‘I just need you to tell me what to eat. Can’t you just give me a meal plan?’
This is a request that I get pretty frequently, and although I can understand why you might be wanting one, I won't be giving you a meal plan.
Before we get stuck into the reasons why, it’s important that we reflect on what's caused you to feel like you need one.
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.
Another thing to keep in mind is that reasons for wanting a meal plan can often be deeper than we realise, and not necessarily just about food or eating patterns. If we really dig deep, often 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. If you’ve tried dieting or going on a meal plan before, take the time to reflect on what that was like. Were those deeper concerns or eating behaviours addressed? If so, for how long?
As well as your underlying motivations not being addressed, there are many more reasons why I won’t be providing you with a meal plan, and here are just a few:
I’m not the expert on your body – you are.
I wish I could put this on a neon sign with giant arrows, fireworks and anything else that will grab your attention! Sure, I know a lot about nutrition (certainly got the HECS debt to prove it!), but I can’t tell when you are hungry, full or satisfied in any given moment. I don’t know what you are going to feel like eating from meal to meal. I don’t know the inner workings of your day-to-day life. You know your body so much better than I ever could, and it’s my job to help you to get reconnected to what it’s telling you so that you can be confident in making those choices yourself. Any tweaks to your nutrition can happen after that, if required.
Meal plans move you further away from eating intuitively and trusting your body
Through the process of intuitive eating, we are working towards gaining an understanding of your cues around hunger, fullness and satiety. We are teaming up to finally let go of dieting and accept your body as you are, while working through all the “stuff” that caused you to yo-yo diet in the first place. By encouraging you to follow a meal plan indefinitely, I’m keeping you in the dieting cycle and consequently keeping you from regaining your ability to confidently nourish yourself independently. Your body can be trusted. Sometimes we just need a little help to tune in to what it’s telling us.
You’ll probably blame yourself when the meal plan doesn’t “work”
You are not alone if you have ever blamed yourself or felt like a failure for not staying on a meal plan for the rest of your life, despite your best intentions. 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 by setting you up to fail.
Looking for guidance or clear rules to follow are natural responses to feeling like you can’t manage on your own. However: rather than adding to your ever-expanding list of briefly followed meal plans, 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.