Why Meal Plans Fail
First things first, a meal plan must be prescribed by a registered dietitian and is outside the scope of practice of a certified personal trainer. With that said…even if I was an RD (registered dietitian) I wouldn’t prescribe meal plans. Reason being, is because meal plans are extremely rigid and allow no flexibility to the client. It is absolutely impossible to follow a sheet of paper and eat exactly what said paper says day in and day out and expect to do this for the rest of your life. It ain’t gonna happen! The main problem with meal plans is that you may be able to follow them for a couple days, but once you make one little mistake or eat a certain food that is not on your little sheet you’ll feel as if you’ve failed the meal plan, you cheated, and all progress has been lost. You’ll feel as if you’re off of the meal plan, that you blew it, and now you’re highly likely to go on a binge and eat whatever you want as you’re now “off” the plan. This happens frequently as meal plans are very black and white. You’re either following it perfectly or one little mistake causes you feel as if you’ve failed. Even if the mistake actually netted the same calorie and macronutrient content/value. This leads to the very common “endless binge and restrict cycle” pictured to the right.
The reason people attempt meal plans is because they are reasonably straightforward and you don’t have to learn about macros, calories, and other nutritional topics but instead can just start following your plan. The problem with this is that you’re never actually learning or understanding the why’s and how’s behind dieting and nutrition. When you do something on the weekend your meal plan fails. When you go out for dinner your meal plan fails. When you have any type of special occasion your meal plan fails. Lastly, whenever you go on a vacation your meal plan will fail. How will you recover? How will you get back on track with your nutrition goals after these occasions repeatedly throw a dent in your fitness goals? These are the types of problems with meal plans… you just cannot sustain them for the long term. It’s basically like starting a diet that you know in the back of your head there is an end date. Thankfully, due to evidenced based nutrition & flexible dieting we now have better approaches and much more flexible plans of attack to reach your fitness goals whilst still being able to have a life and enjoy your time away from the gym all while continuing day to day toward your long-term fitness goals.