthy eating, exercise and water and positive self talk, my winning combination.

Jody’s Indulging Moment

Every Saturday night is Date Night Dinner. Each week my boyfriend treats me to a delicious restaurant dinner, and an equally delicious reprieve from cooking. On some occasions I have checked menus online before we went to the restaurant, pre-selected what I would order based on my meal plan so that I can keep to my goals even on weekends or I made sure to eat light throughout the day to accommodate a larger meal and dinnertime. Other occasions… not so much. The last few Saturdays I have treated it simply as an indulgence – what many call a “cheat meal” (although am not a fan of that term). I have stuffed myself with scallion pancakes, fried pot stickers, buffalo “chicken” sandwiches with fries and all manner of yummy high-calorie foods with reckless abandon. Oh, and let’s not forget the desserts. I have paid the price for my carelessness. Immediately after the meals, I have felt lethargic and nauseated, overly stuffed and uncomfortable. I have also felt the pangs of guilt and shame, which are far longer lasting and more damaging to my progress. These meals have cost me my weight loss goals for weeks but, worse, they have chipped away at my discipline and left me on the brink of depression. The latter can and has led to going off my meal plan midweek and skipping workouts at the gym. After these past few weeks, I have felt like a failure, felt weak and frustrated with myself.

In the throes of the aftermath of these indulgence meals, sad and bloated, I promise myself I won’t do it again. I tell myself I never want to feel this way again. And, yet, I do it over and over. Why? Why sabotage myself? Why succumb to something I know is bad for me both physically and mentally? I grapple with this a lot and I always come back to the same thing… because it feels “normal.” It is what normal people do on date night. It is how normal people eat, how normal people relax at the end of a week. Normal people doing normal things in a normal world from which I feel very cut off at times. Participating in the rituals, however damaging, give me a sense of participating in everyday life, a life to which I sometimes feel entitled – and feel cheated out of.

As I have sorted through these feelings, I resolved to write this blog. It is a catharsis; a purging of the thoughts and feelings I have held in and no longer want to carry because they weigh down my spirit. I am fighting every day to stick to my meal plan (admittedly with varying degrees of success); I am working out daily. I am focusing on being disciplined even when my hurting heart may not entirely be in it. This is it – this is me in the wake of indulgence becoming overindulgence, overindulgence becoming habit. This is me fighting to get back on track and asking myself how I can break this cycle.

Tropical Chickpea-Quinoa Salad

This salad is what happens when you do your week’s menu on the first warm Spring day of the season while listening to your favorite beach and surf music playlist. My mood went to a tropical beach and it took my meal plan with it. This salad is light, bright and fresh (not to mention, protein-packed) – perfect for warm weather lunches (at least in my opinion).

Tropical Chickpea-Quinoa Salad

Tropical Chickpea-Quinoa Salad
½ cup Red Onion, chopped
4 oz Cucumber, chopped
1 cup Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5 oz Fresh Pineapple, cubed
5 oz Fresh Mango, cubed
¾ cup dry Quinoa, prepared according to package directions and cooled completely
1 pkg. Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken Strips*, thawed and cut into ½” pieces
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded finely minced
½ cup Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

¼ cup Pineapple Juice
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
Salt & Pepper to taste

Tropical Chickpea-Quinoa Salad

Here’s the easy part. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Combine salad and dressing. Chill until ready to serve.

*Can’t find or don’t like Beyond Meat? No problem! You can opt to use alternate protein choices in this salad, such as drained and pressed extra firm tofu or even real chicken (if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian). Keep in mind this will change the nutritional content.

Nutritional Information*
Servings: 5
Calories: 333; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 259mg; Total Carbohydrate: 41g; Fiber: 7g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 19g

*Nutritional information based on recipe as written with designated ingredients, calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe calculator.

Blueberry-Coconut Oatmeal

When I logged on to GoodEggs (my latest obsession: gorgeous, local organic produce and groceries delivered to your door) last week for my weekly shopping, they had featured fresh blueberries and I knew I wanted to do something with them. From that was born this delicious and creamy oatmeal recipe. It’s so rich and decadent, you’ll think you’re misbehaving but this clean, healthy breakfast is a perfect way to start your day guilt-free.


