Truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of meal prepping. Maybe it’s the food-shaming slogan, “Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail” that so often accompanies discussions about meal prep. Maybe it’s because I automatically associate meal prep with bikini prep (which is a whole different rant). Bottom line: meal prep was never my thing. But that’s changed lately. And before you click away, here’s my promise: at no point during this post will I encourage you to prep unseasoned, boneless, skinless chicken breast or dry veggies. Believe it or not, this non-traditional approach to meal prep will help those of you in recovery stabilize your relationship with food, reclaim the kitchen, and save some time and money while you’re at it.
Break the Mold, Not the Bank
Raise your hand if images of leafy greens, lean turkey, and other typical *health* foods packed in neat tupperware come to mind when you hear the phrase “meal prep”.
*raises both hands high*
Thanks to Instagram and one too many Buzzfeed round ups, our idea of meal prep is very one-sided. Yes, meal prepping can be tool in someone’s fitness or weight loss journey, but it can also be a way to reach new recovery milestones and overcome anxiety around food. There’s no kitchen bylaw that states that which is meal prepped, must be low calorie, low fat, and low flavor. That’s not what defines health, and it shouldn’t be what defines your cooking. What if you could create copy-cat dishes and sides from your favorite restaurants? Not only would that save money, but also give you a practical way to continue challenging fear foods and choosing recovery consistently.
Click, Chat, Chop
If you ask me, any meal prep should start with one simple question: What do I like to eat? Sounds pretty basic, and yet this principle of intuitive eating is so often overshadowed by feelings of What should I eat? Just posing the question alone is a great habit to start for anyone, but especially for those of us working to overcome disordered patterns of eating and guilt surrounding food. When you ask yourself what you like to eat, what you’re really doing is giving yourself permission to answer honestly and not be bound by what you think health should look like.
Once you’ve identified what kind of food makes you happiest and feel best, it’s easy to find a way to meal prep it to enjoy throughout the week. Fan of orange chicken? Google some recipes and give it your best shot. You can always multiply the measurements by 2 or 3 if you want to make it stretch for the week. Have a favorite recipe of mom or dad’s? Give them a call and ask for the details or better yet, ask if you can make it together! The first time you meal prep something outside your realm of “safe foods” will be scary, but it will also show you that you can. You can eat a variety of foods, even ones that are not traditionally “healthy” and your disorder can’t stop you.
Routine Doesn’t Have to Mean Rigid
Remember, just because you meal prep some honey glazed carrots or cinnamon sweet potatoes (both examples on my Non-Traditional Meal Prep Worksheets!) doesn’t mean that you have to eat them every day until they’re gone. Eating disorders, by nature, compel us to try and plan and control our intake. Recovery is about re-discovering flexibility and spontaneity when it comes to eating, and meal prep does not have to be in conflict with that. When I meal prep any one of the combinations in my Non-Traditional Meal Prep Worksheets I don’t rely solely on those entrées and veggies. When I have a busy day planned, it’s nice to be able to whip out something I love to eat and heat it up real quick. When a friend suggests we go out for pizza at night, it’s just as easy to save whatever I’ve meal prepped for the next day. The key is to not get too stuck in one routine. Let meal prep make your life easier, not harder.
Food, It’s Part of Life (Not Your Whole Life)
Sometimes I feel like I live in a culture that is obsessed with food. And not in the cute way girls tell each other they’re obsessed with their favorite band’s new single or the way memes poke fun at Taco Tuesday. Sometimes it seems like food is all we think about:
What is its nutritional value? Is it a good or bad choice? Is it worth it? What am I going to eat next?
At the end of the day, food is an important part of all of our lives, but it should not be the center of our lives. Meal prepping is a great way to get more comfortable in the kitchen, overcome fear foods, save money, and save time. However, it’s not an end-all/ be-all. So give some recipes a try. Make them with a parent or a friend. Still say yes to unplanned snacks and outings. Remember that balance is what we’re all working towards, and there’s so many ways to get there.
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