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My Impressions of the 21 Day Fix

February 9, 2015

 

Today marks the end of my first round of the 21 Day Fix. I didn't follow the workout plan—not quite up to that due to my lingering health issues, although I will be very soon—but I followed the nutrition plan. I thought I ate healthfully before, but this has gotten me eating more fruits and vegetables than I have ever eaten before in my life!!

 

Beyond that, the plan has really simplified cooking and meal planning for me. Ever since I graduated from college and stopped being able to rely on the dining hall, I have struggled with what to eat for dinner, what to cook ahead of time for lunch, and what to bring to the office with me for snacks. For several years, I really enjoyed the process of hunting for new recipes in cookbooks, newspapers, and magazines, but over time, I grew frustrated with how much time this approach took. I learned many new techniques along the way, but I must say—most cookbooks completely ignore the limited amount of time most people have for cooking! During this phase, cooking for the week ahead took up most of my Sunday every single weekend.

 

This past summer, I discovered the Fresh 20 meal planning service and I truly felt it was the answer to my prayers. The concept is simple: recipes for 5 dinners from no more than 20 ingredients each week, for under $100 in grocery costs for a family of 4. I found the portions to be a bit small sometimes, and I had a hard time coming in under $100 buying organic produce and humanely raised meat. But in general, I loved the approach. Each week, I would get five recipes that would reuse the same ingredients in creative ways—for example, using the same ingredient in an entree one night and a dessert the next. It just was a lot of fun!

 

I still recommend the Fresh 20. However, the entire last {almost 15} years, as much cooking as I did and as much time as I spent researching recipes, I really never felt like I knew my way around the kitchen. I did not feel resourceful. I did not feel like if somebody stole all of my cookbooks and shut down my Internet, I would be able to cook something appetizing. With the 21 Day Fix, this piece has finally snapped into place.

 

The reason is the basic structure of the Fix. Each person is assigned an allotment of containers per day depending on caloric needs. For each color of container, there is a list of approved foods. As far as which foods to eat at each meal and how to distribute the containers throughout the day, that's up to each person following the plan. It sounds limiting, but I have actually found that I feel freer and more creative on this plan.

 

I think that because of the factoid from psychology studies that we have all seen: there is such a thing as too many choices. Nobody's happy when forced to do something. People report being happiest when they have a choices, but not TOO many choices—just a choice among a few alternatives. This is the basic structure of the 21 Day Fix.

 

Each day, I know I've got to get my vegetables in—6 servings of 1.25 cups each. So I'd better be having some at breakfast, because otherwise there's no way I'm going to cram in enough vegetables later in the day. So I've had to think about which vegetables are appetizing to me along with eggs in the morning. For me, the answer is asparagus, spinach, zucchini, bell pepper, and spinach. It's not a long list, so I just know I have to have one of those every morning.

 

For dinner, I've got a stable of 21 Day Fix friendly recipes that I make regularly: pita bread pizzas; tacos with vegetables as well as ground beef in the filling; ground pork with cabbage and apples; Mediterranean baked fish with vegetables, green olives, and lemon; meatballs and spaghetti squash. In addition to these recipes, I select a couple of new Fix-friendly recipes each week, because I like novelty. But it's such an amazing feeling to know that if I keep certain items in stock in my refrigerator and pantry, I'll be able to whip up a quick dinner at home when I get back from a long weekend of traveling, instead of ordering take-out like I would usually do. And it feels just awesome to know the right amount of fresh fruit to buy each week for breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. In the past, I'd either have no fruit at all in the house, or I would buy so much that it would go bad before I could eat it. I totally didn't expect it, but the 21 Day Fix has gotten me into the rhythm of keeping a well-stocked pantry—something I never was able to do before, and this lack kept me from feeling like a full-fledged adult!

 

People employ varying degrees of planning when completing the 21 Day Fix. Myself, I planned out the first 7 days in entirety—but then I deviated from it depending on what I was hungry for. Some people value spontaneity and so they just plan each day for the following day. It's up to each person to decide what approach works best. But if you're interested in a plan that means your kitchen will always be stocked with healthy food—and if you're interested in getting the recipes I mentioned above—there's still time to join us in the 21 Day Fix program I'll be leading in March 2015. Sign-up deadline is February 16—don't delay!

 

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