Good old meal plans … I’ve almost forgot about them, but whenever I browse a fitness magazine, they catch my attention. Out of curiosity I start reading them and I am always amused about them: if it is a meal plan in a men’s magazine, you feel taken back to the old bro science ages of chicken breast, white rice and steamed brokkoli. If it is a meal plan for women, I see plenty of smoothie bowls, porridge, pasta and woefully low amounts of protein. I mean I get it, meal plans seem to be an easy solution for weight loss, but I think you can do better!
Most meal plans look really nice on paper. Most of them offer great variety and let you eat four to five times a day. But you also have to cook all this stuff! Preparing five meals a day can be a chore and even if I love cooking, it wouldn’t be any fun for me neither. I bet you too have better things to do than prepare food five times a day. Just imagine all the weighing, cleaning and washing up! On the next day you have to do it all over again, just because your meal plan calls for completely different meals. Most people complain about having to cook and how little time they have, so meal plans definitely won’t help with that.
On the other side you have the extremely monotonous diets like chicken, rice and brokkoli everyday. I don’t think that a diet has to be very varied, but something like this is just too little variety, even if it is just for a short time. It doesn’t build a healthy relationship with food and leads to a mindset of punishing yourself with a bland diet for being fat. That’s definitely not a sustainable approach. Diets like this can lead to deficiencies and eating disorders, so don’t mess with that!
Luckily, that’s not necessary with a flexible diet. You have your energy and macro targets to meet and the rest is up to you. Nobody cares if you have chicken, steak or fish as your protein source. Not an appetite for brokkoli today? Well, just eat zucchini! This is a diet that sets you up for long time success and not a short term grind.
Not Learning Anything
One drawback all meal plans have in common is they don’t teach you anything. You just get a sheet of paper and have to follow it religiously. Somebody did the calculations behind it for you, but you don’t have any idea why your are eating what. This sets you up for failure later. That’s the reason why a lot of people experience gaining weight back after finishing a diet: they just didn’t learn how to be responsible for themselves.
And what happens if your meal plan is over? Will you just do it all again? Chances are that you would need a new plan because your body changed. And if you didn’t change, your will need another meal plan because it obviously didn’t work for you. But how should your new plan look like? As you can see, it isn’t an optimal approch to your diet.
I firmly believe the only way to long lasting results is to learn what makes a good diet. This means you have to get involved in the decision making process of creating healthy dishes. It will create the freedom and flexibility you need to be able to stick to your diet in the long run.
As I already mentioned, I think most meal plans are too restrictive to lead to optimal results and maximum sustainability. Incredible variety isn’t as important as most people think, but having some leeway pays off. In the beginning of a diet it might be necessary to cut out entire food groups to break bad habits but sooner or later, you have to get a more relaxed take on diet.
Restrictive meal plans may also force you to buy fruits and vegetable which are not in season. At first this doesn’t sound like a big drawback, but imagine dieting in January and your meal plan calls for strawberries. If your live in a country like Austria, this means you will get strawberries at the supermarket even in January (which I already consider insanity), but they come from the other end of the world, look pale and taste like raw potatoes. No thanks, I don’t want to have those strawberries! No wonder there are kids out there, who do not like strawberries: if I had to eat those, I would also hate them.
Another problem with meal plans is their completely strict nature: there is no room for any deviation. What do you do when real life happens? Family feasts, holidays, birthdays, work meals … sure, you can work around this. You can bring your own food to your mum, but don’t expect her to be too happy about it if you turn down her Gulasch because your meal plan calls for chicken and rice. You can turn down invitations, but sooner or later this will leave you miserable and lonely and eventually fall off your overly restrictive diet. You have to learn to plan in such occasions or life will get into your road to success.
Do It Yourself
Meal plans do have a time and a place in the repertoire of a coach. They might help people who are absolutely clueless about how a normal meal should like. But in the long turn you have to learn how to plan your meals yourself.
This is the way to true (diet) freedom! It’s not my goal to chain my clients to me and make them dependent on my coaching. Quite the opposite is the case: I want you to be able to look after yourself. I want you to be strong and independant and not the slave of a meal plan.
Are you interested in learning more about how to take control of your fat loss journey? Fill out the client intake form and let’s get in touch!