STRUCTURED MEAL PLANS: why they are effective and ineffective.
Meal plans are an awesome way to get going with your health and fitness goals there Is no doubt about that. However, a lot of people run into issues surrounding meal plans. These can vary from going what feels like ‘off track’, getting a bit tired of the same old same old, preparation and organisation is essential, and a few other contributing factors.
Whilst they have their place, and allow structure and routine, they can also lead to a few negative issues/side effects. Varying from: limiting foods leading to slight intolerances when these foods are finally consumed, nervousness around going out/eating off plan, inhibiting flexibility leading to isolation in some circumstances, as well as the ongoing need to have meals ready / organised in advance.
Now, don’t get me wrong, meal plans are great. However, if they do not allow for a little flexibility, the rigidity of them can lead people down a dark path. Better yet, can start to create habits which are really hard for people to break (eating certain foods, starting to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’). Whilst I believe structure and organisation are essential in our diet, especially if you have health and fitness goals, I also believe it is necessary to allow some ‘fun’ foods in your diet, and allow yourself social get togethers where you can eat out.
This is where the 80/20 rule can come into place! That is, if you do choose to follow a meal plan, if you stick to your structured plan during the week, or even 6/7 days of the week, you can allow your ‘20’ to be your day out, with flexible eating (in moderation of course, don’t go eating a whole block of choccy…). You allow yourself 1-2 meals untracked, off plan, and maybe 1 or 2 sweet treats. This will (or very unlikely) not disrupt your progress in achieving your goals.
The structure during the work week as I said, is ideal as it gives us routine! However, we want to ensure whichever route we decide to take on our meal plans or there lack of, is one we can see ourselves with for a long period of time! If it is something you look at and go ‘wow I would get bored of that quickly’ or all the foods look the same day in and day out, you are more likely to ‘give up’ on it in a matter of weeks. Nevertheless, if you can commit to a meal plan or a similar option that you know you can follow indefinitely, then that is probably the way for you to go!