Tone It Up’s 7 Day Slimdown: Planning Ahead

Hello friends! I started writing this post from the most scenic spot I’ve been in all year, the Oregon Coast.

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My boyfriend & I drove out here for the holiday weekend for his family reunion and it was utterly relaxing and filled with great food. And wine. And lounging. Which of course means that by the time Sunday rolled around I was sitting at the table planning out my week ahead because my type A personality refuses to be quiet for more than a few days.

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But seriously, look at that view! And the adorable retro vibe of the place.

Now, what am I planning for, exactly? I’m going to tackle Tone It Up’s 7 Day Slimdown.

What is the 7dsd? It’s a 7 day (plus 1 to ease you into less restrictive eating) plan that centers around wholesome, healthy food while cutting out the junk like most added sugar. It also includes a general workout plan to go alongside. The exact details of the 7dsd are found in the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan, which I bought from their site about a year ago.

Why would I do this? I’ve gotten deep into my I-deserve-a-treat mode and I would really like to pull myself out of the bad eating spirals I’ve found myself in recently. In general, I don’t believe in crash-dieting. What I do believe is that self-control is a muscle and when I fail to exercise it regularly enough, it gets pretty weak. I also think that sugar (not fat, not carbs, etc.) is the real health bomb and the toughest thing for me to eat in moderation.

Am I crazy? Yes, but that’s unrelated. 🙂 I’ve actually done the 7dsd before and really liked it. I was never hungry doing it, but I did get really bored! This time around I know to work around that by mixing things up. The only other sticking point for me is that I will have to make some extra time for workouts in the evenings, but I’m setting myself up for success by scheduling only the things that I love to do (like barre classes).

Here is my plan for the week, complete with workouts and meals. I’m going to tackle food first. You can see that I’ve tried to nail down everything in advance so I can go grocery shopping once and be done. It also allows me to plan for any events that I have like the dinner I host every week on Wednesday and my friend’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream one evening.
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Next up is my grocery shopping list, which I always prefer to write out by hand. I usually start with listing what I need by recipe and then condense on a separate sheet the final list. Usually I have a good idea of what I have on hand, but if I don’t want to run back and forth to my kitchen I just put a question mark on items to check all at once later. This list gets messy fast, but it’s what works for me to keep everything organized!
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And finally, I take my giant pile of food and a flurry of meal prep ensues. Normally I commit Sundays to this task, but my holiday weekend out of town means a very awkward but doable Tuesday evening session. Music, podcasts & movies all help, as would an extra set of hands. Usually. If they aren’t too busy sneaking the julienned bell pepper as a snack. Not that I’m naming names of course, that would be rude.

I try to carefully plan out the order of cooking so I combine things that go into the oven at the same temperatures and the longer cooking stuff gets started earlier instead of about half an hour before I wanted to be asleep. Here’s what my meal prep last night looked like:

  • Preheat the oven to 400° & start the quinoa boiling
  • Place dried chicken breasts in a baking dish with oil & seasoning and cover with parchment paper
  • Prep dinner vegetables by chopping or trimming where needed and tossing them lightly with oil & seasoning on baking trays
  • Pop chicken & vegetables into the oven and check on them regularly to take things out as they finish at different times (tip: slightly undercook veggies so they stay firmer when reheated)
  • Cube and saute the tofu in oil & seasonings (tip: mix things up to avoid boredom)
  • Chop scramble & salad vegetables and store in the fridge
  • Tear up kale leaves and massage in dressing for the week (tip: kale gets better in dressing over time!)
  • Make hummus (tip: homemade is delicious) & chia seed pudding
  • Pack everything away as necessary in the fridge & freezer (tip: freeze some of the cooked chicken if you don’t want to have to make more midweek for the later days)

The second part of this 7dsd is of course planning my workouts. I need variety and excitement to motivate myself to regularly work out. In fact, that’s how I found Tone It Up in the first place! I’m a huge fan of their weekly workout guides and a big portion of their videos are free  on their site and Youtube. I’ll talk more about their workouts at a later date, but all of my toning routines will be from their website or their DVDs for the 7dsd.

I also have a ClassPass membership that I love and will be utilizing heavily this week. I have Zumba, Barre, HIIT & Spin classes all planned out at various boutique gyms near me.

Check back later this week to see how it all goes! I officially started today, so wish me luck. 😉

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, I’d be happy to answer them for you if I can!

