Ever pay for a meal plan from a fitness professional off of Instagram or Facebook? Know any bodybuilders who have given you their prep diets as legitimate meal plans? How about working with a certified health professional / nutritionist?
Now… how did the meal plans make you feel when you followed them? How about when you didn’t follow them?
The reality is, nobody likes them. While they may give you some sort of relief – be it weight loss, reduced inflammation, or more energy – they sometimes have an adverse effect on people, psychologically.
Denying yourself is not sustainable
This is usually seen when people are on a specific type of diet that restricts a certain type of food group; but, it is highly common with all meal plans to be restrictive and way too regimented.
Let’s face it, unless you’re preparing for a bodybuilding competition, movie, photoshoot or a specific event where you’re required to look a certain way, the meal plan isn’t going to do you any justice in the long term.
- Perhaps you find it impossible to stick to the plan! It’s not that you don’t want to, it’s just that life isn’t set to a specific plan, so you’ll often be faced with a situation that requires you to eat when you have a chance, or starve yourself until you find something suitable for your meal plan. And then – because you have to deviate, you don’t hit your goals and you start to stress yourself out…STOP IT!
- Possibly you stick to the plan…but for too long. Awesome, you stuck to your plan and you look and feel great…but the problem is that after too long you start to end up with eating disorders, mental and physical health complications and hormonal imbalances, as a result.
- Or you follow it for a bit but, you hate every second of it. Going back to my first point, this is kind of the same situation. You’re psyching yourself out for failure! – all that stress you’re creating in your head is going to your gut, plus hating every meal you eat is just going to stifle nutrient retention and have other nasty adverse effects.
Healthy choices start small
The best way to begin making healthy choices and being happy about your diet is to find something in your everyday that you consider an unhealthy staple, and then replace it with something healthier (that you also enjoy!).
Look at it like a game: zero-in on all the known stressors and problems in your diet and start to replace them, one by one.
It’s important not to get ahead of yourself, or you’ll end up at square one due to frustration from adherence issues. Start slow, pick something in each meal of your day that you know you can do without, and then replace it with a healthier alternative.
If you try to replace one item from each meal every week, over time you will have created the foundation for truly healthy eating habits that will allow you to achieve all of the goals you set out for yourself. No need any more for that meal plan that did you “oh, so much justice”.
Meal plan problems
Don’t get me wrong, the right meal plan that has been tailored to you individually can help you achieve weight loss, physique or strength goals. However, the goal is to not live by a meal plan.
Once you’ve developed the healthy eating habits that will help you monitor and maintain your health, you will be able to find out where you can deviate and where you can’t.
In truth, it’s all about finding a balance – nutritional health is a blank template for everyone. This is why meal plans can cause problems: not all variables or factors may have been taken into consideration when restricting one’s intake of a specific food or food group. As such, you should only be consulting a certified health professional (nutritionist or dietitian) to ensure that you get the results you are looking for.
KISS: keep it simple, sweetheart
In short, the best steps to follow when making the decision to clean up your diet is to start simple:
- Set realistic goals that allow you to make the appropriate changes to your diet in a subtle but effective manner, consistently pushing you in the right direction.
- Start small! Don’t rush the process, because you’ll be quickly back where you started.
- Plan for success by determining what works for you! If meal plans help, then by all means, use meal plans! But remember: they’re not for everyone, and people tend to like to be their own boss, so find what works and plan accordingly.
- And – most importantly! – and for the love of goodness – please enjoy the food you are eating! Use real dishes and cutlery. Slow down. Take breaths in between bites, savor your food. I’m being serious! The time you shouldn’t rush during your day is your mealtime. Take some time to enjoy them.
Wes Van Hart is a personal trainer, nutritionist (and far more), located in Toronto. Wes is an advocate for constantly improving both physical and mental health, and as such, he is dedicated to advancing his knowledge base, certifications and ability to help his clients, no matter how that looks.
Wes was the very first FitIn affiliate, and is a regular contributor to the FitIn blog.