It’s week two; January isn’t going anywhere… and hopefully your goals aren’t either.  This is such a fun time of year to pursue a variety of health goals, from nutrition and fitness to mental and relational health, too.  As we proceed, we must be honest with ourselves about what to expect – not only about what goals are realistic and achievable BUT also about the roadblocks that can and more than likely will cross our paths.  This honesty is important for two reasons: 1) having the realization that the journey will not be perfect allows you to mentally prepare for those inevitable imperfect moments, and 2) knowing this allows you to also PHYSICALLY prepare for these moments!  There is a quote that always seems to make its way around this time of year, and for good reason, so let’s dissect it a bit.

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” 

While Winston Churchill imparted a lot of wisdom we can use throughout the ages, this one can help us but also hurt us if we don’t use it correctly.  What can we take from this as we move forward?

Planning is essential.  The reasoning is different for everyone, but planning is essential.  You may need to plan because your schedule is so busy, planning is simply what you do to stay on track with everything.  Or, planning may help you from making “autopilot” choices (i.e. going straight to the couch after work versus the gym, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter while you wait for dinner to be ready, etc).  Working towards a goal that is different from your 2021 life may seem overwhelming, and a plan may help the baby steps appear more achievable, creating greater confidence and more action!  There are many reasons why planning is essential.  Have you thought about how you can benefit from a plan?

Failure is inevitable.  Whoa, that was harsh, but only if you look at “failure” as a bad thing.  And this is where this quote can go from being helpful to harmful, especially if you believe you did not plan “enough” or “well enough.”  To fail is not a bad thing.  It is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to move forward stronger knowing that you conquered the challenge simply by moving through it.  Whether you are looking at your past experiences – at what worked AND what didn’t work – or you’re looking at your current goals and the challenges that could hold you back, every situation, every victory, every challenge is an opportunity for you to get one step CLOSER to your goal and not farther away!  

Consider this… Have you ever taken a road trip?  Maybe you’ve packed up the family or some friends and driven a few states away.  You may not have necessarily known every exact stop, but you knew your general path, the roads you would take, how often you’d probably have to stop, and maybe even made a hotel reservation to break up the trip.  You had a plan.  You needed this plan to make sure you were headed in the right direction and would eventually arrive at your destination.  About thirty minutes away from your first planned food stop, you encountered some road work that did not show up on Maps until right before you approached.  Nothing to worry about as you have hit traffic before and know having food and water handy is always invaluable.  Your past experience may not have gone “perfectly,” but you can ALWAYS use it for the next one!  

How can we take these points and use them to support our 2022 goals, specifically looking at nutrition and fitness?  Let’s ask ourselves, how can we plan ahead to support the creation of healthier habits?  A few of Balanced Wellness’s favorite tips:

Meal plan and buy ahead.  This does not have to be complicated, nor does it have to take a lot of time.  With meal delivery services, meal planning apps, and even grocery delivery services, there are numerous resources to help you plan your food ahead of time.  Ask people who live a similar lifestyle what resources work for them and give it a try.  We can always change our mind, ignoring our plan or switching the recipe up a bit, but research shows that we make healthier choices when we plan our meals and snacks ahead of time.  

Prep servings of snacks.  Many wellness professionals recommend spending an hour after grocery shopping to wash, cut, and portion your produce for easy grab-and-go snacks.  I love this idea…in theory… but it rarely works for me.  Another option is convenience prep.  For example, if you are cutting a bell pepper for tonight’s dinner, slice another for tomorrow’s snack.  Regardless of how you do it, have healthy snack options ready to grab that require little prep in the moment.  Snacking most often takes place during quick moments.  What makes you grab the chips rather than the peppers and hummus?  Convenience and easy prep.  Create your own convenience and easy prep with healthier options!

Utilize the slow cooker/crockpot and instant pot!  These two kitchen tools help reduce hands-on cook time, mess/clean up, and provide a lot of opportunity for delicious, healthy meals for the whole family!  Ask your friends, family, and social media followers for their favorite healthy recipes!  No doubt, you will receive a ton of ideas and inspiration!

Keep your gym bag packed.  There will always be days we are exhausted, days we just want to go home.  Rarely do we regret making the trek to the gym, so make it easy for you to say YES to going!

These are just a few of our favorite tips for a healthy lifestyle.  Simple and effective.  A super detailed plan is not necessary to create success, but a plan of some sort sure does make those moments of convenience, exhaustion, REAL LIFE easier to navigate!  Take a peek at your daily life.  What habits do you currently have that help you create success in various areas?  Reminders?  Planning sessions?  Collaboration or a group of like-minded individuals?  Use the success habits you already have to help you create new habits to support your health goals for 2022!!

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It is no surprise that January is National Slow Cooking Month!  The slow cooker (aka crockpot) is the perfect kitchen tool as people around the world set healthy eating goals, allowing us to create healthier meals without much or any additional effort.  Avoid the fast food lines after work or your kiddo’s practice by having a warm meal waiting for you at home.  A tip!  If adding an extra step to getting ready in the morning isn’t appealing to you, prepare the ingredients the night before (or even over the course of a few nights) and simply add them to your slow cooker the morning of.  Most slow cookers come with tips and tricks, as well as recipes.  Check out Well Plated for recipes, but also inspiration based on your dietary preference, what protein you have available (or feel like cooking), and more.  Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe?