For someone who has been going on and on about the benefits of quitting a diet and quitting calorie counting, how can I say that I like meal plans and that I use them with a lot of my clients? Click here and here to read these posts.
Meal plans have been getting a lot of bad press lately (Precision Nutrition wrote a great post earlier in the week that I agree with… but I don’t think tells the whole story).
Meal plans can definitely cause some harm in some people, as they can be triggering for people who have struggled with eating disorders in the past. They can also give people a sense of failure when they “go off track” or can’t seem to follow the meal plan over the weekend or during holidays.
I think the main issue with meal plans is that when we think of the words “meal plan” we think of a restrictive, bland, boring list of foods that are non-negotiable and that we don’t enjoy eating.
What if I told you that meal plans can actually be delicious? Crazy, right?
I use meal plans to show clients that you can eat healthy AND delicious foods that you actually enjoy! This is how I work with my clients and anyone who has worked with me in the past can attest to this: I NEVER want my clients eating foods that they don’t absolutely LOVE. Why? Because eating foods we don’t enjoy just to lose weight is NOT sustainable.
Sustainability and actually enjoying the process of losing weight is SO incredibly important (because let’s face it, weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, so if we’re not happy with the process then we will quit before we ever reach our goal). If you’re struggling to choke down your meals and feel hungry for most of the day… this is not sustainable (and as we’ve discussed before, this will likely also reduce your basel metabolic rate through semi-starvation).
I look at meal plans as providing guidance rather than having to be strictly followed.
There are some positives that I see come out of the meal planning that my clients and I do together:
- Developing confidence in the kitchen. I can’t even tell you the number of people who come into my office and tell me that they “can’t cook” or “hate cooking”. Providing my clients with a meal plan that contains easy but delicious recipes can totally change their outlook on themselves as cooks and give them the confidence they need to not only cook healthy meals for themselves but also share these meals, skills and recipes with others.
- We live in a world of instant gratification and often give up on anything that takes more than a couple of days to see results. As most of us know, the benefits of changing your nutrition takes months and sometimes even years to get the result you’re looking for (this is the unfortunate truth that we often don’t talk about because it is discouraging for so many of us). If someone comes to me with digestive issues, low energy and intense cravings and I give them a meal plan that eliminates many commonly irritating foods and helps them stabilize their blood sugar – they will feel the difference within a few days. It is this significant change that keeps people focused for the long haul because they know how GOOD they can feel.
- It takes some of the guess work out. Who can relate to this: you have a long, busy day at work and you get home and now you have to think about what to cook for supper but you feel SO incredibly exhausted and as a result, end up throwing in a frozen lasagna or ordering pizza? When my clients have a meal plan to follow, they are SO much more likely to make the time to meal prep for the week. They grocery shop and make sure that they have the ingredients on hand to prepare the meals on their plan and they don’t have to THINK about what to make because it is all laid out for them.
- Following a meal plan for a period of time allows me to teach my clients how to put meal plans together so that they can continue doing this in the future for themselves and their families. Let’s be real, we NEED to think and plan ahead in order to be able to have nutritious meals ready to go for the busy week ahead.
The meal plans that I create are 100% client-centred and THEY decide what is included (they are not full of flavourless steamed broccoli and baked chicken breast, I assure you).
My major goal with clients is to teach them which foods make them feel the best, what a proper portion size is of these foods and to give them the confidence they need to get into the kitchen and start preparing delicious meals for themselves and their families. By the end of our time together, my clients have a recipe book full of some staple, go-to meals that work well for their families (because let’s be real, we tend to cycle the same 15-20 recipes).
Don’t get me wrong, meal plans are definitely NOT the only way to show someone how they can eat healthier but they are definitely a tool that I use with my clients and I find them extremely helpful! We need to realize that not all meal plans are created equally and following a meal plan does NOT have to mean tasteless deprivation!
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Do you meal plan for yourself or your family? Please share your experiences in the comment box below!
Until next time!
Yours in Health,