I decided to invest in one of the Fitness Blender 4 week meal plans and for us to challenge ourselves to do it throughout June. (Before I continue, Fitness Blender didn't ask me to write this post about their meal plan. It was something I bought of my own volition and felt the need to review. I don't get any benefit from talking about it.)
I just really felt that I needed a reset on my eating and also needed to not "think" for a bit if that makes sense. For the last few months I've been putting together menus each week for us, and I just wanted a month where someone else planned meals for me and put it into a calendar so that I didn't have to think about it. This meal plan is exactly that, 4 weeks of mapped out breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks a day with a shopping list each week. And you guys remember how mad I was at Kelli awhile back for being weird about calorie counting? Well guess what this meal plan is based on? CALORIE COUNTING. I mean I'm glad, I think any fitness person worth their salt will tell you that calories matter, I just found it amusing honestly since they've borderline vilified calorie counting in the past. Anyway, you choose a calorie level based on your needs and it gives you the ingredient portions you need per recipe. This is 100% what I wanted on every level.
I suppose you would call it a "clean eating" meal plan, though I'm loathe to label it that since people have so many interpretation of what clean eating means. My definition of what it SHOULD be is wholesome, nutritious food cooked simply, and that thankfully seems to be what Daniel and Kelli's definition is as well. I know some clean eater people are very extreme about everything having to be organic or plucked that morning from a mountain top in Tibet, but thankfully this meal plan is more like a basic lean meats, plant based proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts kind of a thing. There is also plenty of "fun" stuff like cheese, bread and full fat dairy. You can customize the plan a bit according to your needs, likes or dietary restrictions.
|Hummus and Vegetable Wrap with Clementines|
|Mango & pineapple smoothie bowl topped with blueberries, coconut and granola|
We're actually about to finish up Week 4, and I have to say that barring a couple of adjustment period things, I have learned more from this meal plan than I expected and it changed me a bit more than I thought it would. Here are some of my observations as this thing is wrapping up:
1) I wasn't eating as many vegetables as I thought I was
I love vegetables (other than water chestnuts, those can go to hell) and I considered myself someone who eats a decent amount of them, but the plan actually showed me that I don't eat nearly as many as I could be. I tend to gravitate towards oatmeal for breakfast, but many of the breakfasts on this were egg and veggie creations, and of course lunches/dinners were pretty veggie heavy. I realized just how often I was missing opportunities to add vegetables to my meals, and going forward I want to keep up the trend of getting my veggies in!
2) I was being complacent about counting my calories
It's easy to get "comfortable" when you've been trying to lose weight for a million years and start slacking off on the little details that matter, which is exactly where I was at. Yeah I was counting calories, but there were definitely times where I didn't measure or log a splash of oil while cooking, didn't level off a tablespoon of peanut butter, etc. Those types of things do add up week to week. I found that by using the measurements given and honestly tracking, the scale moved again pretty easily.
3) It gave me cooking inspiration
Some of the meals were combinations of things I liked but wouldn't have necessarily put together, like a white bean and avocado wrap, or making a breakfast cereal with quinoa and apples but ended up really loving! I also really loved some of the bean and vegetable salads on the menu and am excited to start incorporating more of those into my day to day.
|One of the many filling, delicious chickpea salads|
The biggest adjustment for me (besides eating a larger breakfast) was eating 3 snacks a day. I am not really a snacker at all, and my attitude has always been that I'd rather have bigger meals than "waste" calories on snacks. It was tough for me mentally to fit in all of these snacks initially, but at week 4 I have to say...I like having my snacks now! It's not like they are mind-blowingly exciting, they are simple things like a clementine with string cheese, grapes and almonds or an apple with peanut butter. But there is something about having that little something extra to tide you over that's really nice! I'm finding that I'm less hungry between meals, stick to more reasonable at portions at meals and also eating a wider variety of foods as a result.
5) My lifting performance is better
I've been amazed at the difference I've felt while being on this plan, which happened to run parallel to my FB Mass program. I've had so much more energy during my lifting routines and have even hit some little PR type milestones. Some of that is a result of me really committing to pushing myself, but I also believe the food I've been eating has really helped give me additional energy and dive.
|Baked salmon with pineapple salsa, asparagus & quinoa|
Our policy when beginning this plan was that we would designate one meal a week that would be a treat meal. Not a day mind you, a meal. That's worked out very well because it's kept us from feeling stressed about this plan, and also because it's realistic. We go to concerts, we like checking out new places in Portland and caloric meals are just going to happen for us. It's fun because these meals are a "to do" now and feel much more special since they only happen once a week. But I've noticed that even with my treat meals, I've been gravitating towards things that are still on the healthy side. Some recent treat meals have been a hummus and veggie wrap with a handful of fries, grilled fish tacos, and I *gasp* got a salad at happy hour the other night instead of a burger. I've also strictly limited my drinks at these meals to two. I can say that I 100% enjoyed myself just as much and didn't really feel sad about not picking the things I would normally have gotten.
7) It's helped my nightly sugar cravings
It's no secret that I love my desserts. If you commanded me to choose giving up alcohol or sugar, I would without hesitation never take a drink again, because chocolate is life. I didn't realize how used I was to grabbing a small bit of ice cream or something every single night to the point of dependency until being on this plan. Dessert isn't evil per say, but it's also not great to feel compulsive about "needing" a piece of cake at night or whatever. It was really hard at first, but now I'm finding that I'm just as happy in the evenings with my evening snacks. Some examples have been almonds and a piece of fruit, peanut butter on either a banana/apple or a rice cake and berries with yogurt. It's not like I never want dessert ever again, trust me I do, but it's really good to not feel so compelled to have something like that every single night. This ties in with treat meals, but when I've had dessert during our treat meals, it's felt a lot more special than when I was having it every single night!
8) It's made me happy with less
The measurements on this plan were originally a bummer and seemed so little, like only a teaspoon of olive oil to cook with, or a half tablespoon of peanut butter. As time has gone on, I've sort of shifted into being just as happy with the smaller amounts. This is probably the biggest thing I struggle with in life and in my weight loss, so it was good to challenge myself to still eat things I like, but to limit them. In my head, if half a tablespoon of peanut butter is awesome, then 2 tablespoons is super extra awesome! But in reality, cutting back that portion allows me to 1) still have the thing I want 2) save calories for other things so that I can have a bigger variety of food all day.
Obviously overall, I really loved the plan and got a lot of value out of it. I've definitely lost weight (when FB Mass and the plan officially wrap up, I'll post a wider results update), feel really great and feel like I've gained new knowledge about myself and improvements I could make. Right now I'm marking the meals and snacks I liked the most and plan to continue the trend of "cleaner" eating.