“Broccoli again?!” “How much of this stuff am I going to be eating?”
For those of you who have tried to follow a certain meal plan, I can imagine that this has been something you have said to yourself many times.
No matter how much you seasoned those green, cruciferous trees with salt and pepper, or tried dipping them in mustard, dousing them in vinegar, covering them with hot sauce. Nothing helps. It likely still tasted like the same soggy broccoli that you had forced down several times per day for months.
Why do this to yourself? Because the meal plan said so.
Meal plans are created often in an attempt to lose body fat by making you follow a strict meal plan. Meal plans help to outline exactly which foods you can eat, how much, and when.
When your motivation is strong in the first few weeks of following a meal plan everything is fine. But after a few weeks of “Groundhog Day” meals, you can slowly start to dread them. In the end, many start to just shovel down their food just to get it over with, because any enjoyment from eating is gone
Meal plans can help serve a purpose, but in the long run, the cons outweigh the pros.
Meal Plan Pros and Cons
As mentioned before, meal plans can work when it comes to altering your body composition, but these results are usually short-lived. Following a meal plan is not a long-term, sustainable strategy, because very few people can adhere to the typically short list of foods forever. Furthermore, would you really want to?!
Also, what happens when you stop following a meal plan, and go back to “normal” eating!
More often than not, you end up falling back into old habits and your initial positive results become very much short lived.
However, just to clarify, “Meal plan” can different things to different people. For some, it may merely be a flexible style of eating allows for a wide variety of foods, such as ‘Flexible Dieting’, where you simply need to meet a specific number of macronutrients (protein, carb, and dietary fat) each day; it doesn’t matter how you get there, so long as you hit those numbers.
For most, the term “meal plan” refers to that very strict type of plan that I am sure many of you have tried to follow. The type of plan that may tell you to have five egg whites, ½ cup of oats, and 1 TBSP of peanut butter at breakfast at exactly 8am, and in which there is no flexibility. This extreme type of meal plan is what this article will mostly be referring to.
Many people try and use meal plans or more strict way of eating to “jump-start” weight loss. Just think the Clean 9. Unfortunately, this approach often fails because they haven’t built the foundation of healthy eating habits. Consequently, as soon as they stop following the plan, they revert to old eating habits and find themselves right back where they started, or worse, even further behind because they start eating everything in sight now that they’re not on the strict plan.
Also, what happens when real life inevitably gets in the way of our plan?
You’ll often find that lots of women aim to follow this type of meal plan perfectly, and follow the plan to the letter, come hell or high water. Then, real life happens (as it always will), and inevitably we end up going “off-plan” — and makes us feel like we have failed.
Meal plans like this don’t take the most vital component into consideration: there is a human being following the plan. A human being with a busy schedule, food preferences, a social life, formed habits, and a finite source of willpower.
When considering the pros and cons of a meal plan, the cons really outnumber the pros.
Are there any pro’s to following a meal plan? Maybe these two.
The Pros Of A Strict Meal Plan
No Need to Be Creative
When you are given a specific meal plan and a short list of foods from which to choose, you don’t have to think much about your shopping list or how you are going to cook and make things interesting. It becomes predictable, automated and boring.
Fuss-Free Meal Prep
These strict meal plans are usually pretty bland and aren’t big on culinary exploration. You can generally, bake, boil, grill, and steam once a week and you’re good to go. No fancy sauces or multi-step recipes. This will help speed things up day-to-day, but by god is it boring.
The Cons Of A Strict Meal Plan
What Happens When You Have No Control?
What if they don’t have exactly what the meal plan calls for? What if they put butter on it? Oh, the horrors of having to eat something that wasn’t listed on this piece of paper that supposedly held the key to the body of my dreams.
If your plan calls for 4 ounces of chicken, 1/2 cup rice, and 10 spears of asparagus, what do you do if those specific foods are not available?
Lack of Enjoyment/Satisfaction
Another important question is, what happens when you are sick to your stomach of another plateful of chicken, broccoli and sweet potato?
In order for any form of long term success with your nutrition strategy, then enjoyment is non-negotiable. Choking down a meal that you can’t stand, just because it’s outlined on a piece of paper, is no way to live. It simply won’t last.
You really need to be able to maximize your satisfaction by being varied and creative with your nutrition. You can start to achieve this kind of satisfaction by firstly being able to choose from among your own food preferences, based on what you have available, and what sounds good to you at the time.
Now this is something I have had plenty of experience with, and can often still plague myself with to this day.
If you really enjoy food, having to suddenly stick to a strict plan is very likely to leave you constantly thinking about what you can’t have and what you want. The more you obsess, the more likely you are to go binge when you do go ‘off plan’. You are also very likely to have much stronger feelings of guilt, and this may even lead you to over-exercise as “damage control.”
All of which contribute to a very unhealthy way of living.
Only Papers Over The Cracks
If you are seriously looking for long-term results that are going to stick, then instead of following a plan that accounts for each morsel you put in your mouth, it’s absolutely vital that to learn how to adopt sustainable nutrition habits, and learn how and what to eat to help you feel your very best.
It’s about figuring out what works best for you and your body. That’s going to be a little (or a lot) different for everybody.
A meal plan can help to give some initial ideas and bandage over some poor eating habits that need work.
This is the reason we try and stress to our clients that rather than rely on a meal plan, long term success comes with working with you to give you the tools for lasting success and self-sufficiency.
It’s important that you be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to what food you’re eating, how much of it, and when. In fact, we strongly believe only you should be making those decisions for yourself. This is paramount to your learning experience, and while we cherish the opportunity to support you, our goal is to coach ourselves out of a job. We don’t want you to need us; we want to teach and guide you, arm you with knowledge and useful tools, and then send you on your way toward a lifetime of success. None of this involves a rigid meal plan.