Blueberry-Coconut Oatmeal

Blueberry-Coconut Oatmeal
1/3 cup Quick Cooking Oats
1/3 cup Light Coconut Milk
1/3 cup Water
1/2 cup fresh Blueberries
1 Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut (Flaked or Shredded), Toasted
1 Tbsp Sliced Almonds, Toasted
1 tsp Black Chia Seeds

Heat coconut milk and water in a small sauce pan over medium heat until boiling. Stir in oats and let cook two minutes. Cover and remove from heat, letting stand for a few minutes until thickened. Serve topped with fresh blueberries, toasted coconut, almonds and chia seeds.

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 1
Calories: 225; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 36g; Total Carbohydrate: 29g; Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 4g

*Nutritional information based on recipe as written with designated ingredients, calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe calculator.

Pumpkin Spice What?

Breakfast is always a challenge – how to get something delicious and nutritious on the table while frantically getting ready for work? The idea of something healthy that went into the fridge the night before and came out in the morning seemed too good to be true. I have been seeing recipes for overnight oats on my Pinterest feed for years and, with Fall quickly approaching and a leftover can of organic pumpkin puree sitting in the cupboard, the Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats seemed like a winner. Last night before bed I lovingly combined rolled oats, vanilla protein powder, almond milk, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into mason jars. It quickly turned thick… dubiously thick. Still, I hoped for the best as I put them in the fridge.


This morning, breakfast was a snap – open jar, stir and serve. The only problem was that I served us two large servings of Pumpkin Spice Paste. It was awful. Neither of us was able to choke down more than four spoonfuls of the unpalatable pulp. After the first bite, I tried to tell myself I could save this recipe tomorrow with some sweetness (maple syrup, perhaps) but by the third bite, I had to admit defeat: this recipe is unsalvageable. I have been a pretty adventurous eater in terms of trying healthy recipes and, for the most part, have been pleasantly surprised. Not everything is the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but most of it is tolerably edible. This is only the second time in all my years of clean, healthy eating when I simply couldn’t muscle through a dish, coaxing myself along with reminders that food is fuel – the first was an instrument of torture masquerading as a vegan quiche. Food is only fuel when you can get it into the tank and the Pumpkin Spice Paste only made it as far as the trash can’s tank. Tomorrow: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal.

Work to Live, Eat to Live

It is often said that there are two kinds of people: those who live to work and those who work to live with the latter being the ideal we all strive to achieve. Your work is what you do to support the life you want to live, it funds the things you want and goals you hope to achieve. I have come to the realization that the same is true of eating: there are those who live to eat and those who eat to live.

You should like your job and you should enjoy the work you do – after all, you are most likely doing it eight hours a day, five days a week or about 35% of your waking hours in a year. Loving your job makes the days go by faster, gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement. For those who live to work, work is everything. They work late nights and early mornings, they take calls and answer emails on the weekends. Personal time? Not really – maybe the random family obligation here or there, perhaps a few casual relationships but the job takes precedence and there aren’t many (if any) personal responsibilities that won’t be sacrificed in order to fulfill a work responsibility.

On the flip side, for those who work to live, what matters most is that your job provides for you, enables you to enjoy the other 65% of your waking hours. Maybe once in a while you get swamped and work late, but overall, when work begins to interfere with your home life, you make changes. When long hours keep you away from home for extended periods of time or miserable working conditions leave you irritable in the evenings or weekends, you address the issue – cut back on hours, talk to your boss, confront whatever is making you unhappy or simply find a new job. Work to live means making the life you hope to lead, your home, your family and loved ones and your dreams your priority. It means letting your job provide for that. This is the way I strive to balance my work and life. I love my job, enjoy my coworkers and I feel fulfilled and proud of the work I do but at 5pm, I leave it all behind. Whether you work to live or live to work, the one thing you don’t get is both. You chose what is most important – the work or the life – then you run with it.

