Here's Why Meal Plans Don't Work. And What You Should Do Instead To Lose Weight
You're here because you're searching for a meal plan to help you lose weight. Maybe you got hooked by the title and were intrigued. You believe meal plans are the answer to your fat loss woes. But I'm here to tell you they suck. And they suck HARD.
But I'm here to give you an alternative. A different way to approach dieting that'll help you sculpt a leaner, healthier, stronger body for good. Are you interested in hearing more? Awesome.
Here's what you're going to find out.
- The 6 reasons why meal plans fail.
- An exception to the rule where meal plans DO work.
- 5 Top Tips for successful dieting without meal plans.
So, let's get straight into it.
Are Meal Plans Essential For A Diet To Work?
When you think dieting, you think meal plans. You want someone to tell you exactly what to eat and when so you don't have to think. Am I right?
Sadly, that's probably where you're going wrong. Because a prescribed meal plan is probably the last thing you need right now.
Think about it this way. If I told you what to eat every day for the next 90 days, you might think that would be awesome. But here's the thing... What happens after 90 days when you're on your own? Are you going to follow the same plan? And what happens when your goals change and the plan doesn't fit? Are you going to get another plan?
That might be the way some online coaches and fitness peeps work, but not me.
If I set my business up to act as a crutch for you, then my shit is broken. You see, you don't need a bunch of meal plans to follow like a fucking droid. You're not The Terminator. Wouldn't it be more powerful for you to learn about nutrition, so you could lose weight, get the results you want, and maintain them on your own? Of course it would.
So meal plans are certainly not essential for a diet to work. In fact, 9 time out of 10 they suck. And let me tell you why...
Why Meal Plans Rarely Work In The Long Run
Although, commonplace in the fitness industry, meal plans rarely work. And the reasons for the high failure rate can be attributed to a number of factors, including:
- Often generic, cookie cutter plans
- Limited food choices and restrictive
- Ill-conceived and potentially promoting deficiencies
- Set up for a short-term fix but used long-term
- Lack of nutrition education to support sustained change
- Promote failure and "fuck it" mindset if you stray off plan
All things considered, I'm not a fan of your average meal plan. And although you think it's what you need, I guarantee it very much isn't.
Meal Plans Do Serve A Purpose
After slating meal plans I'm now going to throw a spanner in the works by saying they do serve a purpose.
In the right situation, with the right approach, a well-constructed meal plan can help you on the road to being even more sexy AF.
You see, a good plan can be a great guide on how to eat well. Showing you how to construct a highly nutritious diet that helps you achieve your calorie goal. The same meal plan can be an example of how to incorporate the foods you love on a daily basis while not disrupting your entire life. And this can be a god send when you're first starting out. Instead of being thrown in the deep end and left to drown, you've got something to guide you.
But, those meal plans need to be supported by nutritional education and long-term habit change. Otherwise, you'll be in the realms of eating the same thing for the rest of your life. And who the fuck wants to do that?
So meal plans on their own are pretty shit. But combine an awesome meal plan with education and support and you might be on to a winner.
5 Things To Do Instead Of Following Prescriptive Meal Plans
So if meal plans aren't the answer, what should you do instead?
A great question. And I certainly don't want to leave out on the fat loss ledge. So here's my 5 recommendations of what you should do instead of following a cooke cutter meal plan.
1. Track What You Eat Right Now And Make Small Changes
You don't need to overhaul your entire diet and lifestyle overnight to lose weight. In fact, there's a solid argument for doing things a little slower, especially if you've fallen into the yo-yo dieting trap in the past.
Instead of doing a complete 180 degree turn, make changes a step at a time. Think about changing one meal before moving on to the next. How could you change your breakfast so it's slightly lower in calorie, or contains a bit more protein, or is nutrient dense and fill you up?
Implement small change and build from there.
2. Address The Low Hanging Fruit
I used to despise this phrase when I worked in an office. But it has some application here. Plus, it mentions fruit and that's nutrition related so I'm cool with it.
You're not an idiot. You've landed on my website, so you're already smarter than the average human. And you've made it this far down the article, so your reading age is more advanced than my 3 year old niece.
So my guess is you already know what foods currently in your diet aren't helping you stick to a calorie deficit.
Whether it's the daily call to the Chinese Takeaway or the 6 donuts a day, there's no doubt you can pinpoint a few items not doing you any favours.
So tackle these first. It's an easy win.
3. Use The Tracking Or Non-Tracking Method That Suits You Most
Tracking is almost always the default approach to losing weight. To achieve a calorie deficit you need to know how many calories you're eating, so tracking them in MyFitnessPal seems the logical next step. But there are other ways.
Because never forget, calories count, but you don't have to count calories. So if you feel tracking is too obsessive, time-consuming, and simply a hassle then you can try alternatives.
