Jennifer Lopez had been overweight since she was a kid (and no, this story is not about the famous J-Lo.) But it wasn’t until her early 30s that she realised things had gotten out of control. When she finally forced herself to step on the scale after avoiding it for a year, she was horrified to see that she’d reached an all-time high of 170kg.
“I was unhappy, unhealthy, and severely lacking confidence,” says the now 36-year-old. Lopez had long loved the taste and convenience of greasy fast food like pizza and wings, often bingeing and then hiding the evidence from her husband. And her sedentary lifestyle meant that everyday activities often left her winded. Knowing it was time to start taking her health more seriously, Lopez vowed to clean up her diet and take control of her weight for good.
Small changes yielded big results-at first
Lopez’s healthy eating journey started with changes that were simple but powerful. First, she swapped the sugary drinks she usually guzzled for sparkling water. And she kicked the fast food addiction, opting to make more of her meals at home instead. Slowly but surely, 18kg melted off.
But then Lopez hit a plateau. Even with homemade meals, she still struggled with portion control, often having a second helping just because it was there. And finding the time to cook healthy dinners every night proved challenging. For a while, Lopez was stumped on how to overcome these hurdles-until she saw an Instagram post about meal prepping. “Spending a little time on the weekend prepping my meals in order to save time during the week and have healthy options readily available seemed like a no brainer,” she says. “I also loved the built-in portion control where I could divide my meals into single servings.”
Meal prepping helped bust through a weight loss plateau
From then on, Lopez started prepping her meals every weekend, using a meal planner to write down the week’s menu and shopping list in advance. In the early days she’d go all out and plan different breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for every day of the week. Experimenting with so many new meals was fun at first, but trying to make so many different recipes ate up too much time. Plus, she sometimes got stuck with meals she didn’t love.
So she started finding ways to be more efficient, like making recipes that yielded multiple servings. “Now I’ll eat the same meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner two days out of the week. This helps maximise my time in the kitchen and also prevents me from getting bored with my meal choices,” she says.
She also tends to stick with tried-and-true recipes that she already loves. “I choose a protein and a veggie with every meal and sometimes a carb source depending on what I feel like eating,” she says. Breakfast is often a casserole with eggs, sausage, and vegetables. Since she loves Mexican food, she’ll often do burrito bowls or taco salads for lunch or dinner, switching up the ingredients based on what she’s in the mood for that week. (Think ground beef and brown rice or chicken and cauliflower rice.) She’ll also prep quick, high-protein snacks like tuna or chicken salad. Once the cooking’s complete, she uses a food scale to portion out the meals and pack them up in individual glass containers.
Meal prep tips from a pro
That was five years ago. Meal prepping helped Lopez drop another 20kg for a total of loss of 40kg, which she’s maintained since 2013. She was even inspired to start a food and fitness blog to help others be as successful as she’s been. “Meal prep helped me stay consistent with my fitness goals, and it’s been instrumental to my weight loss success,” she says. Want to follow suit? Here are her top tips for getting started-and kissing those extra kilos goodbye:
- Start small. If the idea of prepping several meals is overwhelming, make a big batch of one item that you can eat for a few lunches or dinners. Once you’ve got that down, you can slowly add more to your weekly menu.
- Get a buddy on board. Meal prepping with a friend is more fun than doing it alone. Double your recipes and split them so you each get plenty for the week.
- Use sheet pans or a slow cooker. Both make easy work of cooking full meals. Just toss a protein and veggies in the oven or in your slow cooker and let them do their thing while you prep other items.
- Be a patient packer. It’s fine to put warm food into your containers, just wait to pop on the lid until everything is cool. That’ll stave off condensation buildup-and keep things from getting soggy.