I don’t like to talk about weight loss a lot on here.
But when talking about meal prep, food, health and wellness, weight loss is a topic that’s difficult to avoid — and it’s an important part of most of our health journeys.
Normally, when I talk about meal prep, I talk about its benefits in terms of saving time, saving money and staying on track…. but today we’re going to focus on the weight loss part.
When I got serious about weight loss a few years ago, I knew cooking was the answer. I knew cooking would help me control my portions and control the ingredients. The problem with cooking? It’s time-consuming.
Like I say on my the very home page of this website, who has time to cook every day? Not me!
That’s where meal prep came in.
After work and the gym, I just look forward to getting into my comfys and working on a project. I don’t want to cook.
Meal prep was the one thing that allowed me to have my healthy homecooked food AND time to relax, so it was a win-win. Since I stuck to it, I lost the stubborn 10 pounds I had been trying to lose for years — and that was a huge deal for me. Even better? The weight STAYED off.
In this post, I’m going to cover how exactly meal prep supports weight loss, no matter what diet or approach you’re using.
I always lean toward the healthy, not-restrictive 80/20 approach which you can read about here. However, meal prep can help you stay on track with any diet you choose, whether that’s paleo, keto, Whole 30 etc.
Let’s jump in!
Control over what’s in your food (so you’re not accidentally eating inflammatory foods)
I’ll never forget the day I realized that the overpriced “healthy” lunch I bought every day at Dig Inn was making me feel like crap.
What was in my bowl, you ask? Oh, just salmon, sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli.
But guess what? All of that was cooked in canola oil. based on what I’ve read, I don’t think canola oil is evil like the Internet wants us to believe… but it’s also not my go-to cooking oil of choice. Dig Inn states that they only use organic canola oil, which is great, but I’m fairly certain the oil is one of the factors that made me feel gross. That, and the portion sizes.
There are two really important things to know about all restaurant food that affects your body and weight loss:
1. Restaurants sell the same portion sizes of all their dishes to every adult.
Just think about that for a sec. If you’re an average sized woman, you don’t need the same portion as an average sized man, but that’s what you’re going to get at a restaurant.
2. Most restaurants use cheap oils, like canola oil, soybean oil and rice bran oil to keep costs down.
While that makes sense from a business standpoint, when it comes to your health, the cooking oils that restaurants use are not doing your body any favors. If you feel bloated after a healthy restaurant meal, the oils are usually to blame.
There’s nothing to be scared of when ordering at a restaurant, but just know that your food is really only as healthy as what it’s cooked with (oils, fats, seasonings, ingredients).
Get access to my recipe ebook packed with meals that are much healthier than what you can get in a restaurant here. These are all the same recipes and techniques that helped me drop 10 pounds.
With meal prep and cooking at home, you get total control over your personal portion size and the healthiest ingredients you can possibly find, making your weight loss journey faster and easier.
Plan ahead (so you don’t leave it up to willpower)
Another big mistake SO MANY of us make when trying to take on a new healthy habit is relying on willpower.
This may or may not be news to you, but willpower is a finite resource that kind of depletes throughout the day.
That’s why it’s so dang hard to avoid sweets and junk at the end of the day. Your willpower muscle is tired of making other decisions and at that point is like, eff it, have the cookies.
Instead of relying on willpower, which will always fail you, meal prep allows us to plan ahead. That way, we never have to make any decisions when we’re hangry, in a rush or just feeling lazy.
And you know what? Decisions count as much as calories. Your willpower can’t be trusted.
I love meal planning because I just get to sit down for an hour and make all my healthy decisions for the week in one sitting. In the middle of the week, when things get chaotic, I don’t have to think about being healthy. I’ve already thought ahead (and did the work).
Weight loss gets tough when we can’t make healthy decisions daily. If we’re trying to be consistent, there can be no days where we don’t eat at least one or two healthy meals. (that’s why I don’t believe in cheat days at all).
Don’t feel like creating your own plan? My pre-made meal plans can be found here.
