Time and time again, I watch clients embark on a new diet, where they’re given a specific meal plan to follow. Something like:
- Breakfast - 8 a.m.: 3 eggs, 1 cup sautéd spinach, 1 orange, 1/2 an avocado, 1 cup coffee, 1 glass of water
- Snack - 10 a.m.: 12 almonds, 5 carrot sticks with peanut butter
- Lunch - 1 p.m.: 6 oz of tuna, 2 cups salad, sugar-free smoothie, 2 glasses of water
Rigid and boring much?
You get the point.
Meal plan dieting is precise and organized and specific and rigid—all of the things you think you need to lose weight.
Specific meal plans are what many people come to me looking for: “Just tell me exactly what to eat and when, and I’ll do it,” they promise.
But the truth is, most people follow the plan for a while—a few weeks to a couple months maximum—and then they fall off, because most people aren’t wired to be that rigid all the time.
The real problem comes once they fall off, because then these people often have no idea what they should be eating, so all hell breaks loose in their lives. Their only tool was to follow a temporary plan, but now they can’t tell you why they should avoid lectins, or why it’s important to have fat with every meal and they’re not sure what to eat anymore.
It comes down to memorizing versus understanding: Meal plan dieting is just memorization—meaning you’re doomed to fail. True understanding is where long-term success lies.
Now I’m not saying memorizing something is always wrong. In fact, you don’t have to look beyond a 2-year-old to see that memory is a fundamental tool in the learning process. Toddlers revel in reading the same book over and over. The same stories over and over. The same songs over and over. Ad nauseam to parents far and wide…
In fact, we are taught from a young age that we need to develop our memorizing skills. I know when I was in high school, I memorized my way through many history and biology tests.The problem was I didn’t retain half of the information I memorized for the test. Had I been re-tested 6 months later, I likely wouldn’t have passed the test.
This is because real learning doesn’t happen until we understand the information and then apply it to a new situation or experience.
For instance, what do you do when you go out for a meal with friends? How do you make better choices on the road? How can you stay close to your 'plan' while trying to be social?
I also want to differentiate between meal plans and meal prepping. Both require planning, weighing and measuring. However one is done according to a rigid set of rules, while the other is done with a level of flexibility and a 'why' behind it, using foods you actually like and look forward eating, while still having the appropriate foods in quantities that are correct for you. Meal prepping adds a level of ease for compliance and adherence to help you reach your goals with less unknowns and stress!
The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize the importance of learning the science behind nutrition versus just memorizing what foods I should eat.
Learning allows you to truly understand the why behind what you’re eating, which will allow you to make better decisions in the moment and be more creative with your cooking, which will help you make healthier meals that still taste really good.
It will also help you be more critical in your thinking and realize there isn’t one way to do things; sometimes trial and error with your body and your diet is a good thing, and the more educated you are the more you’ll be able to play around with what works for you and what doesn’t. Ultimately, it will allow you to pass that diet and nutrition test 6 months, 1 year, 2 years later, so to speak.
A few ways to educate yourself if you don’t know where to begin:
- Your coach:
We’re always willing to sit down with you and give you all our nutrition secrets and information. So don’t be shy. Ask if you want help.
- Precision Nutrition: (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/)
If you’re really serious, you could go so far as to take their Level 1 certification, but at the very least the Precision Nutrition website (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/) is a wealth of knowledge for you. Even their newsletters are helpful
- Robb Wolf:
The author of the Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf (https://robbwolf.com/) is one of the smartest, most critical thinkers out there on the topic of nutrition. He’s open-minded, critical and always considering new science.
- Whole30 (https://whole30.com/)
The Whole30 (https://whole30.com/) posts some great blog posts worth reading. And I know tons of people who have had great success following the Whole30 diet.
- Dr. Barry Sears
The author of the Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears (http://www.drsears.com/) also writes a lot of information about inflammation and diet.
These are all great resources for Self Education. If you want to be guided along a habits based nutrition program, we do that! Contact us for a consultation to get started. We have years of experience!