Do You Need A Meal Plan?

September 25, 2015

 Last week, I sat in my living room with a good friend discussing exactly what was included in the Balance365 Program. My friend was curious to know if…

…there was a meal plan included?
…there was a grocery list?
…I will tell her what to eat?

Asking questions like these have become fairly standard when buying a product of the fitness industry. In addition to answering questions about our new program, I’m often grilled about food in regards to my personal training services when meeting with potential clients (pun always intended).  In either case, the short answer to these questions is… No.

No meal plan. No grocery list. And no, I will not tell you what to eat.

My friend sat in the rocking chair across from me with a look on her face that read, “what the hell? How does that work?” Finally she said to me, “but…I need a plan to follow.”

“The only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices,” I explained.

Now, that’s not to say I wouldn’t help my friend, because I would.  I’d be happy to help anyone in need. I just don’t think forking over the umpteenth meal plan is the solution. And to all of you looking for the perfect meal plan, diet or weight loss nutrition program, I’d tell you the same thing. In case you missed it, here it is again…

The only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices.

Let that sink in for a minute.

For the average Jane or Joe, when it comes to food selection, most people don’t need more education, they need more confidence.

It’s not usually the “what to eat” people seem to struggle with, it’s the “how”.  The habits built around food can be a struggle to break or replace.  For example, most people know including more vegetables into their diet is a smart choice but it’s possible they aren’t in the habit of making enough time to grocery shop, prepare food, or they aren’t used to including veggies at most meals. Whatever the reason, focusing on healthy eating habits, not just acquiring more knowledge can be beneficial.

Why Are People Buying Meal Plans?

In an article for the Huffington Post, “You Know How to Eat, You Don’t Need a Diet Company to Tell You”, author Marci Warhaft-Nadler says, “After years of being told that we don’t know how to eat, we’ve actually started to believe it. This makes us completely vulnerable and therefore prime targets for any new diet plan or product that come our way.”

As consumers, we’ve lost faith in ourselves.

And I get why.

No carb, low carb, high protein, vegan, paleo, grass-fed, organic, raw, low sugar, low fat, low sodium, high fiber, fat free, sugar free, caffeine free, preservative free, macros, calories, whole foods, good fats, bad fats, GMOs, whole grains, simple sugars…

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

While living in the information age has allowed us to quickly gain access to important nutrition information it’s also left many of us feeling incapable of making appropriate diet selections for ourselves. Gertrude Stein once said, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

Common Sense

If I put you in a grocery store and told you to buy foods you believed support a healthy and balanced diet. I am certain all of your carts would look a little different, but I’d be willing to bet that most of you would come back with a pretty rad looking cart filled mostly with awesome foods.

Or if I said cook a healthy and balanced dinner for your partner/spouse, I’d be willing to bet that most of you would cook something pretty amazing.

Sure, you may get a little tripped up when selecting “the best” peanut butter because there are approximately five million peanut butter choices and the hundreds of various yogurt styles and flavors is sure to leave your head spinning.

That’s okay. Don’t try to major in the minors by getting caught up in the finer details just yet. Make the best selection you can with the knowledge you have and chalk the rest up to trial and error.

And yes, this approach is simple but not necessarily easy.  Change, any change regardless of how simple can be difficult but I assure you, you don’t need to have all the answers to start.

Think of your first day at a brand new job. You didn’t know everything right away. All you really needed to know is, where is the bathroom, when is lunch, and what day do you get paid. You know, the really important things. The rest of the knowledge you acquire as needed. A reasonable approach to building your personal nutrition plan shouldn’t be any different.

Of course, there are situations where the aid and knowledge of a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist is an absolute must. In addition, individuals looking to change their body composition, improve performance, address medical concerns, etc will most likely require a more detailed discussion in regards to the breakdown of their diet. In addition if you love using meal plans for ideas and/or have found success using them, then more power to you!  I believe the average Jane/Joe looking to follow a healthy, balanced diet and maybe even lose a few pounds doesn’t need more knowledge but rather a look at their food habits and a boost in confidence and autonomy over their food selection.

I don’t want to hand anyone a fish when I can teach them to fish for themselves. And while there are a growing number of fitness professionals preaching a similar message of moderation, sanity, and sustainable changes, most diet companies won’t encourage a back to basics approach.


Because it doesn’t make money. You can’t put common sense in a box, slap a few of those aforementioned buzzwords on it and build an empire. It’s not sexy. It’s not exciting. You won’t lose 10 pounds in 10 days. It won’t provide fast results. In fact, it’s pretty anticlimactic with slow, sustainable changes.

Feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Take everything you know about diet and nutrition and dial it back. Waaaay back. There. Start there. As Brook Kalanick encouraged in an article, “I’ll Have What She’s Having Is Not A Great Fat Loss Plan“, “Continue to educate yourself by learning from the pros, but sooner or later you have to get pro at being you. That’s not something any of us are experts in, only you can do that.”

Trust yourself. And remember, the only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices.

If you need help figuring out how this all fits together in your crazy life, don’t worry, we got you. Head over to our program page and sign up.

*This post originally appeared on Annie Brees