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Why I Hate Meal Plans

By Jill Coleman, MS

At Metabolic Effect, we pretty much hate meal plans. And the reason is because they become a crutch for people, and they take the onus off the individual and put it on “the plan.”

If you’ve been following ME for some time, you know that we believe that fat loss and body change is a 100% unique process FOR YOU. Hence the name “ME”–meaning it’s all about YOU, the individual. So the second we put you on a structured meal plan we are essentially taking the individual piece out of it. We are trying to fit YOU to the plan rather than allowing you to find your own plan.

Sure, meal plans can be customized somewhat. We can make small changes regarding food choices, allergies, timing, etc, but that’s still not enough because those things don’t take into account the most important factors of personal preferences, individual metabolic responses, and psychological sensitivities.

When a coach puts you on a meal plan, ultimately “the plan” becomes the focus, rather than the focus being on you trying to understand your own metabolism. Understanding your metabolism and adjusting based on that requires you be in tune with your unique responses to food–your hunger, energy and cravings (HEC).

Be the Detective, not the Dieter.

See, the biggest problem with meal plans is that they allow someone else (a coach, a program, a diet, a plan, an approach) to take responsibility for your results. We often try a new diet, and when we don’t get results within a couple weeks, just say, Welp, onto the next one! That is a dieting mindset. It’s not a healthy lifestyle mindset. And “dieting”–the verb–by definition requires there’s a starting point and an end point. In other words, if you are dieting, at some point you won’t be, and you’ll either revert back to your old ways (and by extension, your old results) or you will be onto the next “diet.” Such is the life of the yo-yo dieter.

A fat loss lifestyler is never “off” or “on” a plan. They have simply realized that there are no miracle plans or diets, and have resigned themselves to do the work necessary to find a healthy way to eat forever, meal to meal, day to day, year to year.

Jade said something last week while we were talking that really resonated with me, and that was, “You have arrived when arrival is no longer the goal.” In other words, as soon as you stop “dieting” and resign yourself to find a way to eat healthy forever, you have now succeeded.

We call this way of going about things Playing the Detective. Detectives looks for clues about situations. They don’t rely on other people or things to dictate the situation, they take control of the situation and find out what’s going on. And for people who want to lose fat and sustain that loss in a way that becomes a lifestyle, being a fat loss detective is the only way.

At Metabolic Effect, we want you to get intimately familiar with your own metabolism and start asking questions. Most people don’t understand that what they eat actually influences how they feel. As a detective, you are now doing this all day long and through it, you understand how certain foods affect you–some make hunger and cravings worse, while others satisfy you more. Some foods give you balanced energy, while others make you want to take a nap at 3pm. Some increase stress or influence sleep. Others don’t.

Don’t blindly follow a meal plan. Even the best coaches can’t know the best way for you to eat if you are in tune with your body. If you find yourself following a plan and you feel awful or it takes every ounce of willpower you can muster to stay on it, then ultimately you will never last on the plan anyway.

“An inferior plan that you can stick to will always beat a superior plan you can’t do longterm.”

So how can you become a Detective?

We use a 3 part Detective process:

1) Incorporate food
2) Monitor hunger, energy and cravings for 2-4 weeks
3) Measure fat loss. If you’re losing, you can keep it in. If not, you might need to reconsider the food.

It’s that simple.

A few insights:

  • We hate not knowing what will work, don’t we? And this detective process can be frustrating, right? Because as humans we want certainty, and this process does not give us that in the traditional way. It can feel comforting to give over the reigns to a coach or a plan or a diet. It takes the onus off us. And yet, once we embrace this new way of doing things, we can experience even more comfort because now we never have to rely on a diet again. We now know how to be in tune with our own metabolic differences, personal preferences, and psychological sensitivities. This requires self-trust and you doing some work on you. And the longterm results will always lie in the gray, the answer is never black-and-white, it will never be a simple meal plan.
  • The main problem with putting the results of your fat loss process in the hands of someone else is that you never learn–you use a meal plan as a crutch–something you need, or else you don’t know what to do. Again, I get this because I relied on meal plans for a long time. I went through periods of 100% compliance on competition meal plans, got great results, only to inevitably fall off big time because it was too depriving, and my entire world revolved around Tupperwares and how much protein I still needed to get in that day. I was distracted by my plan to the point that if I was off it, I considered myself a failure, and if I was on, I was “good.” All in all, a dangerous place to be–associating my dietary compliance with my self-worth.
  • Stop asking, “Can I eat this?” Because you can eat anything you want. Of course you can. But the key here is assuming responsibility for the results you’re getting (or not, as it were) as a result of eating what you want. So when people ask me if they can eat something, I always say, Of course! Nothing is technically off-limits. But the simple truth is that some foods bring us towards fat loss, and others further away. It’s your job to find which ones do which.
  • Let’s stop looking for the perfect plan, and spend the time creating our own plan. Your friend might have gotten great results on The Cookie Diet or The Starbucks Diet or The Twinkie Diet, and yet you might not. Why? Because we are all uniquely different–different metabolic considerations, psychological sensitivities, and personal preferences. So instead of searching for that perfect plan, let’s start creating it. How? By testing: 1) Incorporate. 2) Monitor. 3) Measure.

So next time you want to ask an expert or coach for a new miracle meal plan…think to yourself first…ok, I know my body better than any professional. So I will try it out, monitor, measure, and then adjust as necessary. I CAN DO THIS!!!

Your results are YOUR business.

No one else can assume responsibility for them, even someone you pay. An expert can provide guidance and help you ask the right questions, pointing you in the right direction, but they can never do the work for you. If they try to, they become a crutch that you need to rely on. And I don’t know about you, but I hate relying on anyone for anything. So my only option is to learn. What will YOU do?

If you want sustained fat loss, here at Metabolic Effect, we urge you to attack the process head on. We don’t do meal plans, we do you. If you want to learn this process and need guidance on how to navigate the waters of you own metabolism, we do this every single day with our ME Lifestylers Club members. More info here!