Meal Prep Basics and a Blueberry Overnight Oats Recipe

My Sunday meal prep time is a sacred thing, and it’ll be the topic of an ongoing series here on the blog. It’s what allows me to get so much done during the week, keeps me eating healthy, and prevents my grocery bill from going through the roof due to one unscheduled trip to Costco. This post is going to tackle the aspect that took me the longest to nail down: planning.

There’s some unavoidable legwork that’s going to need to go into having a successful meal prep day. Right now the scope of this is just for one person, since that’s what I do for the most part (though I’m getting my boyfriend on board slowly by surely!).

  • You need to know how much variety you’ll crave in your diet to make this thing work. If you make bad assumptions about having the same lunch every day, there is going to be some serious tupperware hate going on by the time Friday rolls around. I prefer to have the same breakfast, roughly the same lunch and snacks, and different dinners during the week.
  • Related to the first point is that you need to know what kind of meals you actually enjoy eating. This may sound silly, but it took me a long time to figure that out! For me, this also means a balance between delicious but decadent foods and their healthy counterparts. Because let’s be real here, I absolutely would eat Brussels waffles with a cup of syrup three times a day if I could.
  • Keep in mind the logistics of taking your food with you daily. I’m lucky enough to have a fridge near my desk at work with plenty of space, and no one looks at me funny when I bring a whole bag full of it with me on public transit (yet). If this isn’t for you, I’d suggest having a more calorically dense option for lunch so you can have a one and done situation.
  • Meal plan when you’re bored but full. I like to shoehorn it into a lunch break or a bus ride on Thursdays to give myself plenty of time to write up a shopping list for the weekend. Beware looking up recipes when you’re hungry or you may find yourself in over your head with your meals the next week. More than once I’ve accidentally planned double the food a human could conceivably consume when I made that mistake.
  • Simpler is better in the end if you’re just cooking for yourself I’ve found. Plus it makes leftovers even easier to reuse in a new way.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, on to the recipe for what I eat every morning right now! After trying at least a dozen variations, I’ve settled on this as my favorite.

Blueberry Overnight Oats

Blueberry Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

1/3 c old fashioned oats
1 scoop protein powder (optional, if you omit just add more nut butter)
1 T flax meal
A few blueberries (fresh or frozen)
A dollop of your favorite nut butter
Drizzle of maple syrup or honey (optional)
1/2-2/3 c unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite milk)
1/2 t coconut flakes if you’re feeling fancy
Shredded wheat cereal (for topping)

Instructions:

  1. Add ingredients to a 12 oz canning jar (I love the Ball jars without a neck) in order except for the cereal. Use 1/2c liquid if you’d like them denser and 2/3c if you’d like them thinner.
  2. Mix carefully but thoroughly with a butter knife, being sure to distribute the nut butter evenly.
  3. Cover with a lid (I prefer the plastic ones you can buy separately, they’re so much easier to wash and reuse).
  4. Place in fridge at least overnight and for up to 4-5 days. I personally haven’t had any issues with storing mine for the full five days using almond milk and I’ve seen others do the same, but use your own judgment.
  5. In the morning grab one, top with a few pieces of cereal, and dig in!

I love making these for houseguests or hiking partners too since they’re vegan (with syrup instead of honey), healthy, super filling, customizable, and easily made gluten free if you spend a bit more on the certified GF oats. Plus they just taste so darn good!

Blueberry Overnight Oats in the Morning

How to Throw the Post-College Dinner Party (That Your Friends Will Finally Make Time For)

When I graduated from college a few years ago it became quickly apparent how difficult it was to keep in touch with friends as we all entered this crazy new phase of our lives. Moving to a slightly more out of the way part of the city with no car of my own and a brand new 9-5 type job meant getting creative about finding ways to maintain these friendships.

 

Enter the weekly potluck dinners at my house, complete with wine and beer, fun themed nights, and more laughter than I can recount. It served a dual purpose as well, given that by the time I finished school I was incapable of making boxed cake mix to save my life. (Side note: If you ever accidentally add twice as much vegetable oil to your Betty Crocker batter than what the recipe calls for, turn back now. It’s truly more gross than I could have ever imagined.)

 

If this is where you’re at in life, I have a few tips for what is essentially herding cats:

 

1. Try out a few days and times for the first few dinners, but once you hit upon one that works try to stick to it. It’s much easier for everyone to incorporate it into their schedules and plan for it.  Motivation gets you started but habit is what carries you through and all that! We’ve happily settled into Wednesdays at 6:30, so don’t be afraid to have it on a non-weekend day too.

