Why I don't like meal plans for weight loss.
Over the years I've tried many traditional ways of coaching my nutrition clients for weight loss. I've put painstaking hours into planning every detail of meal plans. Balancing macros and adjusting calories for goals. Not to mention the time planning recipes and grocery lists. Yeah sure I could just have a couple blanket plans and copy paste them with a few adjustments to everyone's program. But that's not my style, I treat each client as an individual and make every program whether it’s a workout or a nutrition plan customized.
The truth is after all that work clients would either follow them and have short term success, or find it difficult to follow them. After their success at following the program they would go right back to their old eating patterns and gain all or most of the weight back. And the truth is not many people can even follow a meal plan for that long.
Why? I mean it seems easy enough. Just tell me what I need to eat to lose weight and I’ll do it. So we calculate the person's weight and activity level, account for their goals and TADA we have a calorie number and macro split that is exactly what they need… Right? Well that's what the books say… After many years of frustration and a lot of hard work I felt defeated. I mean I couldn't even follow a meal plan for more than a few days without falling off and feeling like a failure.
So I changed my approach. Despite all the textbooks and information saying calories, macros and plans were the secret to success. I foraged my own path in my nutrition coaching career.
I realized that there is no way a plan on paper can account for each individual's unique lifestyle, micro biome, history and empathy. Someone's work life can greatly impact their nutrition whether it’s the schedule or the stress. Pile a dose of empathy on top of a stressful job and no amount of scheduled meal planning is going to work long term. Other things that affect someone's success on a “diet” are how they were raised, history of dieting, family relationships, spirituality, past trauma, emotional health, medical history etc… etc.. And don’t even get me started on female hormones! I mean for one thing women need different types of food and amount of calories based on where they are at in their cycle. So have I convinced you yet that a meal plan might not be the best approach to weight loss?
Then what is? Well there are several ways I believe can work for different individuals. I approach my nutrition programs with a set of basic guidelines that can promote health and weight loss in an individual. Then based on those guidelines I have each client check in regularly with their food choices. Some journal, some just take pictures. But based on these check-ins I can provide guidance and coaching to help them learn new patterns and make lifestyle changes that lead them to achieving their goals. We often discuss how they are feeling mental, physically and emotionally. Along with the food these can be indicators as to whether they are headed in the right direction. I use patterns I see in the journals and check-ins to come up with strategies to avoid what can be considered a failure to someone trying to lose weight or eat healthy. For example after getting to know a client through my thorough intake questionnaire and almost daily conversations/check ins. I might get the hunch that they are very empathic. Knowing that and seeing a pattern of “binge” type eating behavior every Wednesday I can investigate. Finding out that the client generally works alone in their office but every Wednesday there is a staff meeting. There are a lot of people and high energies in the room. It can either be excitement and new projects or disagreements and added stress. But either way the client leaves feeling an insatiable hunger that doesn't seem to be satisfied by just a salad and they often turn to highly processed sugary foods. In this case I can see the client is feeling energetically ungrounded. Having a meditation, yoga or breathing practice on these days can help. Also finding foods on those days that can help them feel grounded in their body can help bring them peace.
So you see despite what all the textbooks and courses on nutrition and weight loss say it’s not just calories in calories out. And counting your macros is not a long term sustainable weight loss solution.
My best advice for someone wanting to make long term health and or weight loss changes in their life is to work with a non one size fits all coach. If that is not an option for you then my advice would be to start a detailed food journal. Track your foods and how they make you feel. Notice patterns and use positive affirmations around your body and food.
I hope this helps.
For more information on my nutrition coaching programs check out my website at https://www.simplythrivedv.com/nutrition-coaching
I am also offering my 6 week reset program starting this fall where we will be diving much deeper into the energetics of weight loss. Check out https://www.simplythrivedv.com/simplythrive-6-week-reset-program