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Why I Hate Rigid Meal Plans

The main reason I don’t write meal plans for my clients, other than providing them as an example so my clients can initially see how to match foods to their nutrient targets, is because meal plans are often viewed in a binary fashion. Either one thing or the other, zero or one. People see it as, “I’m on the meal plan,” or “I’m off the meal plan.” In our minds, we then gauge success in black or white terms; I’ve either followed the diet and I was good, or I’m off the diet and I was bad.

For example, a meal plan might direct you to have an apple at noon, and instead you have a banana. If you view a meal plan as an immutable plan that must be followed, you may feel like you screwed up, get down on yourself, and because you see the day as already lost, eat a whole large pizza. The banana might have had the exact same macro-nutrition profile as that apple, but because of the mindset, you feel like you blew it and you go on a big binge.

I understand the allure of meal plans. They’re easy and straightforward to follow. You don’t have to learn about the macronutrient profiles of foods to follow them; you don’t have to plan out your meals or your days on your own. It can be nice to just be told what to do. But you can’t have a strict meal plan while you go on holiday, you can’t have a strict meal plan and go out to eat, and you can’t have a strict meal plan without getting into the mental traps of not knowing what to do when you’re off it.

Meal plans don’t teach you about nutrition, they tend to be socially isolating and when following them you don’t learn how to integrate nutritional knowledge into your lifestyle. In many cases, strict meal plans won’t help you get to your long-term goals.

Consider that most people in this day and age are great at losing weight; the larger problem is that they just can’t keep it off. This is why we need long-term solutions, and this is why I don’t advocate rigid meal plans.

I don't believe everyone should be weighing and tracking their food and recording their macros, but for those who have a goal where this is necessary, or are doing it for a short-term period to better understand portion control, some useful resources exist.

"If you are guessing you are messing"

Coach HB

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