If you’re like most, there’s a possibility you believe the best approach to eating healthier is to follow a meal plan.
Or perhaps you’re not sure what a meal plan is, how they work or even the point of them.
Let me explain below so you can decide what’s right for you.
A meal plan involves mapping out your meals for an entire week or month. It’s anticipating what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. They’re often static and repetitive.
Meal plans are usually offered by fitness instructors, health influencers, registered dietitians or health coaches to people trying to lose weight fast.
However, just because it’s being offered to you – by someone you think to be an expert in the health field – it doesn’t mean that…
Because writing meal plans is outside of our scope of practice as a coach.
Providing meal plans is almost like providing a prescription – especially when a client has a particular disease/illness or a food allergy (and they need to avoid certain foods).
For example, you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes and you need to learn how to manage your blood sugar. Or maybe you had a recent heart attack and your doctor has recommended that you follow a heart healthy or cardiac diet. These are two excellent times to receive a meal plan as a way to help you adjust to a new eating style and understand what foods are allowed in your new diet.
If you’re truly in need of a meal plan, then who should you ask?
You should always defer to a licensed dietitian/nutritionist (RD/LDN). They have the clinical knowledge and expertise to help you manage a new disease, illness or food intolerance and this is well within their scope to do so. NOT a health coach.
However, this isn’t the only reason I don’t offer any type of follow-along plan.
In order to make lasting and effective changes to your eating habits, you need to dig deep and understand what triggers them. This takes time, consistent practice, trial-and-error, and sometimes the help of a health coach. A meal plan is simply not enough.
Life is unpredictable and it can be messy at times. A meal plan does not take into account your busy schedule or when plans change and you need to adjust. It’s tough sticking to a plan that’s so rigid and doesn’t allow much flexibility.
You need to learn how to adjust to the demands of day to day living. A meal plan won’t teach you these skills.
And what about when the holidays come? A meal plan is not conducive to social events or real life for that matter.
More often than not, your meal plan is the same one being handed out to everyone else in a PDF format. You might believe it was created just for you, but trust me, I’ve seen it first handed at a major weight loss company. Your meal plan is not unique to you and it needs to be if you decide that you want to use one.
Think about it. Are you really going to follow a meal plan for the rest of your life? Probably not. Then why waste your precious time and energy working on something you know you’re not going to stick with long-term?
A meal plan is only a temporary solution. It doesn’t get to the underlying issue of what is driving your eating habits and behaviors – which is what you’ll want to do if you want to eat better.
Meals plans can be REALLY difficult to stick with. If you’re unable to stick with it, you’ll likely end up feeling like a failure and like you can’t commit to anything – possibly causing you to give up on your health goals altogether.
When you have someone else create a meal plan for you, you’re putting them in control of your life. They’re dictating what you eat, possibly how much you eat, what to shop for, and cook. This can leave you feeling no longer in control of your daily routine and then you’re less likely to follow through with the plan.
It’s important that you’re the one in control here. When you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re far more likely to stay committed to your plan as you’ll feel more dedicated, motivated and empowered to reach your goals.
Meal plans can be great for someone who needs to see quick results, like a fitness competitor or an athlete. Aside from that, odds are you’ll follow the plan and see a bit of results, which is what you want right? But the second you go back to your old eating habits and stop following the plan, you’re back where you started.
This is because you did not get to the root of the problem – you only slapped a temporary bandage on it.
A meal plan involves a lot of steps. If it’s something you’re not familiar with, then you’re probably trying to adopt multiple habits at once. Making a lot of changes at once can feel really overwhelming and even discouraging.
When you’re trying to change, you want to focus on only one thing at a time to successfully reach your goals in a way that feels manageable and comfortable for you.
As a health coach, I’m here to collaboratively work with you to reach your goals. If I tell you what to do, I’m no longer helping you uncover what’s holding you back and working to figure out how to move forward towards lasting change. At that point I’d be a consultant and not a coach.
Most of the time a meal plan is used for weight loss, causing it to rule out certain food groups and for the daily calorie budget to be very low. I mean, technically you can reach your goals eating 1200 calories a day and cutting out foods high in sugar and fat, but at what cost? And how long could you go on eating like this? Probably not for very long.
Restrictive eating can also potentially lead to an unhealthy and damaging relationship with food.
Chances are the meals planned for you last week are now not sounding appetizing and you’d rather eat out or enjoy something else. This happens and it’s okay. You’re allowed to change your mind and want something else.
Or what if you’re craving something that’s not on your plan? This might leave you feeling guilty for your cravings and that can turn into creating an unhealthy relationship with food as well.
When someone is creating a meal plan, odds are they won’t consider the food you already have at home or how to make sure you’re using all the ingredients you purchased for your plan.
For example, produce. Your breakfast omelet calls for spinach one day and then the rest of that week the remaining spinach wilts away in your fridge, never to be used again.
My goal as a coach is for my clients to be able to look in their fridge and pantry and instead of thinking that there’s nothing to eat, they can easily come up with a healthy and nutritious meal with the ingredients they have at home.
Plain and simple. I’m not qualified to offer meal plans to my clients.
Every person is different when it comes to what they need to change about their eating habits. For some it could be lack of knowledge, for others it could be limited skills in the kitchen and for others limited time.
Whatever it is that’s holding you back from reaching your ultimate health goals, a meal plan is not the answer.
The answer is in creating healthier eating habits that work with you and your lifestyle. This can take practice, patience and consistency to help you find what works best for you.
You can do this effectively and efficiently by working with a health coach to help you reach your goals.
A health coach is going to be the driving force that takes you from where you are now and where you ultimately want to be as far as your health and well-being are concerned. They can help you create an eating plan that best suits you, learn how to change your eating habits, better manage your time, and the list goes on.
What else do you think a health coach can help you with?
Check out my other blog: What Is A Health Coach and How Can They Help You to see how you can get the help you deserve to start living healthier.
Or sign up for a FREE discovery call with me to see how I can help you reach your goals.
You got this!