How to pack a lunch you'll love

“Sure Katie, it’s fine to eat authentically when you have plenty of time and money, but what about when you’re packing a lunch to eat outside the home? How can you make sure you eat what you want in the moment, when you had to plan out your meal hours ago?”

Oh snap. That’s a good one.

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 1.08.08 PM.png

In honor of this great question that I’ve gotten from multiple readers now, I’m going to do a three-part series. (I know, three parts? Is this girl for real?)

This week will be about packing a lunch you’ll love.

So you’re at home, getting ready to pack your lunch to take to school or to work or out to the park.

There’s one big potential problem about packing a lunch: what if you don’t like what you packed once you sit down to eat it?  

So first things first:

Yeah, you’re not going to be perfect every time. Sometimes you’ll like your lunch, and sometimes you won’t.

But that’s true with anything. Sometimes you pick an outfit that ends up being fabulous, and sometimes at 2 pm you think to yourself, “Ugh, why did I pick this frumpy shirt? I look terrible.”

How do you make sure that, all things considered, you pack the best possible lunch for yourself? 

Here’s my #1 suggestion:

Pack a lunch as an act of love to yourself.

Okay, I know that sounds cheesy. I feel like a cheese-ball, even writing it.

But, in the end, it is the only thing that I know to be 100% true. I mean, there’s other stuff, too (e.g., packing soup + the subway = a very wet purse), but when we’re talking about authentic + luscious eating, that’s my golden nugget.

Here’s another way to frame it:

Imagine someone who loved you very much, who only wanted you to be happy and joyful. This person thinks you are beautiful just the way you are and doesn’t think that you need to lose weight. Imagine that this someone knew all of your favorite foods.

If that person packed a lunch for you, what would it look like?

You can bet it wouldn’t be celery sticks and low-fat bread with two slices of turkey and wilted lettuce.

That person who loved you would probably think: 

“What activities is my dear one going to do today?”

“What foods would delight my beloved?”

“What would make my love feel really good today?”

And the amazing thing is, your Loving Lunch-Packer would probably end up packing a balanced lunch.

Whereas on my own, I might say, “Only quinoa and kale today,” my Loving Lunch-Packer says, “Wouldn’t you like a cookie and some cheese, too?”

Whereas on my own, I might say, “Today is an indulgent day! Nothing but cookies!” my Loving Lunch-Packer would say, “That’s just fine, honey. But might you like just half a turkey sandwich, too? And perhaps a pear? You don’t have to eat it, but just in case.”

My Loving Lunch Packer wants me to feel good. Sometimes that means more cookies. Sometimes that means more carrot sticks.

And a confession: when I even think about packing a lunch in this way, I feel softer, looser, more at ease.

I feel like everything is going to be okay.

I feel like I’ve got my own back.

That’s the real virtue of packing a lunch in this way. Because, look, you can go ahead and not pack a cookie and then run out and grab a slice of pumpkin bread from Starbucks when you’re craving something at 3 pm.

No shame at all. I’ve been there myself.

But here’s the thing. When you do that because in the morning you decided that you “shouldn’t” have a cookie, you’re letting a battle take place within yourself.  The restrictive part of you packed a healthy lunch. The indulgent part of you ran out to Starbucks .

And it doesn’t feel good to be in conflict within yourself, you know?

In contrast, the message you send yourself when you pack in a loving way that authentically acknowledges your wants and needs is that you are allowed to want what you want, and your needs are not endless or unreasonable.

And frankly, that’s a nice way to feel.

And just for all ya’lls out there who like lists, here is a 5-point checklist that you can use when you are trying to channel your Loving Lunch-Packer:

1. Do I actively enjoy this food or am I using myself as a human garbage disposal?

Mexican leftovers from last night that you want to throw out but you're worried about being wasteful? Uh, no. It’s good to be frugal, but if the choice is the trash can under your sink or the trash can in your belly, choose the one under your sink.

2. Am I packing enough food to get through my day with ease?

Don’t act like you don’t need a snack if you do. In fact, if you think there’s any chance at all that you might need a snack, why not pack one? It’s so fun to feel well-cared for.

3. Am I packing some delicious indulgences?

I don’t want a day that doesn’t involve chocolate. Do you? (And if you think you should say, “Oh, I don’t really like sugar” or “I feel really good when I go carb-free” but it’s not true for you, then just stop it, silly. Eat a cookie!)

4. Am I packing foods that will make me feel good and balanced?

Look, sometimes I pack a big ol’ brownie in my lunch and eat that, but you can bet I’ll make sure to bring a yogurt and some nuts and cucumber for a snack. Being kind means satisfying your taste buds and your body’s need for nutrients. The ratio can vary quite a bit depending on where you are in your journey (early on for me, my “healthy” element might just be a glass of milk with my cookies, and that was fine by me), but it’s good to ask the question.

5. Am I leaving room for outside food?

If you know that there are going to be croissants at the office and that you’re going to want one, don’t pretend like you won’t! For a long time, I used to pack baggies of nuts and think that I’d “avoid” the bagels and cream cheese that abounded by having a small snack instead. Well, I just ended up having both. So be kind when you plan.

Does any of this resonate? Have another question you’d like me to answer in the blog? Let me know in the comments or send me a message!

Come back next week for Part II: my top tip for making sure you don’t over-eat at work.