I once wrote this article entitled “No, I Will Not Write You a Meal Plan,” or some obnoxious shit like that. It was basically me bitching about why you don’t need a meal plan. I swore a lot in it.
The site where I wrote it is defunct, I think, which is for the best. Stephen King once remarked, towards the end of his writing the Dark Tower series, how pretentious the first book of the series sounded, as he was young and “overwrote” it. That’s kinda how I feel about most of the stuff I wrote when I was younger.
When I was a sprout, I walked around confident that I knew it all. Now that I’m approaching the crest of the hill, I am smart enough to realize I don’t know shit and, worse yet, still have a lot of bullshit to UNLEARN.
What do you want from me? It took me 37 years to figure it out, okay?
At the time, I think the only (shockingly arrogant) point I was trying to make was something to the effect of:
“Other trainers make cookie-cutter meal plans because they don’t know how to COACH you and train you to eat correctly. So, I’m better than them.”
Yeah, so, I was insufferable. Still can be.
But I still RARELY create meal plans for people. So why?
Tanya got me thinking about this topic last week and I think the real explanation for my refusal is the psychology behind the people most likely to request them. Underneath this seeming innocent request, there is always something lurking. That “something” is a refusal to take 100% responsibility. Oftentimes, the request for a meal plan is just a scapegoat to avoid:
- Doing more (or harder…or both) work.
- Taking responsibility for maladaptive behaviors.
- Taking the blame when the progress isn’t as expected.
- Taking the time to learn something new and adapt.
The people that are really apt to follow a meal plan are, ironically, the same people who can do just fine with macro numbers and weekly feedback. Which is both funny and tragic, because they don’t need them. For the uninitiated, there are a few issues I have with meal plans beyond the people who ask for them, and I can sum it up as: THEY DON’T TEACH YOU SHIT.
- They don’t really teach you how to construct a meal. Very few people who ASK for plans also have the intrinsic motivation to dissect a plan to figure out what is going on. Nor do they question the provider of the plan as to what their rationale is for the content of it. (Again, let’s face it, the person who gave them the plan probably doesn’t know either.)
- They don’t teach you how plan your own meal. By learning to count macros and such, you can create a variety of flavorful meals that actually taste good, instead of eating nothing but chicken and rice/potatoes. Most plans are basic and how long do you really expect someone to adhere to that?
- They don’t teach you how to adapt. The hardcore folks out there will tell you to “never leave the house without two meals”, but this really isn’t practical all of the time, particularly if you aren’t a competitive physique athlete or a model. Life happens and using a meal plan as a crutch only leaves you high and dry when you are in a situation where you can’t execute that plan.
PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY: It doesn’t encourage you to be self-aware and examine your behaviors. Unless you fail on the meal plan and take time to examine why you were unable to follow it, you can’t really learn much about yourself.
What situations trigger you?
What are your snacking habits?
What foods do you gravitate towards?
etc, etc, etc
For those reasons alone. I like to teach people through portions, body awareness, or Macro counting, depending on the person.
Granted, people need to be trained (Ahem…COACHED) to adhere to a macro plan and the initial stages may require extensive hand holding to ensure tracking is done effectively and that the “rules of the game” are outlined. Ditto for body-awareness.
The bottom line here is that most people, in the LONG-TERM, do much better with a process goal-oriented approach designed to facilitate the development of better habits and train them to make better food choices AS WELL AS give them insights into their own behavior
However, when you look at the front end investment in relation to the lessons-learned on the back end, this is kind of a no-brainer.
Why do most hack coaches (i.e. Insta-trainers) still do it? Because they are easy to mass-produce and sell cheap, and oftentimes they are simply regurgitating a meal plan that was given to THEM by another coach. Don’t do this shit. Lead. Help people to help themselves.
Or get out of the way.