“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
“Can’t you just write me a meal plan?” asked my client today
If you’re anything like me, you can’t stand meal plans. They make you feel like you’re stuck in a ‘I can only eat this box’ and that can feel boring, unsuccessful and unfulfilling!
I don’t give out meal plans. I’d much rather serve my clients by empowering them with the skills, tools, techniques and education so they can eat what they want, when they want and be empowered about their own food decisions.
A significant percentage of the people I talk to want to lose weight. Some want to achieve a better weight, some want to look and feel better and some want to reduce disease risk or progression.These are general goals (and good ones!), but they require a plan to achieve them. Most people think that the way to achieve such a goal is a rigid diet plan that will precisely account for every last calorie they consume. There are some problems with this way of thinking, but most people have either lost some weight in the past using a strict diet, or know of others who have done so. But consider this:
1) Doesn’t Work… Long term
Maybe they work for a meal or for a day. But, let’s face it! We ALL have hectic lives and probably have a family with one or more food intolerances or issues. It can be difficult to follow a strict plan –and, guess what? Things come up. Life gets in the way and sometimes, it’s just not practical or ideal to follow a meal plan to the ‘T.’ In fact, it can get overwhelming and if you feel like you’re not following it and you fall off, it can feel like a failure and that’s not fun. Wouldn’t it be so much better if you were equipped with the skills and tools to create mindful and empowered choices and decisions every day in regards to your food? What if you were your own mini meal planner? What would that look like?
2) Are Boring: What You Need Is Balance
If I were to make a meal plan for you – it might look like a piece of grilled chicken with some baked or roasted broccoli sprinkled with almond and walnuts – yummy to me, but you may think that is anything less than yummy! Your food likes and dislikes are going to look a lot different than mine or your families, friends etc… You’ve got to go with foods that are going to inspire you, lift up your spirits and entice your taste buds and you’ve gotta find a balance! Get creative! Look up recipes, meal ideas, Pinterest and see what sparks your interest! Experiment and experience!
3) Your Lifestyle Doesn’t Fit Into A Meal Plan
Everybody’s lifestyle is different and eating plans are exactly that – something that someone else has come up with. And that contains someone else’s behaviors, lifestyle, practices, beliefs, attitudes about food. But, guess what? You have your own all of the above. A meal plan could have 20+ new eating habits to master and chowing down on one new habit may be enough to bite off!
Do you eat six meals a day? Three? Do you value all organic foods or do you splurge on organics once in a while? Do you have time to cook, prep and plan or are you needing on the go meals? There are so many decisions that go into meal planning, you’ve gotta find what works best for you!
Try this instead: Instead of working on a WHOLE meal plan – just take a bite-sized piece of and try one meal at a time like breakfast.
4) Doesn’t Set You Up For Long-Term Success
Meal plans are just that. Plans, and plans can change. They aren’t etched in stone. Eventually – they are here to help you create your own choices and decisions. They are tracks to run on. What happens when you don’t follow them accordingly? Do you feel like you’ve messed up or failed because you haven’t had exactly 3 ounces of chicken or one cup of rice?
The answers should be no, because what needs to happen first is for you to get in touch with your lifestyle, eating behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and your hunger and fullness signals, what foods work for you and what your likes and dislikes are before following what anyone else to tell you what to eat and how to eat.
I much prefer to sit down with the person and come up with a sustainable eating pattern that flexibly accommodates exercise goals, business trips and anniversary dinners, and those times when life just goes south. This is a bit of a thinking shift for some people, and it’s not a fast or easy process.
At this point you have probably figured out that if you call me up looking for a quick diet plan to help you achieve your goals, you are in for a much more in-depth discussion of your goals/needs, aspirations, and long term wellness. As I mentioned above, focusing on what you can do (behaviors) is how you achieve success, not just by worrying about the eventual outcome.