My Healthy 2020

How Meal Planning Helped Me Get Off Medications (and Keep Up with My Kids!)

published Jan 18, 2020
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Credit: Design: The Kitchn; Photo: Daniel Marino

“When I eat junk foods, I’m not my best. When I eat whole and healthy foods, I am a lot better. Learning how to meal prep and knowing what I’m going to eat for the week has really changed my life for the better.” Karen Lu, an office manager based in New Jersey, made the switch to meal prepping all her meals for the week on Sundays. She’s done it for two years now. “If you do it all on the weekends, then the rest of the week is all easy,” she says. “Now I eat foods that are really satisfying.”

Karen shares why she made the transition to meal prepping and the impact it’s made in her life and in her family.

20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.

My Healthy: Meal Planning & Prepping

  • Name: Karen Lu
  • Location & Occupation: Office Manager in New Jersey
  • How Long She’s Been Meal Planning/Prepping: 2 years

What does “healthy” mean to you?
Healthy is being active and keeping up with my two kids while being the strongest and most energetic I have ever been in my life.

So health for you is defined in terms of activity and energy. Had your energy been significantly less before your health change? 
Yes, I was depressed and overweight previously. As soon as I started losing weight, my energy levels went up. 

What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
I macro-count. I eat three meals and two snacks per day. I eat a lot more protein that I used to eat. I eat a lot of vegetables and fewer carbohydrates. On Sundays, I meal prep by roasting a ton of vegetables and baking chicken. Sometimes I make meatballs. 

In general, I prep breakfasts, lunches, and dinners on Sundays for the rest of the week. I make spreadsheets of what I’m going to eat a week in advance and I make 21 meals for myself. I prep some breakfasts and lunches for my husband, too. I’m lucky that Grandma cooks for the kids during the week and I cook for them on the weekends. 

What were your goals when you made this change?
My number one goal was to lose weight and not need medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol. When I made the change, I had just had my annual physical and my doctor wanted to put me on medication for high blood pressure and backaches. To alleviate back pain and a lot of other problems, she suggested I start losing a little weight. After three months of exercising and eating better, I came off blood pressure medication and I didn’t need back medication any longer. Within five months, I didn’t need any medications at all. 

How did you make this change? What motivation pushed you on?
When my doctor put me on five medications, that’s when it hit me — hard. My mom is in her seventies and she takes loads of medications for diabetes and high blood pressure. Frankly, I didn’t want to be taking medication for 30 more years. I started reading that a lot of people can make little changes in diet and exercise to alleviate the need for medications. So, I started exercising for two weeks.

Then, I thought I needed to change the way I eat. I used to eat a lot of junk, especially baked goods and a lot of carbs. I read about people who meal prep, about how they organize the food they eat. When I started meal prepping, it was a lot easier to grab and go instead of making choices in the office. Losing weight was my number one motivation. When I started seeing the changes in me, it made it easier to keep going. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman
Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Easy Low-Carb Meals

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the fact that I have not stopped eating in this new way and I have not stopped exercising. It’s a life-changing experience that I hope to be able to do forever. But I am most proud of kicking the medication.  

So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
My kids, who are nine and twelve, keep me going. In addition to doing this for me, I’m also doing this for them. I don’t have a secret per se — it’s a new habit that I’ve learned and enjoyed. Being able to walk around the block and in the park with my kids is another great motivator. At Disney, we could go all day and that was the greatest feeling!

What’s the one food you love the most?
Sweet potatoes.

If you were to recommend meal prepping to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
I think everyone who has changed their lifestyle says the same thing: consistency and patience. I’ve been doing this for almost two years now and it’s just something I do all the time now. I don’t even think about being consistent anymore. Patience has been the harder for me. I’ve come a long way. There are still goals I have set in my mind and I always have to remember that it all takes time.

Thank you, Karen! Follow her at @zxkaren on Instagram.

Some Resources to Help You Start Meal Planning

My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices

Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.