I lose weight when I’m in The Routine. I’m in control and I feel good. As soon I deviate from The Routine things tend to go pear-shaped. They say you’re supposed to have variety in your weight-loss regime, and while I mess about with the ingredients, there’s an overall formula that is absolutely essential for me if I want to have any sort of success.
The Routine is a joint effort between my sister and I. For those not in the know, we’re living in the UK on backpacker budgets, working two jobs (6 or 7 days a week) in order to finance our upcoming travels. So we’ve got very limited free time and funds. We’ve found The Routine maximises our spare time and helps us to stay healthy and sane.
1. The Shopping
Everything hinges on the weekly shopping trip. We recently switched to Tuesday evenings – less crowded, more frequent buses, doesn’t waste our weekend. My sister and I catch a bus straight from our respective workplaces and meet up at the supermarket to save more time. She usually gets there first so she starts without me, which I like because I don’t end up putting chocolate bars into the trolley. We plan in advance what meals we’ll eat for the week and just whizz around the aisles collecting only what we need. All this means we’re all done and back home by about 6.30pm.
2. The Salads
Every weekday we take a honkin’ huge salad to work. It saves buying lunch and guarantees at least one healthy meal per day! We make them the night before and it’s a bustling production line. All the ingredients are in the one spot in the fridge so we just grab everything and get to work. We dump a handful of mixed salad greens into two lunch boxes, add chopped up peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes. That’s pretty much the base of it, we just vary the extras each week – anything from a boiled egg to ham, chicken, avocado, homemade felafels, chickpeas, cold roasted vegies, sunflower seeds or lentils. My sister cleans up while I make us each some dressing – usually olive oil and vinegar, or oil/seeded mustard/ lemon juice and a tiny drop of honey – in two tiny screw-top jars so there’s no spillage and we just shake and pour at work.
Sometimes we make a little couscous salad for the side – just throw some wholemeal couscous in a bowl with a sprinkle of vege stock power, cover with boiling water. Leave for ten minutes or so, fluff up with a fork, let cool then chuck in some sundried tomatoes, fresh chives and a handful of chickpeas. Mmm.
All in all, it only takes about 15 minutes of effort each night. No matter what ends up in the box, there’s something fresh and delicious to look forward to at lunch. Countless times we’ve had colleagues eyeing off our lunch as they devour a tuna mayo roll and say "Wow, what’s that?". "It’s a SALAD." "Wow, did you make that?"
3. The Dinners
When you are time and budget pressed it’s easy to end up eating crap for dinner. And the last thing you want to do when tired and/or cranky is spend heaps of time in a kitchen when you have 5 other flatmates to contend with. We manage to get away with cooking twice a week. We cook on Tuesday nights after the shopping and make enough to do another two meals. Last night it was chili con carne – as soon as it was ready we dished it out into two plates then into four containers. So that’s us sorted til Friday night. Then we’ll do the same Cook and Divide thing.
My sister and I are inherently lazy and have no problems eating the same meal three nights in a row. It also makes the most economic sense to cook in that way since it’s just the two of us.
4. The Snacks
I take a yogurt to work each day, as well as an apple or two, and/or sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. I gather up the little snack pile the night before so it’s ready to go. This is another essential part of the plan so I don’t go wandering off to the vending machine for chocolate.
5. The Gym
We are vigilant about phoning the gym to book our classes each week so we can’t use "the class was full" as an excuse. My sister has email reminders set up at her work then she’ll email me, "Have you booked us in yet?" and I will say "Whoops" and furiously dial. If the first four parts of The Routine are in place it is sooo much easier to get to the gym. If our dinner is already cooked for Mondays and Wednesdays, it doesn’t seem like so much of an ordeal to take time out for the gym.
Now before anyone emails me to say my routine is too routine and no wonder I’ve lost hardly any weight lately, blah blah blah, remember this is what works for my life. Without this kind of planning I wind up out of control and in another depressed episode – anyone who’s been reading for awhile will know my pattern.
And of course life gets in the way of The Routine sometimes. There’ll be some social event on a Gym Day or we get home late and don’t make The Salads – and it throws everything out of whack. The Routine often falls victim to fatigue (usually after we’ve done one of our 7 day working weeks), flu and PMS tantrums. I get cranky when the routine is disrupted. My mum arrives next week for a 10 day visit, and I must admit I am already looking ahead to when she leaves so we can get back on track.
Am I sad or what?