(Photo by Content Pixie)

Hello, hello friends and foodies; we are here reporting once more with a new week of meals and side-bar commentary:

Meal Plan – Week #12

Meals: (1) Turkey Chili / (2) Pesto Chicken with Turnip Noodles / (3) Spinach Salad with Seared Chickpeas / (4) Herb de Province Chicken with Onion and Garlic Pinto Beans and Cauliflower Rice / (5) Pork, Broccoli, and Boc Choi Stirfry

Snacks: Chopped Veggies (for dipping) / Balsamic Herb Dipping Sauce / Egg Whites / Naked Popcorn / Almond Butter

(1) Precook Carrots and Celery with Garlic and Onions and brown the meat; add in Cannallini and Pinto Beans, Sweet Potatoes, and Tomatoes with Smoked Paprika, Cumin, and Tumeric (for anti-inflammatory bonus.) Popped Chipotle into the pot after Charlie’s portions had been removed, for our house portion / (2) To avoid dairy, used soaked Cashews as a sub, with fresh Basil and Spinach (for extra iron and protein). Add Garlic, Lemon Juice, and Olive Oil with a dash of Salt in food processor. Chicken cooked with Herbs de Province in crockpot, chopped small, and folded 4 ounces for two meal allotments into the Pesto and split the serving in half. Turnip noodles peeled and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water to soften the flavor and texture. / (3) Chopped Veggies on Spinach with homemade lemon vinegarette. Chickpeas seared in Olive Oil with Cumin, Smoked Paprika, and Italian Herb Blend (as a crouton substitute for texture and added protein) / (4) The same chicken from the crockpot cooking shared with the Pesto meal, with Beans and “Rice” folded in as a familiar-food staple for Charlie / (5) Tossed in Garlic, Fresh Ginger, and Lemon Grass with a dash of Low-Sodium/Gluten Free Soy Sauce, served over Cauliflower Rice

Next: check out Jamie’s piece on portion control and ways of adding filling foods without breaking the calorie bank and Charlie’s piece on snack-packing trip tricks to get you through mid-day weekend errands and adventures.

Meanwhile, I’ve been googling combos of questions about the “12th week,” trying to find inspiration for this week’s blog.

…Which led me through everything from pregnancy gestation cycles to this thing called the 12 Week Year?, to a piece by James Clear about a 12-week study conducted on habits. This last one kept me dialed in, reminding me how much I enjoyed his book and thinking about the power of change in small moments dedicated to building good habits.

The Accidental Nutritionist team is made up of nothing BUT extreme creatures of habit.

From our offices to homes, traditions to personal tastes. From our morning tasks and rituals to end-of-day sign-offs to weekend plans to the things we watch, what we eat when we eat (and what we now DON’T), and how we motivate ourselves to do things we know we need/should do but just don’t freakin’ feel like. We are creatures of habit.

Monday through Wednesday, Jamie starts her day about an hour before me; with coffee and her inbox of emails, she starts coding on her phone for importance as she walks the donut that forms around our living room furniture. She needs her morning pacing to get the motor started. I need to not be in there when it is happening as it is by and large quite irritating in its steady pace and continuity.

By the time I get up she is at her standing desk attending to her emails, and I am doing my morning ritual of reading in the book nook for anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes before I move to my first work station of the day, hit the email, and smash out the daily social media, client updates, and reminder alerts. By the time I’m done, Jamie has finished her breakfast of grits (always grits…regardless of the time of year or temperature) and moves for her desk at the back of the apartment, while I start investigating my breakfast options and land at my desk in the opposite side of the apartment. One of us will come up for air sometime between 11 and 1 PM and holler to the other about walk options (if it’s not raining) or “doing a Rick” (if it IS raining).

We hydrate, change, talk client issues and needs over lunch, then break away to our extreme opposite desk locations until it’s time to wrap the day.

These days of the week rarely change. At all. We are comfortable in our habits and routines and get a crap-ton of stuff accomplished in the natural flow of the first three days of our work week by sticking to our simple routines.

(Which is doubly good when Accidental Nutritionist tasking takes over the bulk of our Thursday and Friday.)

…But we also can adjust to new forms of habits when they happen to start popping up.

…For instance, Jamie n’ I had a friend over this weekend, which was an excellent thing to do not only to spend quality time with a bud but also to force us to deep clean the dang apartment. (You know…with all that time we have laying around in between our constant work and side gigs.) The last time we did this was about four weeks ago when Jamie’s brother came to visit. It was decided this trend had the possibility of forming an instant gratification reward for doing something every human on the planet hates doing but know they need to do. So, moving forward, we are specifically planting house visit invitation dates on our calendars according to when the house should be cleaned to help keep us motivated.

Habit: built! And: Win!

For the past two weeks, I’ve also been challenging myself with fitness requirements and specific food and drink limitations. Building bubbles to check off on my day planner (yes I still use one, and yes it’s paper…that too has been a constant habit.) Because checking off a bubble may be a small thing, but small things can add up. Unbroken chains of heavily “X’d” off bubbles may not be the same as the satisfaction of laying around binge-watching HBO and eating a bag of chips, but it sure accomplishes more in a day.

…Also, those unbroken chains of checked bubbles mean I am fighting my good fight, I am waging my whatever-battle, and I am dedicated! I am strong! I could kill a bear for a burger right now…but I suppose can also just as easily clock in my daily walk and check it off.

See! I’m making better choices! Building good habits! I am winning!

(And so far, no bears have been hurt in this round of dieting.)

Charlie has been building and crossing off her mental habit bubbles like a boss for 12 weeks now. Without the privilege of picking and choosing her way through, starting slow, or amending at will (or taking down a bear for a burger.) She has been slashing her bubbles of to-dos and musts and must-nots, leaving nothing but baggy clothes and gold stars as the carnage left behind. It is a mighty feat. Seriously. It’s like Olympic-level dedication when you’ve never even played the sport before.

The 12th week may not be anything specifically spectacular when you’re talking about a project that will last the rest of a lifetime. But it’s 12 weeks longer than day one…and that is a LOT of bubbles checked off.