I said what I said!
You don’t want a meal plan.
And I don’t want to/won’t give you one!
For the sake of this blog post, when I say “meal plan” I’m talking about a map where specific foods are planned out at certain times of day for an individual to eat. (Not meal suggestions, not recipes, not macros.)
You know, like this:
Now, aside from the fact that only Registered Dietitians and Licensed Physicians (neither of which I am!) are actually allowed to prescribe meal plans, I also don’t think they’re a good idea for most people.
First of all, if you’re given a meal plan, you don’t necessarily learn anything about food and nutrition from it. If you’re simply told what to eat, you may not understand what the content of your food is and how to use that knowledge to make educated choices for yourself in the future. What happens after you stop using the meal plan? Do you just continue to eat the same things? Maybe. But are you able to make educated decisions that help you reach your goals and feel good? Maybe not. Do you know how much protein you need and where to find it? Do you know what healthy fat sources are? Are you aware of where to find your hearty carbs? *shrugs shoulders*
Next, a meal plan doesn’t necessarily include all foods you enjoy. If someone is writing a plan for you, it may not include foods you like to eat, and may even include some you don’t like. If you ask me, nothing can make plans harder to follow then being told you “have to” eat/do something you don’t want to. This can lead to plans being hard to follow and/or commit to, which can also lead to people giving up or becoming pessimistic about their progress. Meal plans likely don’t give much leeway, which can lead to people “quitting” the plan, or minimal adherence to it. If you think the only way you can make progress is by eating chicken and broccoli for every meal, and you HATE broccoli, I imagine you’re far more likely to throw up your hands and hit the Doritos and ice cream hard! (Not that there’s anything wrong with those foods, they certainly do fit! in appropriate amounts!)
A meal plan also doesn’t take into account your real life experiences. Many times foods included in meal plans take time to buy, cook, prep, and eat, and that time reality is not necessarily available for all. Equally, eating a full, sit down meal for lunch, for example, may not be possible with each individuals’ schedules. Not everyone has that luxury. This is yet another reason that understanding the details of your food needs is more critical than being told what to eat. Alternatively, when you’re able to buy, prep, and eat foods that fit your schedule and you KNOW fit your needs, thats the key!
If you’re following a meal plan, you may not learn how to mindfully include foods you enjoy. I’m talking about the more indulgent/calorically dense foods here. Are there Doritos and Ice Cream on your meal plan? Likely not. So how or when do you include foods like this that you enjoy? What happens when you go to the birthday party and want a piece of cake? Or you want to go out with friends and get a drink? Or, how will you make choices and mindfully include foods when you eventually go off the meal plan? Exactly!
Don’t get me wrong… Can seeing a sample/ideal day of food serve as a helpful example of what you’re aiming for? Yes, but for the reasons above, it shouldn’t be something you’re supposed to follow exactly. With that being said, a sample day of food for one person may not be (and is likely not!) appropriate for another! We all have different starting points, goals, needs, past experiences with foods and fitness, likes and dislikes, meal preferences, snack preferences, etc. that it’s nearly impossible to make a meal plan that fits lots of people. Which is also why I don’t like when various health and fitness programs promote and sell blanket meal plans to people. How is a food plan that’s appropriate for a fitness noobie with goals of weight loss also appropriate for someone who’s been lifting weights for 10 years and has 10% body fat and can’t afford to lose more weight?! It’s NOT!
Lastly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like “just tell me what to eat and I’ll do it” from people. I totally understand where that comes from, and certainly don’t fault anyone for saying it. Generally speaking, we like plans and we like to check boxes, but there’s so much more to the equation than that. But, in my experience creating goals of foods we WANT to include in food plans, learning about different foods and how they serve you, figuring out reasonable intake goals through macros or serving/portion sizes that fit each individual’s goals, is FAR MORE effective than simply giving someone a day and saying, “Do this.”
With this all being said, I’m certainly not taking anything away from meal plans that RDs or doctors create for people. They know those individuals, their medical and biological needs, and they have a reason for creating those plans. Yes. True. In fact, if you DO really want a meal plan, see your doctor or find an RD who can help!
Similarly, if you’ve done appropriate research, talked to doctors, or had coaching around food, I fully support you creating a “meal plan” or structure of sorts for yourself, or even making lists of habitually eaten meals, to make food intake and planning easier. This includes the knowledge you have about food and takes your own personal experiences into account. All good.
In conclusion, I don’t think you need a meal plan. And I don’t want to give you one. I do, however, want to educate you around your food, your needs, and help you reach your goals in a way that in NOT prescriptive in nature, but instead addresses your real life experiences and personal needs so that you can continue to eat what you need, without restricting any foods, for the rest of your life! If that kinda thing sounds appealing, I’m here for you and would love to support you! Reach out to me at email@example.com or use this link to book a free consultation call directly!
I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on this! Please share what you think in the comments, or send me a message!
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As always, thank you for reading!