“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” ~Winston Churchill
Ahhh… that moment when you’re standing in the kitchen, staring blankly into the fridge. I often wonder what would happen if an arm suddenly reached out from inside and gave me something to eat. Usually, I end up eating something I shouldn’t.
Oh yes, the struggle with meal planning is real.
One of the biggest issues I had in the beginning of SCD was figuring out what the heck to eat. I spent so much time in the first year figuring out what to buy, how to cook it, when to cook it, and how to save money… it was exhausting in and of itself.
You might be familiar with this…
Which is why I want to talk about meal planning today – who it’s right for, who it’s not for, and why I currently don’t do it.
How They’re Selling You Meal Planning
Save time! Save money! Don’t get bored with your food!
This is the conversation I see repeated over and over around the Internet: “If you have these meal plans, you’ll have delicious foods on the table, save hours of time, and stop wasting money.”
And this is usually true.
A lot of chefs make meal plans that are filled with way more delicious recipes than I could ever dream of. No doubt if you plan your meals ahead of time and only buy what’s needed, you’ll save money in the long run.
Get the plan out, buy what’s needed, cook what’s needed and get on with life. But I’ve got some big beefs with most meal plans.
Two Big Problems with Most Meal Plans
The first is I’m not a chef! I’m a dang good cook though. When I go for it, I make food that is typically as good or better than most restaurants in Boulder, which is saying something. In most cases, if you use high-quality ingredients and learn a few simple techniques, it’s not hard to make mouth watering food…
Which is why I get so annoyed when I see meal plan recipes that require 21 ingredients and 3 hours of cooking. Puuulllease!!!
This is overcomplicating it and not saving me any money. In fact, it’s actually setting me up to fail because I’m probably not going to make that after I’ve been working hard all day and walk into the kitchen with my hungry pants on.
Secondly, and maybe this is too demanding, but I want meal plans that do something for me, like show me how to lose 10lbs in 4 weeks, how to save $50 a week, or stop my IBS issues.
I want to buy products that will get me closer to the results I want. Most meal plans are just not specific enough.
As you can see, I take issue with many meal plans I’ve tested, but here’s why they’re worth their weight in gold.
Have a Food System (So You Can Relax)
Let’s be honest, until you’re an experienced real food eater, picking your meals is a demanding, anxiety-filled struggle every single day.
Why? I believe it’s because there are so many skills that go into feeding ourselves – we underappreciate how complex it is to perform this daily adventure.
Beyond choosing what to make, there’s buying it, cooking it, eating it, cleaning it up, and monitoring how your body liked it.
That’s 6 different skills!
So for starters, if you get upset just thinking about feeding yourself a real food diet, please give your body and mind some compassion that it’s not as “easy” as you might have assumed.
Next, begin to create a system so you can relax around these skills. For example, only go shopping two days a week (Sundays and Wednesdays are my usual). Create a rule that you always clean up the kitchen as soon as you’re done eating. Always say grace, pray, or use gratitude before eating.
If you build in some systems in each area, life will become easier. And that’s where done-for-you meal plans like ours really shine.
Our meal plans are phased for 6 weeks so that you can just relax and build your custom diet (step-by-step based on your symptoms). They also include calorie amounts so that you know you’re getting enough (instead of guessing – which is how most people accidentally lose weight.
Other meal plans give you a system for beginning the diet.
Do you see the difference? These meal plans are a system that allow you to relax into them. Having a system that you know works and easily steps you towards your goals is really powerful.
But having a system is just the beginning of why certain meal plans work and others don’t.
The Meal Plans Address a Specific Goal
I remember back in high school, I followed a “gaining mass” meal plan where I ate 4500 calories a day! And by the end of the summer I had gained 20 pounds of muscle and was ready for sports.
In college, I tried something called the Velocity Diet (not an endorsement – this was way before I started trying to holistically get healthy). It’s basically nothing but protein shakes for 28 days to lose weight. Using that system and it’s progression, I lost 2.5 inches on my waist in 28 days.
Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to do that – talk about some of the worst gas of my life! Not to mention it’s just plain unhealthy, because it lacks many of the nutrients the body and gut flora need.
But the point is meal plans that have a specific goal and step you towards it are priceless.
Our done-for-you meal plans are designed to eliminate gas, bloating, cramping, and IBS issues as fast as possible. They let you relax into a food selection process so that you can rebuild your diet and figure out all your food allergies.
So the take home point is this: Meal plans can be the difference between achieving your goal and failing. They allow you to see the progression from one step to the next.
Meal Plans Stop Overwhelm
Each day, there’s only so much focus and decision-making power you have. In fact, even Obama knows this.
We use a TON of decision-making energy on the food we eat every single day. One of the most common complaints we see in our community is, “I just don’t know what to eat!”
Meal plans can save your focus and decisions… that is, if they’re simple enough for you to follow them.
Remember, there are 6 steps in feeding ourselves each meal. When Meal Planning is built around a system and oriented towards a goal, it frees up focus and mental fatigue.
You know what you’re going to eat, day-by-day, meal-by-meal. Some may say this saves you time (maybe), but I think it really saves us focus and decision power.
It allows us to direct our attention to other areas of our health.
For instance, let’s say you’re concentrating hard on a new supplement program or a meditation/gratitude practice. Adding these new healthy habits can be very draining… but offloading some of your decision-making power for a month can help ensure you actually get what you want achieved.
Why I Don’t Meal Plan Right Now
I don’t meal plan right now because I have 7 years experience eating real food. I’m feeling really good right now. But more importantly I have my own system that currently works for me.
In Boulder, I’m happy to have several amazing restaurants who cook great real food in less than a 5-minute walk (Blooming Beets, Salt, and Oak – just a few examples). I also have last-minute, safe meals that I have ready in my house. In short, my cooking skills, shopping, cleaning, health, and body are in a place where I don’t need strict meal plans.
But I will in the future.
When my goals change… I’ll get another meal plan in place. Whether I want to test eating more carbohydrate, increase muscle mass, or do a new athletic event, I will likely adopt another goal-oriented meal plan again. Or maybe I’ll just get tired of making choices about food every day.
In fact, when we got so busy building Solving Leaky Gut, I hired an amazing chef to just choose my meals for me and deliver them for 3 months. Otherwise, I’d end up eating junk and it hurt my health and productivity.
So, right now I’m not using meal plans. But I will again soon, because I like systems with action steps towards my goals that free up my decision-making ability.
If the meal plan actually saves me time, money, and tastes good… well that’s a bonus. But I can tell you I do not use the complicated meal plans. They just set me up to fail.
Should You Use a Meal Plan?
If you resonated with any of the 6 areas that meal planning can help your life in, then you should try one…
Especially if you’re looking to solve a problem (like cramping, gas, or bloating).
I believe meal plans that are designed to help specific issues are a wise investment. It’s like having a coach with you every step of the way, day by day…
Which is why we created our Mild Case and Tough Case meal plans.
They are specific meal plans, for specific people who want great results in their health – who want to lower decision fatigue and improve confidence by following a system.
They aren’t complicated. In fact, if you want beautiful color photos and 5-star dishes then these are absolutely not for you.
The food tastes great, but the goal is to get your digestion better not impress food critics.
In the end, meal planning is a big deal and if you’ve never tried it, you might not even know what you’re missing out on. I would really encourage you to try one in your life this month.
Are there other benefits from meal planning you’ve noticed? Tell me in the comments below.