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Meal Planning, Food logging, and Weight: Getting After It

Perhaps you’ve read Allie’s publication about her racing and relationship with her body and weight. I am so happy to see someone doing as well as she is – and looking so healthy and strong! 2:29 at NYC? Dang. You go, Allie!

Jamie Cheever, a top US Steeplechase racer, followed up Allie’s post with fitting comments about her perspective here.

Both are worth a read.

I love both perspectives and right now am more in the J.Cheever-thinking-camp. I really like that I am strong & healthy. However, I also know that each extra pound I carry equates to an extra minute to my marathon finish time, which means I need to be diligent about my nutrition and weight. How to do so in a SMART and SANE way? Good question.

My Action Plan:

So The best way I’ve found to lean down is to:

1. Meal Plan: my process explained below. IMO, this has to be where you start. Without a plan, what good is tracking? And what good is any feedback that your scale gives you (or more importantly, how you’re feeling about your body and fitness progress) if you can’t tie it to planning and measuring?

2. Track food: via MyFitnessPal

3. Weigh in weekly: via my scale 🙂

I’m going to try to blog my efforts and progress in all three areas (what I’m trying to achieve, areas of improvement, macronutrient goals,etc) here more often this cycle, in hopes that you might be able to take something away from it & use it yourself. Before that, I’ll share what I’ve found works for #1, meal planning.

My Meal Planning Routine:

Last year I started meal planning on Sundays before the start of the week. I don’t know why I hadn’t done this before! It doesn’t take much time and saves a ton of time and brain power, and also ensures that we waste little to no food.

On Sundays I sit down with this handy white board (from Target – $10). I’ll write down any schedule things we have. For example, on Tuesday I have a Finance Committee meeting at Bethel. That’s probably not a great night for an elaborate meal. In fast, it’s probably a great night for left-overs!

I write down the food or leftovers we have in the fridge. Do I have leftover fresh veggies waiting to be used? Extra chicken from Saturday’s meal? See what’s written on Sunday… that’s our current food “stash” waiting to be used.

Next I write down a few of the sale items from Aldi (in Northfield) or Fareway (in Faribault), the two places we shop. We also have a Cub and Econo in Northfield but I don’t frequent these as their prices aren’t close to Aldi and Fareway most of the time. I’m not a foodie, by any means, but I really think the quality isn’t that much different (if at all!), either. Why pay more?

I’ll quickly glance at the paper or online ad and write down any sales I think are a really good deal. Between that and our current food stash, I have an ingredient list to look for recipes with.

[I will pay more to shop at Just Food Co-op, which I will do occasionally for a few things like bulk oatmeal, lentils, and some specialty items.]

Then, I look online to try to find recipes! I’ll write them in for a particular evening, based on prep time and our family’s schedule for that day (is just one of us home? Need to find a really fast and easy recipe!). I’ll also plan ahead for later in the week: cooking extra meat so that I have it pre-prepared for a meal later in the week, for example.

I’ll google combinations of things. For instance, we have coconut milk in the fridge from a previous recipe and mangoes are on sale for $.59. What can I make with that? Looks like a Mango Chicken Curry would be great. I could throw in the 1/2 can of left over cannellini beans from a meal last week (if I wouldn’t have meal planned, these would have gone bad – guaranteed). I’ll make extra chicken when making this meal so that I have some to put into a White Chicken Chili later in the week.

Photo and recipe found here.

Or I’ll flip through a magazine or a few blogs for ideas. It’s fun! It takes me no longer than 20 minutes, start to finish, to meal plan.

The other great thing about meal planning is it helps me to be mindful of what I’m eating. Is there a protein? Healthy fat? Carb? Our meals tend to be more balanced (not to mention have a lot more variety!) when I plan.

So, there you go. I’ll be sharing my weekly meal plans from time to time – feel free to snag a few ideas from me!

Your turn:
Do you meal plan? 

Do you do anything differently than what I’ve described above?

What are the biggest benefits to meal planning for you (or your family)?


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  1. I have a similar method, but I use a notebook. No fancy pants Target white board. 🙂 I also love Aldi and meal plan based on their sale ads and what is in my fridge. Or every once in a while I challenge myself to use things I find hiding in the back of my pantry. (ie: for some reason I thought I was going to be the risotto queen and have a pound of Arborio rice! Or hmmmm artichoke hearts are on sale lets by 3 cans! Eek)

    1. Yes to emptying the pantry of random things! I'll put one of those things on my list every so often – sometimes it leads to fun dishes.

      Mostly it just makes me happy to finish the container and feel like I've de-cluttered my pantry a bit… at least until I buy another ingredient in too-large-of-quantity, that is :).

  2. I love Aldi! I buy nearly all of my produce there and it's such a cost savings. I make a lot of meals in the slow cooker and also rely on simple easy meal prep (bake/roast anything, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, omelets, brown rice, etc.). I make extra everything for lots of leftovers.

    The beginning of this post was refreshing, because while I applaud the current culture of embracing strong runners and all body types, I also know that I run better when I'm lighter vs. heavier FOR ME. Sometimes I read pieces by others and wonder if I'm the only one thinking this. You're right that carrying a few extra unneeded pounds in a marathon can add up. Allie is clearly at an ideal marathon weight FOR HER, and I am sure those people commenting on her size can't hit anywhere near her marathon pace for even a mile!

    1. Exactly – finding out what is right FOR YOU! Well said. For me, I aimed for the 10-12% "elite distance running female average body fat %" that was published in Racing Weight when I was targeting Chicago in 2013. This led to poor recovery because I wasn't fueling the intensity/mileage I was trying to do properly, and I also think I just race and train better with a little higher body fat percentage than the typical elite. It's all about finding that balance. I do wish I had a little more robust metabolism to make leaning down to race weight easier, but oh well (My history with ED is partly to blame for that, I know)! I just have to be a little more mindful and intentional. It isn't a journey worth savoring if it isn't challenging, right? 🙂

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