Why Meal Plans Don't Work

Posted by Lindsey Davis on 07/24/2019

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If I have heard it once, I have heard it 100 times…” Can you make me a meal plan? I want to lose 10 lbs.” “I need to be healthier. Can you make me a meal plan?” “Can you make me a meal plan? I was just diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.” It never fails. And do you know what my answer always is to them? My answer is always “No!” Normally this leads to a confused face on the other end, so I always follow my answer with an explanation.

You see, people are always looking for an easy way out. They want someone else to do the work for them. And I get it. I am a busy woman. I work full time and have a three-year-old and a one year old. Not to mention a grocery shopping list, laundry to do, dishes to washes, etc. I get it. An easy way out sounds nice. But when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, the easy way out can actually slow the progress of true lifestyle change. It’s important to communicate this to your client prior to your first session or at the very latest during your first session with them.

As RDs we are tasked with the responsibility of cultivating change in the way people eat, drink and even exercise. Cultivating long lasting, sustainable change takes time, effort and lots of input from the client’s perspective. Giving them a preset meal plan may help them lose weight in the short term, but they have not learned how to make healthy choices on their own and independence is key for the client to experience lifelong change.  

Once they are on board with your “No Meal Plan” plan you can both begin the process of setting SMART goals (as talked about in a previous blog post). If you are having a hard time getting your client or prospective client to ditch the idea of a preset meal plan, try discussing the benefits of following a more flexible or intuitive eating plan instead of focusing on the negatives of a preset meal plan. I have posted some of those benefits below.

Benefits of an Intuitive Eating Plan:

- You will be getting rid of the diet mentality forever!

- You will learn to not only recognize you hunger and fullness but honor it as well.

- There will no longer be “good” and “bad” foods.

- You will learn that meal satisfaction is a full circle experience involving not only the taste and texture of food, but also qualities of the environment around you.

- You will learn to honor and respond to your feelings without using food.

I believe intuitive eating leads to an overall healthier relationship with food and harnessing these techniques will ultimately lead to healthier and happier clients. Good luck!