Meal plans come with everything and pop up everywhere. There are also the many diet fads that come and go almost as frequently as the seasons. Ugh, how to navigate it all. Besides seeing a dietitian who can work with you one on one.
This week I tried out the Beach Body meal plan (the containers one that came with 80 Day Obsession). I figured I'd give it a shot since the containers came with the workout equipment (and I love tiny containers)!
The meal plan I fell under allowed for four servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, 4 servings of protein, 2 servings of carbohydrates, 1 serving of healthy fats, 1 serving of seeds/dressings, and 1 serving of nut butter or oil each day. Obviously I eat nut butter every damn day so there goes ever using oil...
I only lasted three days trying this out and each day I had a little extra something (beer, extra fruit, extra carbohydrates, chocolate). I was hungry. A sign my body needed more than it was getting.
Why it didn't work for me.
- Too restrictive. Been there, done that. Dieting and restriction was a bad habit for me in high school. I am at my healthiest mindset around food when I can have things I enjoy when I want (aka chocolate). Sure it's beneficial to be aware of how often I'm having chocolate, but when I can't have something it quickly becomes the only thing I want.
- Not enough carbohydrates. I preach the balanced plate to my patients. Making half your plate fruit/vegetables, a quarter lean protein and a quarter whole grains. Without the grains at even one meal each day I was never satisfied and always hungry (hence the extra foods each day).
- Counting my vegetables. I love vegetables. Why should I count them when they're nutrient dense and low in calories and super tasty?!? Nope, I go big with my veggies and that's definitely not four servings.
- I didn't want to cook certain meals. I bought ingredients to make curry this week, but I never made it. Why? Because the coconut oil which is a fat would have gone against my meal plan because most days I had avocado with my lunch. I don't want to sacrifice my creativity in the kitchen or the joy my tastebuds experience with certain meals simply because they break rules here and there. Nor do I like having rules with my food.
- There are too many changes. The key to success with eating healthier is to make small changes over time. For one, this is more feasible with our busy lifestyles and builds confidence. But two, it's sustainable unlike more restrictive programs. This program had me planning my days based around specific servings of EVERY food group in addition to committing to a new workout routine. It's a lot, even for a dietitian. So I'm choosing to focus on more fruit and vegetables and the workouts.
- I'm a foodie. I like wine and chocolate. I like going out to eat. I like pizza. These are all things that can fit into a healthy lifestyle in moderation (what I'm working on), but I didn't feel that came across in this program.
Things that did work for me.
- Incorporating more snacks. The plan emphasizes having snacks in between meals to maximize nutrition while you're working hard with the workouts. I usually snack in the afternoon, but have been enjoying fruit mid morning to get more nutrients and avoid hanger.
- Adding less calorically dense "fillers." I realized that I add a lot of dressings and cheese or other additional items. While I am not saying I'll never have cheese or dressing I just save it for meals that can't live without it or on days when I really want it. Foods also taste really great raw or without much alteration.
- I became more aware. For example I just had some chocolate. My first thought was this breaks the meal plan. (BLARING SIREN SIGNALING DISORDERED EATING). But my second thought was I really want a piece of chocolate right now even though I'm not hungry. So I savored a few bites and it totally hit the spot. I knew I wasn't eating for emotional reasons, I just really wanted some chocolate. And that's OKAY!!!
- I felt hunger again. I'm really bad at eating intuitively and letting my hunger guide me, especially at work. Sometimes I am so programmed to eat at certain times that I don't feel all that hungry throughout the day. It was good to feel that again and know that, yes, my body knows what it needs.
- I had more energy to cook! Each night I put some effort into my meal to make sure I was getting my vegetables and whatever else was on the plan. It helped that I would think ahead the night before of what food I had leftover and what else I could cook. I wasn't necessarily cooking the meals I had planned before shopping but I was still cooking!
This is not to say that this program can't work for some people or to bash the program. It may be made by a dietitian which is great but that doesn't mean it will work for everyone. As a dietitian I know that there are different tools that work for different people. As someone who used to struggle with disordered and restrictive eating I prefer to allow all foods in my diet. I try to buy lots of fruit and vegetables, but I also have like twelve bars of chocolate, three things of peanut butter, and six bottles of wine in my pantry. And I enjoy exploring restaurants, it's one of my foodie hobbies. I truly took the time to analyze how this program could work for me but ultimately I felt myself being too restrictive. Other people prefer to be strict and count calories or keep certain foods out of the house. You do you, however works best to be your healthiest (mentally and physically). The best meal plan or diet or lifestyle is the one that is sustainable and allows you to still enjoy life. And as usual, please consult a dietitian for any nutrition based advice.