The Dietitian Dishes #2: I Don't Do Meal Plans
About two weeks ago the strangest thing happened. Nearly every patient who came in expected (some demanded) me to create the perfect meal plan, the magic bullet that would finally cause them to shed the pounds they had been trying to lose for years. In a single hour, I would write a miracle plan that would wipe away years of struggle.
I'm sure you can imagine their shock and disappointment when I told them I wouldn't be giving them a strict diet to follow. They were equally shocked (and maybe a little offended) when I asked them, "If I write a meal plan for you today, how will it be different than all the other diets you started and then stopped in the past; what will make you stick to this one if you didn't stick to all the others?" My intention wasn't to be rude but to get them thinking. Blank stares and for a small few, introspection followed.
For the introspective few a light bulb went off. The aha moment! The true spark that ignites lasting change was lit. They realized they didn't need a new diet. A diet would only last a few days, weeks, or months at best. They had done that before and it didn't work. They needed a new way of thinking, relating to food, and living they could stick to for the rest of their lives.
People have asked me, after I tell them I won't be writing a meal plan for them, "So what do you do?" I think it's a fair question. I wish they would find a kinder way to say it and a more pleasant facial expression, but it's a fair question.
Let me clarify, when I say, "I don't do meal plans," I am not saying I don't help people come up with changes they can make to reach their goals. I am not saying I don't give people meal ideas or teach them to tailor meals to their preferences. I totally do that. I give people principles and tips they can easily apply to their eating habits and I challenge their thinking, but I don't tell people what to do. And I definitely don't write a strict list of foods and portion sizes to follow religiously. Nope, not my style.
Why don't I write meal plans? Because meal plans don't teach us how to eat. They don't teach us how to make our own choices based on our own likes, dislikes, and lifestyle. And they definitely don't force us to face the sabotaging thoughts, ingrained behaviors, and knee jerk reactions that led to less than stellar choices or caused us to quit in the past.
If I write meal plans but don't show people how or why I chose the foods included I have made them totally dependent on me. That's not my goal. I want people liberated. I want them free to eat what nurtures and nourishes their bodies and minds, delights their senses, and fits their lives. The last thing I want to do is continue to push the idea that they need someone or something else to police them. My goal is to help people learn to trust themselves around food and their decisions about food.
Over the next few months we are going to dive into behavior change: dealing with sabotaging thoughts and overcoming barriers as well as talk about how to put together balanced meals.
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