You're not doing this for me; you're doing it for you.
I don’t include meal plans as part of my nutrition protocols, simply because of the Fussy Factor: it’s too bossy, to rules-y, and I simply don’t believe a detailed meal plan is the way to an effortless weight loss program for anyone, really. I consider meal plans a temporary tactic at best: certainly we don’t expect someone else to tell us what to eat, every meal, every day, for the rest of our lives? At some point you have to have the confidence to leave the nest and go out into the big world and make your own meals. I push people to fly the coop right off the bat: I arm you with the education so you don’t need me to tell you what, specifically, to eat.
If I tell you specifically how much of what to eat, then you haven’t learned how to figure this out for yourself.
The alternative is to go on a meal plan until you don’t want to anymore, then go off of it.
Then, a few months or years later, decide to go back on it again. “Because it worked so well!” (Did it though? Did it?)
And then off again. And then on.
And off. And on…
Meal plans are short-term.
So instead of meal plans (which I do reluctantly offer as an extra-fee add-on), I provide a large and detailed list of Foods To Use in my protocols. I simply encourage folks to make their meals from that list however the heck they like: depending on mood; depending on preferences; depending on where in the world they are (stuck in a meeting, travelling, on the run, out for dinner...?); depending on what they feel like buying/cooking/eating that day. This allows for a great deal of flexibility.
In going back through my records, most people come to me already in nutrition ruts. They eat the things that are easy and familiar. Routine. The yogurt-and banana for breakfast. The sandwich for lunch. Instant oatmeal packets. Cans of soup. That salad from Wendy’s.
Clients don’t acknowledge their food ruts until they’ve come to see me. As soon as I hand them a list of Foods to Use, suddenly they get bored. Suddenly they feel they’re eating the same things over and over. It’s a four-page list of some of the most satisfying foods on earth! So why are people finding it so boring, so restrictive?
I figured it out long ago…
If a nutritionist tells you what to eat, you’re not going to like it.
A nutritionist is going to look closely at what you’ve been eating and say “Those foods aren’t good for you. Try these foods instead.” Some of your favourite things will need to come out. You’ll need to change the way you eat but - just so we’re clear… that’s why you hired a nutritionist in the first place, isn’t it?
Everyone likes the things they are familiar with, and nobody likes change. A universal truth. By suggesting change, I’m nudging you out of your comfort zone, and that’s hard. You push back. Or you don’t allow yourself to enjoy the process of change. It ends up a self-fulfilling prophecy:
“I just hired a nutritionist; man, this is going to suck!” And then it does.
I try very hard to make sure the list of Yes Foods doesn’t suck, but if we’ve already decided that the very existence of me in your life is some form of punishment, then I’m fighting an uphill battle.
It’s okay; I like uphill battles.
The moral of the story
Recently I had an email conversation with a client who said, “I’m getting bored of eating all the same things.”
I said “Oh, that’s an easy one. If you’re bored of eating the same things, then eat different things.”
They said, “But I don’t know what to eat.”
I said “You can eat anything on the four-page list of Foods to Use I gave you.”
They said, “But I don’t know how to make meals with those foods.”
I said “Google has one trillion recipes.”
Them: “But I don’t have time to cook complicated meals.”
Me: “Then don’t. Just eat the food. Just build simple meals using all of those Yes Foods.”
Them: “But it’s not very convenient.”
Is hard boiling some eggs more or less convenient than carrying around 40 extra pounds of weight?
Is a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster more or less convenient than falling asleep at your desk at 3pm?
Is your morning yogurt more or less convenient than the cystic acne you’ve been hating for a decade?
Is a little dish of ranch dressing to dip your carrot sticks into more or less convenient than your chronically sore joints from systemic inflammation?
One thing that is really inconvenient is being sick, sad, or overweight, and needing to hire a professional to get you back on track.
The very existence of a nutritionist like me in your life is inconvenient.
With that reality in mind, one of the best ways I know to help is by educating you, setting you on the path to take care of this stuff yourself. Because in the end, who’s going to be there? You. You won’t have a nutritionist forever. At least I sure hope not.
So the pep talk to wrap up this little batch of tough love is this: It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. Best bet is to put a happy spin on it, otherwise it’s going to be a real drag (this same advice applies to exercise, by the way). I know you’re missing your usual foods, but the food I’m encouraging will make you a happy, healthy badass. Which is why you hired me.
Embrace the process and have some fun with it.
And if you get bored of eating the same things, then eat different things.