Meal prep makes consistency a lot easier (and it’s more fun than working out)
I love cooking because you don’t have to leave your house. Like you could just get groceries delivered to you, you know?
Anyway, in terms of consistency, meal prep has you covered.
When you batch cook several meals in advance, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to eat healthy balanced meals several times during the week instead of throwing something random on your plate.
I think a lot of us struggle with consistency, or, “staying on track,” because we’re not making it easy for ourselves. Meal prep is one of the healthy habits that solves that.
That’s consistency at its finest — and you don’t have to even think or worry about it because it’s already done!
To read more about how to be consistent, click here for my post about it.
You’re less likely to binge (and fall into the Restrictive Eating Cycle)
If you’re in a meal prep groove, then you know how energized and balanced you feel. And that means binges are fewer and farther between.
Binges happen for two main reasons.
1. The biological reason: You aren’t getting enough of the right nutrients during the day (or you’re skipping meals randomly), so your body is basically begging for sugar at night to compensate for the missing nutrients.
The fix? Eating balanced meals during the day, which we know meal prep helps with.
2. The psychological reason: You’ve accidentally trained your body to crave certain foods during a certain time of day (like night) or during a certain activity (like watching TV). I still crave a bowl of cereal when I sit down to watch TV. It’s years and years of habit at work, and that’s why it’s so hard to overcome.
The fix? Get ahead of your cravings by meal prepping healthy snacks to eat come crave time. That way you can still eat, but not feel guilty. Keeping junk out of the house helps A LOT too.
Another way meal prep helps us avoid the Restrictive Eating Cycle is it helps us have an abundance mindset. When you prep 15 out of 21 meals a week, the remaining six meals are left “open” for whatever you want. There’s no guilt because you were eating healthy, home cooked meals MOST of the week. So there’s no need to restrict and binge, you know?
To learn more about avoiding the Restrictive Eating Cycle by also working on your mindset, click here.
You have control over portion sizes (which you don’t have when eating out)
Like I said earlier in this post, restaurants and portion control don’t mix well at all.
Even if you intend to only eat half your meal, let’s get real. You’re eating the half you took home three hours later before bed most of the time.
When you meal prep, you are in total control of your portion sizes, and this is key to weight loss. Especially on the 80/20 approach, where unhealthy foods are allowed 20% of the time, portion sizes are your friend.
The most common question I get asked is, how do you figure out portion sizes?
I simply learned by trial and error with different meal prep containers. I found that the 30 oz containers are the best size for me at lunch and dinner time because they pack enough food to satisfy me without putting me in a food coma.
That’s what I found with the meals at Dig Inn. Even though they were healthy, they were often too big for me and I’d lose all energy after lunch time. Your body uses up a lot of energy when digesting food, which is why you might feel tired after eating a big meal.
To find good portion sizes without having to use a food scale, keep a food diary for a week or some method of making notes of what sizes worked best for you. How do you know if it works for you? It’s all about how you feel after the meal. Hungry? Stuffed? Just right?
And of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, portion sizes should be a bit smaller than you’d normally have. That’s an easy way to create the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
The one thing I want you to take away:
Weight loss is not easy.
It takes work. Any solution you find that promises you’ll shave off 20 pounds in a month is probably not healthy. And even if it “works” for you, the weight is going to come back — I can guarantee it.
Meal prep supports gradual weight loss and healthy behaviors that support your mind and body. Gradual weight loss is more likely to stick and you can lose the weight without losing your mind.
I know meal prep is a hassle when you’re starting out. It’s overwhelming. It’s risky because you might not eat all the food or use up all your ingredients. Hell, you run the risk of completely ruining your cooking in the process.
But it’s worth the time investment. Even if you make mistakes along the way (and you will). I want you to think about weight loss like this: even if the number on the scale doesn’t change, if you’re doing something healthy every week like cooking, exercising, focusing on sleep or whatever, that’s STILL progress. You’re still moving forward.
If meal prep is hard for you to stick to, reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget that literally every post on this blog is meant to help make meal prep super easy.