 

2. Maybe this one is more of a 1a. You will never be able to work with everyone ‘s schedules and you should accept that now. If you’re like me, this will kill you at first but it’ll be okay Figure out which people are a top priority and make sure you’re working around them. Other than that, I suggest having a large enough group to reach out to so that if only half can go any given week, you still have a fun dinner.

3. Make your friends do some of the social legwork! My college was a definite bubble even though we were located in the middle of a big city. Oh, and did I mention that the whole student body was smaller than my high school’s? Social psychologists have even done research to show that it’s tough to make new friends once you leave school. Encourage your guests to bring new friends, significant others, coworkers, roommates and anyone they think might be a good addition. Heck, I’ve even had over three of my friends’ parents! if nothing else, they usually provide new topics for conversation.

4. Be flexible. I have a friend I love to talk with but he usually can’t show up until at least an hour into dinner. I’m not giving up my chance to chat, so you better believe I’ve figured out how to make his sudden addition go as smoothly as possible. The best way I’ve been able to manage this (and the constantly changing number of people) is to switch to eating in our living room, much as I love our dining table.

5. Start potluck, but be aware of the pitfalls. Many of my friends still don’t own cars (neither do I, though my boyfriend does) so keep in mind that biking with a casserole dish may be out of the question. In this day and age people tend to view commitments a bit more flexibly since all they need to do is fire off a text to cancel. If you assign a main dish to a person and they can’t make it last minute, your dinner is suddenly rather stressful. If you have any guests with eating restrictions, you need to be a little extra vigilant in getting the word out as well. One of my closest friends is a vegetarian, so I’ve gotten pretty handy at finding work arounds without making her feel awkward or bad about it. The upside for you with potlucks is that you’ll be cooking less, likely spending less money, and you can explore fun themes (“your fave comfort food” and “a dish from your childhood” were two good ones that sparked a ton of conversation) easily.

6. Once I had the means, the time, and the skills, I switched to cooking most or all of dinner for those evenings. This meant that my friends could look forward to a night of relaxation without having to worry about logistics. Some people picked up fun hobbies (Homemade bread or a bottle of red from a birthday winery tour? Yes please!) that really added to the party. Mostly though, I learned how to cook for a big crowd quickly, healthily, with minimal investment and maximum enjoyment.

7. Taco bowls. Sushi bowls. Buddha bowls. Teriyaki Bowls. Bowls where you can make the components and let everyone put the final product together with little effort is just A+ in my book. Vegetarian? Check. Starving? You load up on what you want my friend. Extreme dislike of bell peppers bordering on an allergy (true story)? Easy to avoid! Plus it’s so simple to make an inexpensive and healthy dinner with brown rice, veggies of some sort, and a protein. Other examples? Salad bar, baked potato bar, waffle bar and DIY pizzas.

8. Too much food is better than too little, so make extra of things you don’t mind eating later or freezing. I tend to make plenty rice and freeze the leftovers for quick lunches and dinners. Don’t be afraid to send people home with food too! I’ve made some of my guests that are still in school some very happy campers that way.

9. This is a great time to get rid of the random food lingering in your fridge or in your pantry, so take advantage of that! Roasted assorted “aspirational veggies” always go over well at my house.

10. The crock pot is your best friend. Always.

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Here’s an example of a relaxed dinner party for 5:

 

Brown rice (a Costco bag of it goes a long, long way)

 

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Roasted bell peppers, onion & garlic (Leave the 4 peppers whole, quarter the onion, peel the garlic, put on a pan at 400 for 40 minutes & flip halfway through. Spray with some sort of oil if you’re feeling all fancy.)

 

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Crock pot Mexican beef (Hunk of beef. Whatever spices you have that are vaguely Mexican like chili powder and adobo in a totally eyeballed amount. Water to almost cover it. Set to low until you get home. Separate with forks.)

 

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Lettuce (Chop those leaves up a bit. Tear ’em if you’re super lazy.)

 

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Spiced black & kidney beans (Two cans of beans rinsed + those same Mexican spices in a pot for a few to warm them up.)

 
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A loaf of to-die-for bread my friend made (Find some rad friends!)

 

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Altogether, it was 2 minutes of prep in the morning, 10 when I got home, and ready an hour later. Plus lunch the rest of the week!

 

Now, if you’re looking for how to host an elegant black tie dinner for 8, I’ll be posting about that down the road. 😉