Meal plans are tempting, I get it.
We believe they come with certainty & guaranteed results, and we don’t have to use our own brains.
With how much we’re juggling on a day-to-day basis, the thought of outsourcing this to others is miiiightily appealing.
However, there is a plethora of negatives that—while you may feel content in the short-term due to quick (and likely unsustainable) results—you’ll likely find yourself even worse off than where you started.
1. Restrictions in the types of foods you can eat, which typically leads to a “good” or “bad” mentality with food. This coincides with diets like paleo, keto, low-carb, low-fat, Whole 30, South Beach Diet, etc.
The truth is that all foods serve a purpose.
Some are more calorically dense while lacking in nutrients (i.e. processed foods), others are highly nutrient dense and are lower in calories (i.e. fruits and vegetables), some are high in both calories and nutrients (i.e. fatty steak, avocado), and the remaining are low in nutrients and calories (i.e. water & air—just kidding, but there aren’t many).
Some of these foods fuel our bodies first; our souls and emotions second. Some are soul food and exist primarily for pleasure, but they provide some kind of energy (i.e. calories). Some do both! Ideally, we’re consuming mostly foods that fuel both our bodies and our souls.
Can meals plans that come with lists of allowed and disallowed foods do that for you?
That’s a hard nope. They can’t.
They don’t know what foods you enjoy, which are highly satisfying for you, which cause you to think about food less vs. more later, which leave you feeling sad and hungry, or which make you so damn excited to eat while also making you feel like a million bucks.
They don’t know YOU, and that should be a basic requirement for how you eat. It’s about you, you, you.
2. Restrictions in the quantity of foods you can eat, either per day or by meal. Yes, portion sizes can certainly be relevant, but these methods lead to:
overriding hunger and satiety signals in an effort to meet numbers, such as feeling guilty or anxious at the end of the day when you’re hungry, yet you don’t have any “allowed” food left OR stuffing yourself when you’re not hungry.
strange food combinations to meet specific macros at the end of the day (think two oz. chicken, three crackers, ½ tbsp peanut butter)
This coincides with diets like “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM), Weight Watchers, or any plan counting calories or macros (macronutrients: carbs, fat, protein).
As a result of overriding your body’s cues, you reinforce the notion that your body can’t be trusted, and many lose the ability to understand hunger and satiety signals altogether. NOT what we’re looking for with a long-lasting and sustainable relationship with food and your body.
**Note: as always, intentions matter here. Counting macros can be healing for those coming from diets like paleo or “clean eating”, because they realize that processed foods aren’t the devil. However, there are better approaches that achieve the same result.
While there can be benefits to either category above, that’s dependent upon the intention of the user, and most of us aren’t using these with a strong sense of awareness while mired in the dieting mindset.
We just want someone to tell us what to do, when to do it, and then turn our brains off while we wait for the desired result.
Lest, we end up worse off than when we started, because we feel even more dependent on the restriction to maintain any weight lost. Or we believe that WE are the problem if we didn’t achieve our desired result.
In order to achieve and maintain an effortless, nourishing, and connected relationship with food, you need to be going inward. Period.
You need to be learning about you
your internal and external triggers
what does and doesn’t work for your lifestyle & your priorities
what foods are satisfying
what foods make you sad and hungry
which provide you with energy
which are worth feeling like shit for
the foods you can’t live without
your relationship with alcohol
and, most importantly, why you really want to change your relationship with food in the first place.
If you have a history of dieting and restriction, and you feel more exhausted, confused, and defeated than ever, then the answer isn’t in another meal plan or diet. It’s within you and your own body.
Learning about yourself take more work upfront—absolutely.
But wouldn’t it be nice to build your foundation & confidence in yourself around food and your body so that you never have to diet again?
So that you can make food choices from a place of empowerment and embodiment without second guessing yourself.