For a lot of people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear “dietitian” is meal plans. However, providing meal plans to clients is often only a very small portion of what many dietitians do.
In fact, some dietitians completely avoid prescribing meal plans at all. Why you might ask? Meal plans disregard the practice of intuitive eating and building a healthy relationship with food. In other words, meal plans don’t work and are just another way to say “diet”.
The activities that make up our days are never exactly the same. Some days are less active. We may spend more time sitting at work or relaxing with a movie. Other days, we may be out running errands and hitting the gym. Even if we are exercising on a regular basis, the type, duration, and intensity of that exercise likely changes day-to-day as well.
If our activity levels fluctuate, this means our calorie needs naturally fluctuate too. A meal plan with pre-determined meals and snacks is not taking into account the fact that we may be hungrier some days and less hungry on others.
A meal plan may result in underfueling or potentially even eating past fullness. Not to mention, some meal plans suggest specific times to eat, leaving little room for us to tune in to our bodies needs and hunger or fullness cues.
Another problem with meal plans is that they do not allow for any flexibility in food choice. An important part of building a healthy relationship with food is listening to your cravings.
Cutting out foods we enjoy only makes us want them more. By listening to cravings and enjoying the food we want, we develop a trust with our bodies. Foods once viewed as “unhealthy” become less novel and we are more easily able to enjoy them in moderation without wanting to eat the whole bag.
With predetermined meals and snacks provided by a meal plan, we are unable to practice honoring our cravings. In the long run, this can harm us more than help us.
The majority of meal plans are very repetitive and very ridgid. The whole purpose of these plans is that you stick to the meals you are told to eat and when to eat them. But what happens when it’s a family member’s birthday and your aunt carries out the birthday cake? Or when your best friend had a bad day and asks you to join them for some pizza?
Food is such an important part of our social connection with other people. Food is often the center of gatherings with family and friends, no matter the occasion. Meal plans don’t consider the spontaneous social events that pop up in our lives. Trying to stick to a restrictive meal plan can impact our ability to connect with others over food and enjoy.
Although a meal plan might help you reach an arbitrary goal temporarily, we can’t follow a meal plan for the rest of our lives. As we said before, our lives change and fluctuate every day. Our bodies and needs change and fluctuate even more over the course of our lives.
Trying to stick to a meal plan, a.k.a a diet, can create a lot of stress. Trying to make sure that we eat exactly what we are supposed to and when. Trying to plan our days and social lives around our meals. Feeling food guilt and anxiety when we fail to adhere to the rules.
Following a meal plan doesn’t allow for us to tune into our bodies and build that trust. They can drive us further away from the path of intuitive eating. Instead, meal plans teach us how to follow rules and restrict, which can create more confusion once a meal plan is stopped.
We don’t believe in meal plans and thus, we don’t prescribe them. Instead, we teach our clients how to eat intuitively and listen to what their body wants and needs. Instead of providing strict rules, we give clients general guidelines to follow when it comes to what they eat. These guidelines are flexible and allow for clients to work with their cravings and build trust with their body.
Are you looking to find food freedom and step away from restrictive meal plans and diets? Reach out today to connect with one of our non-diet dietitians who can help to guide you on your journey to food freedom.