As both a vegetarian/vegan and as a healthy eater, I have heard on a number of occasions, “oh, I could never eat what you eat – I would rather enjoy life.” This is an implication that that food, whether a filet mignon or Double Stuff Oreos, is the thing that drives someone, even if it drives that person into an early grave. The notion that any food is worth shaving a year or two from your life expectancy seems absurd to me now but it shows me that, much like with work, there are those who live to eat and those to eat to live. There was a time when I was a live-to-eater; when my days weren’t more than a collection of hours spent acquiring and consuming food. When I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about what I would eat next and when I wasn’t thinking, I was leap-frogging all over town from one fast food drive-thru window to another. It is inconsequential whether the food I desired me was a sophisticated pyrotechnical display of culinary mastery or bags of Donettes and orange Circus Peanuts; both were forays into overeating, overconsumption of calories and lack of balanced nutrition. I didn’t think I was choosing to eat over all the activities and experiences I desired but that is exactly what I was doing. Like I said, you can’t have both. I wanted my bacon cheeseburger and my banana milkshake but I also wanted to feel good about my body, to be fit and healthy, to be active. The way I chose to eat obliterated any chance of achieving my the dreams I dreamt about what I saw as an ideal life.

At some point in my life, that switch was flipped. I began to look at food the way I look at work. I enjoy the food I eat – I should, after all I eat it all day with my daily meal plan of three meals and two snacks. My food gives me a sense of satisfaction, it is delicious and filling. I actually enjoy my food now in a way I never did before because it isn’t simply a sensation of flavor and texture; it is also a feeling of well-being in knowing what I am eating is good for my body and my soul. Ultimately, food is what fuels the life I want to lead. When I think of my life, imagine the most perfect version of it, I am happy and healthy. When I think to my future and my bucket list, things like climbing Machu Picchu and white water rafting down the American River come to mind. I want to parasail and kayak, I want to travel the country in a tiny Airstream trailer with David. I could do none of those things at 290 pounds, I could do none of those things when I was living to eat. The food I was eating was interfering with the life I wanted to lead, it was making it impossible to enjoy the hours between meals. So I made a change. That isn’t to say that I don’t indulge on occasion. Every time we pass through Santa Cruz, we stop at Saturn Cafe and split vegan chocolate-peanut butter milkshake – it is an experience, a shared moment and a memory made and we can have a milkshake once every few months and continue to live the life we want. We have our memories of sharing way too much pizza and diving into a decadent slice of Opera Cake because these are special days, not routine. Every week, when I sit down to plan our meals, I make sure that we are eating healthfully and our bodies are being nourished in a way that make it possible for us to do whatever our hearts please with our lives and bodies, make us feel limitless and strong.

It was a journey that brought me here – from live to eat to eat to live – and it was a transition that took time. It required I changed everything I thought and knew about food, it required I change how much I value my self and my body. It required a willingness to not follow the crowd, not do the popular thing. It required I devoted myself to learning everything I can about diet and nutrition. It required I re-learn how to cook. It required my palette to change and my body to stop craving processed foods and refined sugars and start craving natural fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. It was a journey but I am here and I have to tell you – this is SO MUCH BETTER! You may think, “oh, I could never do that, I would rather enjoy life” and you should enjoy life – but food is not life. Life is so much more, life is so much better. I have never eaten anything (and, believe me, I have eaten a lot) that tasted as good as I felt the moment I ran across the finish line of the Crescent City Classic for the first time. I have never eaten anything that tasted as good as I felt the day I realized that plus sized clothing was too large for me and I could start shopping the regular departments at my favorite stores. I have never eaten anything that tasted as good as I felt during my last physical at the doctor’s when I was told I was the picture of good health. I don’t mean for this to sound preachy, I don’t mean for it to sound judgmental. Truly, it is with nothing but love in my heart and wishes that everyone could be the best possible versions of themselves that I tell people how much better it gets, how worth it this all is. Eat to live – eat to live the greatest life you have ever imagined in your wildest dreams.


Taking some time off from weighing in. Just eating right, working out and not stressing on the numbers.

