Why I Don't Recommend Meal Plans
During my dietetic internship I had the pleasure of shadowing Molly Paulson, an Atlanta dietitian who had a private practice and now teaches nutrition at Georgia State. We discussed all things healthy and she shared her philosophy on meal plans: not a fan. She taught clients how to pair foods to make healthy meals. After working with hundred’s of clients I recognize how diets and meal plans can prevent you from reaching your health goals.
At least half of my new client’s anticipate a rigid meal plan to help with their weight loss. Something they can easily follow so they don’t have to think about what to eat. I get it. It’s what they know and have followed diet after diet after diet and it appears to be the reason for success. If they could just stick to a healthy meal plan, they think they are guaranteed to lose weight. They don’t believe that they can actually lose weight without one. But the truth is, I rarely, if ever give clients a meal plan. And there is a very good reason. Traditionally meal plans don’t work long term.
Above is an example of two-week meal plan from MyPlate.gov. It looks healthy right? It is, but in all honesty this meal plan does nothing for MY tastebuds (I eat a LOT more plants). Look at day one: I don’t eat mayonnaise OR chicken so now what do I eat? Meal plans can be challenging to follow since something that works for one person may not work for another.
Sure you can lose some weight as long as you stick to the boring meal plan, eating foods that you would normally not want to eat. And over time, you burn out and go back to what you know. Your unhealthy habits. Your favorite foods. And gain the weight back, usually more. People struggle by hitting repeat on this pattern with diet after diet, defeat after defeat, causing a very unhealthy relationship not only with food, but also with their body. It’s a miserable place to exist, stuck inside the body you were born with.
Traditional meal plans don’t work because the reality is, life gets in the way. Social events coupled with true hunger can cause the most disciplined of persons to crack at the first sight of pizza, pasta, burgers, fries, chips and salsa, cupcakes and ice cream. Meal plans don’t teach you how to successfully navigate social situations in a healthy manner.
Meal plans teach you how to follow a meal plan but they don’t teach what to do when life gets busy. What to eat when you have to work late or when you get sick (or your kid does). What to do when you just don’t feel like drinking another protein shake. I’ve been there. That can be a big struggle causing you to jump ship and get “off plan” eating whatever you want without regard to your meal plan. Then your next struggle is getting back on track. That motivation can elude you for a week or perhaps even a month. The mental dialog that goes along with this situation can be downright abusive. Unfortunately I’ve been there too.
The reality is once you learn how to incorporate healthier eating guidelines to properly feed your body based on your personal needs, health goals and possible medical condition, your healthy weight (the one you don’t have to starve and diet for) will find you. You can still eat your favorite foods and learn about new healthy ones too. Sound too good to be true? It’s actually what healthy people do.
If you are ready to replace less than optimal habits with healthier ones contact me to set up your initial nutrition appointment so we can get started on your new life today! Please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to meeting you soon!