Meal Plans. Let’s get into. And more specifically, why they don’t work and are not a sustainable way of eating for the results you want.
Meal plans have been around for a while and are popular in the fitness industry and bodybuilding world. They’re also used for managing specific chronic diseases like diabetes, HBP or for general weight loss.
The idea behind a meal plan is to have a person stay within a certain calorie count or include/exclude certain food groups for the desired results.
For example, using the fitness/bodybuilding world, one might be restricted to a 1500 calorie meal plan that excludes carbs, with a heavy emphasis on certain protein, and a limited variety of fruits and veggies, in the attempt to achieve a slim, sculpted physique.
As you can see from this example, the meal plan doesn’t provide a lot of variety, nor does it provide personal recommendations specific to the person’s individual needs…it’s pretty general.
And in all honesty, a meal plan is just another word for a diet, and you know how I feel about diets.
So let’s get into why restrictive meal plans don’t work for the long-haul, and what you can do instead to foster a healthier relationship with food to get the results you want.
Why Meal Plans Don’t Work
Before we get started, I have to make sure I let you know that a Meal Plan and Meal Planning are two different things.
A Meal Plan is a restricted guideline, of certain foods to eat for a desired goal, while Meal Planning is simply planning the recipes/food you’re going to eat in a given week.
If you’re having trouble with planning your meals, my Meal Planning Toolkit can help you in that department (shameless plug 😊)!
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the real reasons why a meal plan doesn’t necessarily set you up for long-term success.
- They Lack Variety and Can Get Boring
Let’s be honest, anyone who has tried to stick with a meal plan, found it hard to do so because the plan lacked variety, and eating the same things over and over can get boring. Not only that, when you restrict your intake to a limited amount of foods, your body could be missing out on key vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly. And did you know that more than 90 percent of Americans are deficient in at least one nutrient. This could be due to following meal plans/diets that lack variety.
- Restrictive, No Flexibility
I feel the second reason is the most dangerous of them all because it can cause “food guilt” when you deviate from the order and foods listed on the plan. For example, when you have exact measurements, and everything lined up for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks, but when it’s time to eat said meals, you’re not in the mood for what’s listed. In that case, you might choose to eat something different instead, which can cause you to feel like a failure for not sticking to the plan. When there’s no wiggle room and you feel bound to something, you’re more likely to rebel and eat everything in sight instead. Who’s been there before? It’s also burdensome to have to count and measure everything for each meal.
- They Don’t Teach You How to Eat
I know that may sound elementary, and our society obviously has no problem putting fork to mouth, which shows as our society continues to be crippled with high obesity rates and chronic disease. This is because, sadly, most people don’t know the fundamentals of proper nutrition (basically everything you’ve been told is a lie), and don’t know how to properly nourish the body for better health. Instead, you’ve been sold diets and get-fit-quick schemes that continue to perpetuate the deadly cycle; but that’s a story for another day.
I’ll let some of the stats speak for themselves:
– 360,000 Americans die every year from diseases directly related to obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.
– Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States.
– More than 70% of adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with a Chronic Disease.
That’s where I come in. I don’t tell you what to eat, I teach you how to eat. How to eat for life, and long-term well-being. While meal plans tell you what to eat, not allowing for any autonomy over your food choices.
What to Do Instead
By now you should have a better idea of why meal plans aren’t necessarily the best for long-term success, and you’re probably wondering what other options you have.
No need to fear, I’ve got you covered and will now share what you can do instead to help set yourself up for better eating habits and long-term success.
1. Keep a Food Journal (I know, I know…)
And no, this doesn’t mean keeping track of calories. It simply means to jot down what you consume on a daily basis so you can become aware of any habits or patterns specific to you. Most people have a disdain for food journals, because they view it as an inconvenience rather than seeing it as a benefit. When you’re armed with this information, you can course correct and really learn how your body responds to foods and what it needs to flourish.
2. Practice Intuitive/Mindful Eating
When you‘re consistent with keeping your food journal, you’ll be more equipped to start practicing Intuitive/Mindful Eating. What is Intuitive/Mindful Eating? In essence, it’s listening to your body and allowing it to tell you what it needs. I know that may sound elusive, and I’ll go into more detail about it in another post soon so you can have a better understanding. But at the end of the day, your body knows best; Not someone else, and your body is always speaking to you (giving you signals when something is off – headache, tired, achey, etc.), it’s whether or not you’re listening. Keep your food journal, tune in and start trusting your body more, and I promise it will tell you everything you need.
3. Create Your Own “Meal Plan”
Now that you’re armed with a better sense of your body’s wants and needs, you can create your very own “meal plan” that caters to you and your taste buds! This gives you more autonomy over your body and the kinds of foods you eat, and allows for more flexibility based on your specific likes and needs. This way you are more likely to stick with your personal meal plan, establish a better relationship with food, and stop the restrictive, meal plans/diets, once and for all!
Now you know why meal plans don’t work, and what you can do instead to make your experience more enjoyable and achieve the results you want.
Yes, the tips I’ve given you do take some time to put into practice and get accustomed to, but are you and your health not worth the effort?
If you need more help with improving your eating habits, make sure you grab a copy of my 90-Day Holistic Nutrition Food Guide or schedule a Consultation to start your journey.
Click the link below to grab your copy or schedule your appointment!