Meal plans are the number one request I get from new clients who are fed up with dieting. Meal plans are set recipes for days or weeks, measured out and calculated, telling you exactly what to eat and when. Seems like a slam dunk success, right? The dreamy concept of following a done-for-you plan and not having to make any choices on your own sounds great, but the truth is they inevitably fall short when we have to live our unpredictable real lives.
Don’t worry, if you have tried and failed with meal plans; you didn’t fail the plan, the plan failed you, and I’ll explain why.
A successful approach to evolving into a more health-focused person has to start with identifying, practicing, and sustaining good new habits that replace the bad ones. A habit by definition is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” To be a healthy person for life, we have to fill our thoughts and lifestyle with new, healthy habits that seem simple and eventually feel like our new “normal.” This is far from what a meal plan could ever accomplish. Science shows we can start to form new habits in as little as 21 days, but often it is more like months before the change is embedded deep in the subconscious. The secret to lasting change is to master one habit at a time by replacing a bad habit with a good one. So, where do you start? This is why athletes turn to professionals for habit-based coaching programs – to help them decide where to begin and what next steps to take.
Learning how to live a healthy life and be a healthy person may be more difficult for some of us, depending on how we were raised and what we were taught. It is always a good idea to ask for help and seek accountability, no matter where you are or what your goal is. The foundational good habits to form start with tasks such as identifying portion sizes appropriate for you, eating real food instead of packaged food, cooking more often at home, learning how to special order at restaurants, reading ingredients on the labels (when you do buy something in a box), and it is especially important to conquer on a daily basis sleep, stress, and making time for fun – we can’t forget that!
It is true that meal plans can be very helpful initially, as they help you eyeball portions and maybe experience new flavors or new foods, but following a stringent plan can only be sustained for so long before you eat something off the plan, feel guilty and give up on changing. When you feel like a failure, you will go back to old habits, and all that work felt worthless. To put in the work that counts, your goal should not be to follow a plan, but rather learn new habits that keep you within healthy boundaries, helping you overcome bad habits like emotional eating, and even help you logistically structure your time and finances to meet your needs with ease while allowing for variety and spontaneity.
Tiffany is a certified nutrition consultant and functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner and can be reached at (760) 285.1221. For more information visit www.tiffanydalton.com