Why Meal Plans Don't Work
Everyone I know has tried a meal plan at least once in their life. Hell, I can't even count how many I've tried. Since I was 18 years old I've believed a meal plan was the answer to the perfect body, the perfect life. I know I'm not the only one who felt this way. I've seen countless family members, friends and strangers desperately try to change their body through a meal plan.
So why so we keep doing these plans if we always end up "failing?"
Well, meal plans tell you exactly what to do, so you don't have to think or worry that you’re “doing it wrong.” Plus, we are so disconnected from our bodies it's intimidating to learn to check in and see what our individual needs are.
Meal plans have been idolized. Even Oprah does Weight Watchers! A meal plan is a step towards the holy grail of six pack and and reaching your goal weight and never having to diet again.
They don’t work.
Maybe for a few weeks, or a few months, maybe. For all the meal plans out there that exist and latest diet trend, how many people do you know who have actually stuck with one for the long-term, not just a few months?
Here’s the problem with meal plans:
They encourage perfectionism.
Eat this — exactly this — Eat anything else, and you’re not following the plan anymore. This feels good, at first. Preach the gospel of the new meal plan! Tell all your friends and family! You are feeling great about it. You're on top of the world!!!
....Until the willpower runs out. Another kale smoothie sounds just awful and what you really want is something sweet to hit the spot. And what happens then — when your plan is based on perfection, and you’re human — is failure. We mess up. Eat too much. Eat things that were not on “the plan.” And if you are anything like me, you go hog wild.
Maybe you get back on the wagon for a bit, eat extra "good" and even add in extra exercise workouts to balance out the calories but now you’re not perfect. So the next slip-up comes up because hey, you already blew it and soon, you’re over it and you get a big case of the fuck its.
Meal plans make you go cold turkey
When most people try to follow a meal plan, they start on Monday and it's a complete 180 overnight. You keep on eating your normal way through the weekend and when Monday hits, you’re on the plan. Its all or nothing. You might start to see results at first but you won't create a lasting habit. Habit-change research shows that changes last when you start with the small achievable steps, so that we can preserve our willpower while the new habit gets wired in our brain. In other words, every time you eat, you solidify this pattern.When you dive in head first your willpower doesn’t stand a chance.
They don’t teach you to tune in
One word: Rigidity.
People don’t stick with meal plans because they’re not flexible. Sometimes you’re in the mood for pasta, but sometimes, you just want a big salad. Or, one day you’ve got time to make the dinner you’re supposed to; the next night, you get done working 9 hour day and you are exhausted and don't have the time or energy to cook (this was me last night) so we go straight for whatever is easy. Microwave popcorn for dinner? Yasss please!
The point is no plan is a one size fits all. Even plans YOU make to fit your life don’t last. Because life happens, things change. The only meal plan that will last is the one that’s adaptable, and matches your ever changing needs. And that’s not a meal plan. That's checking in with your body. That's intuitive eating. Most meal plans simply tell you the best thing you could eat, under perfect circumstances. Learning how to listen to hunger cues, what you are actually craving, and when to stop when you are full is a completely different skill.....
So next time you feel like you've failed another meal plan don't beat yourself up. We are all human. Life is not predictable and honestly hardly ever goes according to the plan.
Maybe this sounds like you and you are tired of this cycle of meal plan pain. If you are ready for something different, I’d like to help you. Send me a message through my website if you’d like to learn more about intuitive eating ! Good luck out there!