The biggest challenge that you face when trying to lose weight is not learning HOW to cook, or WHAT to cook, but getting INTO THE HABIT of preparing and cooking regularly enough to make a meaningful positive change in your body composition. Making an effort once in a while is a good start but wont cut it if you want to make real progress. The main problem is not even knowing what the habits are, but the actual implementation of them. So many times in the past have people told me; 'My diet could be better. I know what to eat, and I like cooking, I just don't do it that often'.
If YOUR biggest challenge is learning how to implement good nutrition habits regularly, then MY biggest challenge is showing you a way to do that in simple terms, that makes it easy to implement, and sustainable for the future so that you can really reap the long-term rewards. Choice is mostly seen as a good thing, but the poison is in the dose. Too much choice, and you end up paralzed or stuck between so many choices you end up doing nothing, or trying them all. Both equally ineffective. Case in point; I have a premium Spotify account, which brings unlimited choice in the music I could listen to, yet I listen to WAY more music on my record player, choosing from the 50 or 60 records that are in my collection (which is a combination of borrowed and bought records). I listen to music on record that I would not have got into on spotify because the choice was just so vast. With a limited record collection, I focus on enjoying what I have, and enjoy my music much more within that limited collection compared to unlimited choice on Spotify.
The same applies with food. Unlimited choice taxes the brain in a way that just leaves you tired, and totally unsure of what to, and makes it difficult to build a routine. This might be touching on the deeper subject of our broken connetion with our culture. In every indiginous culture around the world, there exists predetermined foods to eat, and a lot of the time pre-determined times to eat them. The choice is gone, and it requires minimal thinking power. In ancient Ireland, the campfire would have been the location, and the deer would have been the food. No thinking required. In more recent times, the Sunday dinner could be suggested as the equivalent. Rost turkey, potetoes, carrots, peas, gravy. Every Sunday, no questions asked. Thats routine, and routine is what brings results, both negative and positive.
In the absence of cultural eating routines in today's modern age, one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself is to set up eating habits that take very little thought, are easy to make, that include widely available ingredients, and that support your day to day life and your training goals. Here is a solid way you can achieve all of the above, as long as you are willing to spend 30-60 minutes preparing food in the evening.
1. Breakfast (circa 7 am): Cook a bowl of pre-soaked oats with milk, and add a sliced banana, and sprinkle of sunflower seeds. Add a couple of boiled eggs you are super hungry. Prep time 10 minutes.
2. Lunch (circa 12 pm) : A lunchbox portion of whatever you had the night before. Preparation time, zero.
3. Afternoon (circa 4 pm): A big pre-made salad with mixed leaves, 2 chicken breasts, chopped peppers, and any other salad stuff that is available and that you enjoy. Preparation time, zero.
4. Dinner: This is the main food orientated time of the day, and the time when you put the love into making some tasty grub. If you make the most of this time, it takes the thinking out of your food for a full day (total prep time 30-60 minutes). Here are some useful steps for effective use of your time. First, pick a protein source (meat, fish etc). Second pick 2-3 vegetable sources (potato, carrot, broccoli, cabbage etc). Cook up as much as you can in one go of the protein source and the vegetables, and add them to lunchboxes, except for the portion you are going to eat for your dinner. Use the other portion for lunch the next day. While the main dinner is cooking, make up a big salad, and divide into a lunchbox for tomorrow (1-2 portions) and tonight dinner. Soak a cup of oats for breakfast tomorrow morning, and put them aside. This saves time in the morning.
This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.