I get why meal plans seem like the answer; I really do. You’ve gotten yourself into this pickle & obviously you just need someone to tell you exactly what to do to fix it.
Here’s the thing, though. Meal plans don’t work the way you think.
Let’s look at the best case scenario:
I write you a meal plan that takes into account your food preferences and lifestyle while also mandating a caloric deficit that yields steady weight loss within a healthy range.
You reach your goal weight, you’re happy with the way you look, you’ve DONE IT!
Remember maintenance is the end goal; now you weigh whatever you weigh and you want to stay roughly there. This likely means adjustments to your current intake. How do you make those? Do you get a new meal plan to eat off for the rest of your life?
You could, but what kind of life would that be? Is your goal to weigh a certain amount no matter what it takes? Or to spend year after year at a place where you’re happy, healthy, and enjoying your life?
So a rest-of-life meal plan isn’t a very good solution here. But you’ve spent so long strictly following one that you don’t really know how to eat otherwise. You’ve become reliant on someone else telling you exactly that to eat all of the time and now you can’t think for yourself.
What have you learned from your time on a meal plan besides just doing what it says? Probably not much.
Now remember this first scenario is the best-case one. Let’s rewind a little bit to a more likely scenario.
You have a meal plan. Following it strictly does yield results, which is great. But sometimes life gets in the way.
Like when you’re traveling and have to make-do with restaurant meals.
Like when you’re celebrating special occasions.
Like when you have to work late and didn’t bring dinner with you so you have to figure something out on the fly.
Like when you get to the grocery store late on Sunday and there is not a single head of broccoli in sight but you’re supposed to eat broccoli for your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th meals and WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW?!
What if you don’t even like broccoli in the first place but it’s on your plan so you choke it down day-after-day until before you know it, you’re dreaming about chocolate-dipped-broccoli and would that even be good?! Maybe not but it sounds better than another bite of plain broccoli right now…
Instead of learning about the components that make up balanced meals, what foods make you feel good & which you’re better off avoiding, how to make adjustments on the fly, learning how to listen to your body, you’re just blindly following a plan.
Indulgences like chocolate or wine or insert-whatever-you-enjoy are nowhere to be found on your plan and that’s ok at first because you’re seeing results. But the further into it you get, the more you think about those “forbidden,” “off-plan” foods and the more you think if you could just have one more day with them, you could get it all out of your system and then never look back…
…which leads to binging…
…which leads to guilt, negative self-talk…
…doubling down on your efforts…
…rinse and repeat.
You’re either all-in or you’re all-out.
Ok ok ok, you get it, right?
So if a meal plan isn’t the answer, what is?
Step 2: Learning to listen to your body’s hunger & fullness cues to help you learn how to eyeball portion sizes and handle meals that you haven’t cooked yourself.
Step 3: Learning which specific foods make you feel good & are helping you get closer to your goals and which make you feel bad physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Step 4: Continually experimenting to figure out what works for you, your body, and your life, right now.
Step 5: Making small changes to your day-to-day life to improve your food choices from where they are to a little bit closer to where you want to be.
Step 6: Being kind to yourself and recognizing that you need to be in this for the long haul. If you want long-term results, you need to take a sustainable approach.
I have an incredible, free resource that I put together to help you specifically with Steps 1 + 2 above. Download the Body Transformation Guide; I wish it was around about 10 years ago when I was trying to figure out what “healthy eating” actually meant.
In case you’re wondering, this is exactly the sort of thing I work on with my clients. Interested in learning more about my one-on-one coaching services? Work With Esther