The Harry Nilsson Smoothie: Put the Lime in the Coconut

This protein smoothie – my newest culinary invention – was genuinely inspired by Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut” and I believe it tastes best when prepared while singing. The recipe started out as a Key Lime smoothie taken from Oxygen Magazine but I put my own spin it, making it vegan and amping up the coconut. Truthfully, my mind has been in the tropics lately – Summer is here, the weather is warm, the beach is calling and a refreshing, island-style smoothie seems like the perfect way to start the day. It is a frozen banana-based smoothie but you can easily substitute avocado for the banana for a less-sweet, lower-carb version.


The Harry Nilsson Smoothie
100 grams banana, frozen
1 scoop protein powder (I used Sun Warrior Warrior Blend Raw Vegan Protein in Vanilla)
8-oz non-dairy milk (Organic Protein Almond Milk Unsweetened Vanilla)
1/4 cup lime juice (I use key lime)
1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
1 tsp black chia seeds
1 tsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp raw shelled hemp hearts
1/2 tsp lime zest

Harry Nilsson Coconut-Lime Smoothie

Combine all ingredients in a blender or NutriBullet and blend until smooth and don’t forget to sing… You put the lime in the coconut, you drink ’em bot’ together.

Nutritional Information*
Serving Size: One Smoothie
Calories: 351; Total Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 8g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 404mg; Total Carbohydrate: 27g; Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 12g; Protein: 32g

*Nutritional information based on recipe as written with designated ingredients, calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe calculator.

“Chill Out” Watermelon, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Ah, the brink of Summer – it’s almost here, can you feel it? Warm days, relaxing evenings spent on the patio and a bevy of delicious, fresh Farmers Market fare. While Autumn is my favorite season thanks to Halloween, sweater weather and root-veggie laden comfort foods, you really can’t beat Summer with its amazing produce. When the days get hot, what can help you chill out better than the cool flavors of watermelon and cucumber, the sweet tang of sun-ripened tomatoes? This recipe was born from the desire to capture Summer in a bowl. Plus it’s healthy and easy to make when it’s just too darned hot to hang out in the kitchen – especially if you do like I do and get your quinoa cooked up in advanced and cooled overnight in the refrigerator.

“Chill Out” Watermelon, Cucumber & Tomato Salad
5 cups (28 oz) diced Watermelon
12 oz Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 cups Cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 cups Quinoa, cooked and chilled
5 oz Baby Lettuces (or salad greens of your choice)
1 block Extra Firm Tofu, pressed (see note) and diced into small cubes
1/4 cup Mint leaves, chopped

4 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tsp Bee Free Honee (or other vegan honey substitute)
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl or layer on serving dish. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss and chill out!

“Chill Out” Watermelon, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Note on tofu pressing: If you have never pressed tofu, don’t worry – it is easy. Drain the tofu then wrap in a few layers of paper towel. I place the tofu on one cutting board (or plate, cookie sheet or other flat surface). Place a second cutting board or other strong flat surface on top. Set heavy objects – canned beans work great for this, as do big cookbooks – on top. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, pressing the excess water out. Once the tofu is pressed, you can dice it.

Nutritional Information*
Servings: 4
Calories: 338; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 84mg; Total Carbohydrate: 47g; Fiber: 7g; Sugar: 25g; Protein: 16g

*Nutritional information based on recipe as written with designated ingredients, calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe calculator.


208.2 (2 pounds lost this week, 6.8 pounds lost total)

Super Power PB&B Smoothie

This is one of my favorite recipe “inventions.” Many, many moons ago, “fat Jody” was trying to lose weight and she’d found a simple recipe for a simple smoothie somewhere – one frozen banana, one cup of milk, one teaspoon of vanilla. I remember mornings in Martinez before the sun came up, sitting on my back porch with the tea lights lit and sipping on my banana smoothie, hoping it was the magic elixir that would whisk away all the weight I’d hope to shed. A number of years later, when I was learning about diet and nutrition and finally succeeding in weight loss, I resurrected that simple smoothie recipe and it has evolved over time until it became what I call the Super Power PB&B Smoothie. I drink it most often for breakfast and you will see it frequently in my meal plans – it helps me to power through my morning without getting hungry. It would be great for anytime you needed an easy and easily-digested punch of major protein.

