Six months ago, I realized I needed to stop splurging on lunch spots.
Even when I was only eating a big salad, my energy levels suffered. I would go home feeling bloated and heavy, and fell into a 3 pm food coma almost every day. Buying lunch wasn't just impacting my wallet; it was hurting my body.
So, I switched to making the salmon and veggies myself at home. It saved me money, not to mention I knew exactly what was going into it. I packed smaller portions, and stopped coming up against that calorie-packed wall I'd been hitting every afternoon.
At first, cooking at home was just a money saver and energy booster. But after about four months of consistently cooking most of my meals while paying regular visits to the gym, I noticed changes in my body. I was almost 10 pounds lighter. What a lovely surprise! Here's how cooking at home made it happen.
Even though I could see what was going into my pre-prepared salad at Chop't, I couldn't see how each ingredient was prepared.
In my kitchen, I'm in control. I avoid recipes involving butter, white flour, sugar, cornstarch or corn syrup. I go easy on the dressing. When I make a salad, I don't even give myself the option of putting croutons on it because I don't buy them. It's empowering to grab your diet by the reins and be in control.
At home, I can't page through a menu of food options. I don't have to decide between a healthy dinner and an unhealthy one. I literally don't keep anything sweet in my apartment. You won't even find a chocolate chip.
After just two weeks of playing Martha Stewart, I beat the gelato cravings I thought would never go away. Have you tried Talenti? Don't. It's a hard drug to kick.
In the kitchen, I choose easy, quick meals like sautéed veggies and baked chicken or fish. I've learned the hard way: Heavy lunches are energy drainers. And there's no way I'll waste money on a coffee shop muffin for breakfast when I can make whole-wheat avocado toast at home before work.
When you're eating out, it's too easy to be lazy. You can convince yourself, “I exercised yesterday, so I can deserve this treat.” You're never going to keep weight off with that mentality.
During my days of buying lunch every day, I was too full and sluggish to drag my butt to the gym after work. Restaurant portions are meant to be “one size fits all.” Well, that doesn't work because we're all different sizes with different dietary needs.
When I make myself eat smaller meals, hitting the bike or going for a run is easy and enjoyable -- well, as easy and enjoyable as running can be. Cooking for myself gives me control over how much is going on my plate, and then into my mouth.
I'm not a health freak. I could never stop eating cheese or dairy, and I use plenty of salt in my cooking. Bread, pasta and french fries make their way into my mouth sometimes. And that's the key: sometimes.
It's too easy to indulge when you're eating at restaurants all the time. Now when I'm out, I don't care about going for the burger. As a bonus, cooking most of my meals is a huge money saver.
Speaking of money, there's another advantage to having more of it in my wallet: I can finally avoid my office's free snacks. I could tell eating cookies, pizza and bagels was affecting my body. I had to work out way harder to maintain my weight.
So I started bringing in snacks I loved, even though I had to purchase them: trail mix, fresh mango, cottage cheese and greek yogurt. It's better to snack without the sugar crash later.
Logic like this is what helps me continually eat well. It all starts in the mind.
Does it suck that some nights I don't go out because I'm home, cooking? Yes, absolutely. But here's what doesn't suck: feeling more confident about my body than ever before. And the best part is that the weight that came off will likely stay off, since it came from a consistent lifestyle change.