When most people think of meal planning, they think about downloading a typical meal plan on Pinterest.
Which they then attempt to follow through willpower or discipline.
This is the type of meal plan that is inauthentic to your current needs with food and body.
That is not the type of meal planning I will be referring to here.
In my coaching practice, I teach my clients to plan their own meals intentionally.
Based on their own needs, preferences and goals.
And all real meal planning entails is making thoughtful food decisions ahead of time.
Today, you’ll learn how to intentionally begin planning meals for yourself.
But, first, let’s talk about your relationship to the planning process.
In order to plan meals properly you’ll need to identify your current relationship to planning.
The first type of relationship with planning I see most often is those people who proclaim that “they’re just not the planning type”.
These individuals usually romanticize spontaneity and doing things “in the moment”.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this mentality in other aspects of life, this will not bring you the results you want with food & body.
The reason why this anti-planning mentality develops in the first place, is because these people feel planning is restrictive.
They don’t want to feel confined to a schedule when it comes to the way they eat.
And the truth is, planning isn’t restrictive.
Planning is neutral.
What makes planning restrictive is simply your thoughts about it.
If you decide that planning is restrictive, it will be to you.
This is not a mindset around planning that will allow you to create the results you want with your body.
The second type of relationship with planning I see are the people who are really obsessive planners.
They spend a ton of time creating beautiful plans each week for what they’ll eat.
This is the type of planning relationship I had for years.
I would excitedly plan my meals each week in hopes that I would finally make the changes I desired.
It was during this planning stage that I felt all the motivation in the world.
Then, as the week progressed, I would fail to follow through on said meal plan.
Which would leave me feeling confused and frustrated.
How could I fail to reach my goals when I was planning so much?
The reason this was happening was because I was obsessed with planning, instead of being obsessed with the actual plan.
The truth is, during the planning process we feel a rush of motivation and dopamine.
This is because your brain is anticipating a reward at this point in time.
Because of this sensation, the planning process will always feel good to you.
It will almost feel like your goals have already been accomplished in a sense.
This is natural.
What will then happen,, is when it’s time to follow through on that meal plan, your motivation will have already left the building.
So, you’re only left with the uncomfortableness of growth.
The main point I’m making here, is that both of these planning mindsets are dangerous.
They will prevent you from meal planning intentionally in a way that serves you.
Many of my students feel resistance in the beginning when it comes to planning meals.
They have the mindset that planning what they’re going to eat is restrictive.
Which isn’t true.
This is simply due to their thoughts about the planning process.
What I teach my clients to do long-term is to eat healthy very effortlessly and naturally.
So, it’s just who they are without question.
However, in the beginning they need to prove to themselves, and their brains, that they are someone who follows through with their food plans.
When you’re not someone who makes healthy food decisions, you cannot make progress without a plan.
And here’s why.
If you’re not planning your meals ahead of time in the beginning, you will always eat based on how you feel in the moment.
And this will put you in emotional eating, unconscious eating, and compulsive eating patterns that you don’t want.
Overall, my long-term goal for my clients is to be able to eat healthy with ease.
But in the beginning they need to build an integrity and confidence within themselves.
That they are someone who can create a meal plan and successfully follow through with it.
The first step of intentional meal planning is to write down three things:
I always recommend this be done on paper or digitally.
As long as you’re physically writing down your plan somewhere for reference.
The second step is very simple.
You’re going to follow through on said plan.
Which sounds basic, but it is!
You’re simply going to practice keeping food promises that you made to yourself.
Now, many perfectionists get overwhelmed with the idea of following a simple plan like this.
They’ll think, “But what if I mess up one day?”.
The truth is, your setbacks and failures are not only the clues as to where your real work is.
But, they’re necessary for you to grow.
When you go off plan, you’re going to evaluate why that occurred for you.
So, you can continue to make progress on your healthy eating goals.
While this method of planning seems simple, there’s a non-negotiable key to success here.
You must meet yourself where you are in the beginning.
This means, you’re not writing a meal plan as if you’re someone who already eats perfectly healthy.
You’re writing a meal plan based on where you’re at right now.
For example, I had a client who, according to her, was addicted to fast food.
She couldn’t imagine a life without fast food.
So, I told her to begin planning her meals ahead of time.
Without changing what she was eating (including the fast food).
What’s funny about this, is this woman still felt the same resistance in following her plan even though she didn’t change what she was actually eating.
The reason for this?
She hadn’t yet taught her brain, or herself, that she was someone who kept promises to herself with food.
This is something she had to condition herself to accept.
After a couple weeks this woman was able to make tweaks to her meal plan over time so she could get the results she wanted.
But she had to meet herself where she was at.
So, the two ways to meet yourself where you’re at:
Starting small will do so much for you.
The reason why traditional meal plans are appealing to most people, is because it implies a quick-fix.
This was definitely my mindset in the past.
I would find a colorful meal plan online and think, “All I have to do is eat these things to lose weight and feel good about myself!”.
Needless to say, this never worked out long-term.
I always self-sabotaged and re-created the same eating habits I always had.
This happened because I was attempting to follow a meal plan that wasn’t authentic to who I was as an eater at the time.
Intentional meal planning is all about you meeting yourself where you are.
And then gradually making tweaks to your diet over time.
This is how you become an effortlessly healthy eater.
Where making thoughtful and intentional food decisions is just who you are.
I can’t wait to see you get started with this work.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.