Super Power PB&B Smoothie
100 grams banana, frozen
1 scoop protein powder (my favorite: Beyond Organic Raw Protein Powder in Vanilla)|
2 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (Just Great Stuff – Protein Plus)
8-oz non-dairy milk (Organic Protein Almond Milk Unsweetened Vanilla)
1 tsp black chia seeds
1 tsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp raw shelled hemp hearts
1 tsp Spirulina

Combine all ingredients in a blender or NutriBullet and blend until smooth. Don’t like banana? No problem… this becomes the Super Power PB&J Smoothie when you substitute frozen strawberries for the banana. Enjoy!



Nutritional Information*
Serving Size: One Smoothie
Calories: 356; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 416mg; Total Carbohydrate: 37g; Fiber: 10g; Sugar: 16g; Protein: 39g

*Nutritional information based on recipe as written with designated ingredients, calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe calculator.

The Not-So-Secret Secrets of My Success

The questions I am most often asked about my weight loss are questions pertaining to my diet and meal planning. Before I go any further, I want to explain that when I use the word “diet,” I am not referring to what our culture has come to know as a diet – a specific set of rules and limitations designed for temporary use in achieving short term weight loss, for example, “I am going on a diet.” For me, the word “diet” is the dictionary definition: a collection of foods and drinks considered, as a whole, in terms of its qualities, composition and effects on overall health and wellbeing. I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet – my diet consists of fruits, vegetables, roots, seeds, nuts, legumes, grains and fungi and their derivatives. I could easy digress on the detailed philosophies of my diet, but that would be a blog for another day. While my choices of healthful, organic and natural foods go a long way towards achieving overall health, my weight loss is governed by the simple principle of calories in versus calories out, which I achieve through careful meal planning and preparation.

As much as we try to make weight loss a complicated, frustrating and nearly impossible endeavor, it is really a very simple and reliable formula. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight, you lose weight. If you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight, you gain weight. To lose weight, simply calculate your current Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR: number calories per day your body is using for both normal body function – breathing, digestion, cell multiplication, maintaining body temperature, etc. – plus the energy your burn in everyday activities like standing, walking. ) and subtract calories. The internet has many free RMR calculators. The one I recommend most highly is at WebMD. This site will not only calculate your RMR, it will give you vital information pertaining to your current physical condition, optimal physical condition and detailed calculations for recommended caloric intake for healthy weight loss. This is the information I use for my meal planning.

I do want to make one quick note regarding Hypothyroidism. If you are part of the 4.6% of the adult population who is afflicted with Hypothyroidism, all this goes out the window. If you have difficultly losing weight and display other symptoms of Hypothyroidism , such as fatigue, dry skin, cold sensitivity, increased cholesterol, muscle weakness and aches, thinning hair, joint pain, etc., get thee to a doctor. If you meticulously and honestly count calories, workout, drink water and maintain a healthy lifestyle and still fail to lose weight and you suspect another medical condition could be standing in the way, get thee to a doctor. If you simply struggle to lose weight – like most of us – the problem is, in all probability, simply an issue of caloric consumption.

Even the best of us make mistakes trying to guesstimate caloric intake. I struggled for years, growing increasingly frustrated at my inability to lose weight, genuinely believing I wasn’t eating that much. It didn’t feel like I ate that much. I was hungry all the time, I was eating dry tuna on rice cakes and Healthy Choice frozen entrées– I must have been ok on my calories, right? Wrong. The numbers simply don’t lie, The formula is pretty much foolproof. My success came when I stopped eyeballing my portion sizes, doing “mental math” to figure out my caloric intake, free-wheeling on meal choices and I started meal planning and pre-prepping my food. As a result, I can tell you exactly how many calories will pass my lips over the course of the day – today it will be 1253 (I aim to eat between 1250-1275 daily). By planning my meals in advance, I take out not only the guesswork but also the hours spent standing in front of the refrigerator, scratching my head in bewilderment. I don’t worry about getting the proper nutrition, nor do I worry about getting hungry throughout the day. It is all there, organized by meal in nice, neat little rows of reusable plastic containers and Ziplock bags.

