Given the constant pressure we are all under to be smaller, lose weight and eat "perfectly", it's not surprising that clients sometimes request meal plans. However, meal plans are a service I don't provide when we work together, and here's why.
But first, let's pause
Before we get stuck into the nitty gritty, let's take a minute to reflect. If you feel like you need a meal plan, where do you think that has come from? What do you think may have made you feel like you require such strict rules?
Perhaps you have tried so many diets that you feel like you don’t know how to eat anymore, and a meal plan will give you a guide. Or maybe you feel that having a meal plan will mean that you will only have “good” food in the house, which you feel will mean that you won’t have access to “bad” foods.
Sometimes the reasons for wanting a meal plan can be deeper than we may have first realised, and not necessarily just about food or eating patterns. If we really dig deep, sometimes we uncover other underlying reasons for wanting one, such as:
These thoughts and feelings are so common, and so valid. When we experience uncomfortable emotions, we often try to get rid of them, or control them. When we experience distressing eating behaviours, we want them gone.
But no matter how nutritious your meal plan is, or where you got it from, it’s probably never going to address those concerns or lead to any long term change.
As well as your underlying concerns not being addressed, there are many more reasons why I won’t be providing you with a meal plan, and here are my top two:
You and your body can be trusted
Part of the process of intuitive eating and the non-diet approach is working together to get a really good understanding of what hunger, fullness and satisfaction feels like for you. We are teaming up to finally let go of dieting and accept your body as you are. If I were to encourage you to follow a meal plan indefinitely, I would be keeping you in that yo-yo dieting pattern, and be moving you further away from understanding your body's cues, trusting your body and being able to eat with confidence.
Your body can be trusted. Sometimes we just need a little help to tune in to what it’s telling us.
The last thing I want to do is add to your body mistrust
You are not alone if you have ever blamed yourself or felt like a failure for not staying on a meal plan. Dieting and meal plans set you up for an ongoing cycle of restriction and overeating so that you feel so disconnected from yourself that you are convinced you can’t be trusted around food. The last thing I want to do is add to your distress around food, eating and your body.
Looking for guidance or clear rules to follow are natural responses to feeling like you can’t manage on your own. However: rather than giving you strict food rules to follow, when working together we will tackle your concerns so that you can eventually be guided by a much better expert – yourself.
Curious about the ‘how-to’ of eating intuitively to improve your health and wellbeing? Check out ‘What to expect when working with this non-diet dietitian’.
*Please note that meal plans may form a necessary temporary part of your treatment if you are in the acute phase of eating disorder recovery.