|I love ready-made meal plans. Something about having an entire week’s worth of meals on paper, with recipes and a clear plan all laid out appeals to the super organized planner in me. Not having to guess or make decisions about what and when to eat feels supportive.|
But, if we expect a ready-made meal plan to be the answer to all our problems, we usually end up disappointed.
Why would a dietitian say meal plans don’t work?
Because I have seen and heard it time and time again.
“I just want to know what to eat and I don’t want to have to think about it – just tell me what to eat!”
I have found ready-made meal plans rarely work, and when they do, it’s only for a very short time. I know this is true for myself, and for the women I work with.
They’re prescriptive. Which means that no matter how enthusiastic you are, a meal plan can be tough to follow. What about when life happens? You have to work late. You get sick. There’s a celebration, special occasion, or holiday. You’re traveling or away from home. Or you’re just not in the mood for whatever’s on the menu.
Even if you follow the plan perfectly, most likely you are going to get thrown off at some point. Usually what happens is you feel guilty and get caught in the “all-or-nothing” mindset. So you start eating garbage with thoughts like, “Well, I blew it, so I might as well just eat whatever. I’ll get back to my meal plan tomorrow (on Monday, next week…)”.
It’s not a healthy attitude to have toward nutrition or your health, and sets us up for a nasty cycle of on again and off again dieting.
Don’t get me wrong, ready-made meal plans can offer a new perspective, fresh ideas, and inspiration for trying new ways to eat better. And I often share meal plans.
But they are for a specific purpose and meant to be used on a temporary basis. So if you are looking for a permanent solution to your challenges, a ready-made meal plan isn’t the answer.
Just keep things in perspective.
Focus on Small Changes in Your Diet
If you want to make long-term improvements in your eating, your health, and your weight, the best approach (and the one that works!) is to think about what you are already eating, and how you can make it a little bit better.
This means experimenting and adjusting. This takes away the all-or-nothing, success or failure trap we too often fall into when it comes to our eating.
Making small changes and improvements to what you already normally eat and enjoy, one small step at a time.
Think about a spectrum of food quality rather than “bad” or “good” foods.
Let’s make it a game!
My challenge for you –
How can you play “make this meal just a little bit better” in every situation?
In which situations is that easier or harder?
When your choices are limited (for instance, when you’re traveling, or eating at a special event/occasion), how can you shoot for “a little bit better” while still being realistic, and without trying to be “perfect”?
Let us know in the comments!