So, how do I do it? First and foremost, I aim for a day of balanced nutritional distribution. I eat three meals and one to two snacks per day, factoring in calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. If you eat processed foods – anything with a barcode – keep an eye on your sugar and sodium intakes as well – sugars turn to stored fat, sodium causes water retention. Every meal or snack is within 100 calories of the others and other key macronutrients are also within a close range, evenly distributing my caloric and nutrient intake over the course of my day, staving off hunger and keeping my metabolism working at a constant rate.

My second goal in meal planning is to load up on as many nutrient dense, low calorie foods like fruits and vegetables as possible. When working with a limited caloric intake, it is key to maximize every calorie you consume by making sure it comes with a punch of vitamins, minerals and other micro and macronutrients. There is no room in my daily meal plan for the empty calories of sodas, sugary fruit juices, refined sugars and flours, highly processed nutrient void foods and, yes, alcohol. Tracking and calculating foods can seem daunting but, thanks to modern technology, there are easy resources at our fingertips. There are a number of fantastic and free online tools for meal planning and calorie counting. and are two examples but my favorite is MFP lets me plan meals, calculate the calories in recipes, add foods to the already-massive food database, get feedback and support through community blogs and forums, manually enter exercise and link up many third-party fitness apps to track calories burned during workouts. Its free mobile app also had a nifty barcode scanner for adding foods to meals.

The third key to my meal planning is accuracy: I weigh and measure everything. Anyone serious about weight loss should purchase a digital food scale – they are inexpensive and extremely effective. Rather than add a cup of mushrooms to a recipe (face it, no two cups of sliced mushrooms will weigh the same), I weigh them on then add the most accurate caloric count possible to my meal plan. The USDA calculates all nutritional content based on weight in grams – weighing is the way to go. It may seem like an annoying extra step but remember what I said about guesstimating calories? We are terrible at it. Just weigh the food and know for sure.

Pre-prepping has also been instrumental in my success. Most of us are busy people, constantly on the run, and I am no exception. If my food isn’t convenient and can’t go from fridge to mouth in 15 minutes or less, I am likely to skip it and opt for some kind of convenient takeout food. By pre-prepping, I minimize the amount of time, effort and number of dirty dishes to wash. Once my meal is planned and groceries are purchased, I take a few hours in the evening to prepare as much of the food as I can – that can mean washing greens and running them through the salad spinner, chopping vegetables, toasting nuts, even preparing entire recipes. I then divide my meals into containers and organize it in the fridge by for grab-and-go accessibility. For instance, this morning I put a sweet potato in the microwave for 5 minutes. While that cooked, I sautéed pre-washed greens in some coconut oil. The greens went into a bowl, topped by the potato, some vegan chorizo seitan and pre-toasted walnuts. Breakfast was served in under seven minutes and it was high in protein and fiber, contained zero processed foods, additives or preservatives, was only 274 calories and was absolutely delicious.

These are all routines you can adopt and personalize for yourself. To make this work, choose foods and recipes you love. If you hate oatmeal, please don’t plan on eating oatmeal for breakfast (but DO eat breakfast, eat it every day!) Experiment with your favorite things. Scour cooking blogs for new and exciting recipes. Bulk up skimpy serving sizes with veggies (I love tossing bagged broccoli slaw into pasta sauce to bulk up an otherwise sad, meager looking little dinner.) If the mere idea of eating the same food for four to six days in a row comes across as unfathomably boring to you, as it does to many, find a way to incorporate the same key ingredients into slightly different recipes or juggle your meals – what is lunch one day is dinner the next – to help you save money on groceries, be able to pre-prep meals but dodge monotony. The fundamentals are always the same – create a calorie deficit while achieving good nutrition and being accurate and accountable with your calculations. Don’t guess, don’t eyeball portions, have a plan for your whole day in place before you wake up in the morning. Take these principles and find what works for you.