Here are a few non-tracking methods you might want to consider:
- Intermittent Fasting: 16:8, 5:2, or Alternate Day Fasting
- Low Carb (doesn't have to be full on keto)
- Low fat
- Meal Skipping (a little like Intermittent Fasting, but with less 'rules').
- Meal Replacements Shakes
But there are cons to adopting a non-tracking approach. For example, they're likely to be more restrictive on food choices, which may not be sustainable long-term. Hunger can be an issue as well. And generally, they're less precise, although tracking itself is not 100% perfect.
Ultimately, you need to find the method and approach that works for you.
4. Plan Ahead And Do Some Meal Prep If It Helps
Planning is an overlooked piece of the fat loss puzzle. Thinking about the week ahead and developing a plan of action related to your nutrition reduces the guesswork. You're less likely to be caught off guard and left grabbing whatever you can lay your hands on.
Throw in some meal prep and you've instantly made navigating through your week a little bit easier.
And don't worry about meal prep giving you some repetition over the week. This can actually be a good thing. Decision fatigue is real. Having to constantly think about what to eat and if it fits your plan can wear you down. So some commonality across the week helps lighten the burden of making constant decision about food.
5. Make Long Term Decisions
At this point I was going to write a whole section about how getting someone to do all of this for you might be the smart option. Had I chosen to do so, I would have talked about how the process of losing weight and getting shape can be daunting. And how even implementing the handful of simple tips in this article might feel overwhelming.
And if I'd gone down that route, I might even have mentioned that Iron Paradise Fitness Online Coaching can take all that stress away. But we're friends and you're a clever sole who would've seen right through that. So here's what I've got instead.
Top Tip 5 is to think about the long term. Every decision you make should be with the view of creating a way of eating you can sustain. Resist the temptation to opt for the quick fix because it almost never works.
And if thinking long term involves online coaching then I'm confident you know what to do.
Look What Happens When You Use Meal Plans The Right Way
Despite me highlighting to you most meal plans are absolute dog shit, a good one does have benefits. And let me prove it to you.
Iron Paradise Fitness online coaching clients get 2 sample meal plans when they first start their programme. Why? Because they demonstrate how to construct a way of eating that's targeted to your goal, highly nutritious, incorporates the food you love, and works around your lifestyle.
The meal plans are used as a base to kickstart fat loss (and / or building muscle, depending on the goal). Here's an example from my client Marwa.
Marwa crushed the first couple of months of her programme. Going from 74.9kg down to 68.8kg. Pretty amazing, right? But that's not the most amazing part of the story.
When Marwa started coaching with me, she had zero understanding of nutrition. She didn't know what calories were, how to calculate a calorie deficit, and MyFitnessPal was something she'd barely heard of.
Stop and think about that for a second. Someone with no nutrition knowledge started losing weight, dropping body fat, and making progress immediately. And continued to do so week after week. Achieving results they could only dream of a couple of months ago.
But these results aren't unique. In fact, here's a couple more.
Jamie dropped 6kg over 12 weeks, built muscle, and made those abs pop.
And Jose lost a massive 10kg over 12 weeks. All from a combination of personalised nutrition (including sample meal plans), education, and an awesome training programme.
But these results aren't unique. You can achieve the same. And if you want to find out more, just go here.
The Bottom Line On Meal Plans
Most meal plans suck harder than a toothless hooker in Amsterdam (no personal experience of that). And serve no real benefit to you in the long run.
In the main, they're generic, poorly thought through, and simply designed to make you feel like comforted by the fact you've got something to follow. But they rarely work.
Generally, meal plans offer a short-term solution to problems requiring a long-term approach. Essentially, they're the wrong tool for the job. Like trying to smash down a wall with a pencil. You might chip away at the surface, but you won't make a dent in the real task at hand.
Having said all that, meal plans do have some use when used in the right way.
If your goal is short-term, ie just a few weeks, then a meal plan could be a perfectly valid solution. Additionally, if you haven't got a clue about nutrition and don't know where to start, meal plans can offer you some initial guidance. But they should be well-thought through and specific to you. Because if they aren't, you're not learning anything and you'll be back at fat loss square one before you can say, "fucking hell this plan is boring."
So think less about following a pre-determined meal plan. Follow the 5 steps I've laid out for you and apply them consistently. Ok, it might require a little more effort. But if you want to live a leaner, healthier life, for good you're going to have to put the work in somewhere.
And if you do go down the road of meal plans, make sure they're bespoke, cover all your nutrient requirements, and are full of the foods you love. And better still, get the support and education you need along the way to make those habits stick.
Want More Free Fat Loss Articles, A Free Training Programme, And Free Nutrition Guides?
If you want to be first in line for more great articles to help you make breakthroughs with your nutrition, then get yourself on my mailing list. And as a thank you for doing that, I'll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you'll find a free 4 week beginner's training programme, a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
If you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I'll say is... Keep living the Lean Life and I'll see you soon.