Most people think effective meal planning is searching for a weekly food protocol on Pinterest.
Which only leaves them chasing the next meal plan that will finally “stick” for them.
The truth is, there’s a vast difference between following a meal plan someone else created.
And intentionally and thoughtfully crafting a meal plan that resonates with you.
In this episode, I teach you how to plan your meals in a way that serves you.
So, you can continue to grow and change your eating habits for the better.
Hello there. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you for joining me here today. Right now, we’re still in the midst of social distancing due to coronavirus here in Florida, so we’re not really going out unless we’re getting essentials or going to the beach where we can separate ourselves from other people. But, the silver lining of this is that I’m having all of the time for the little things I absolutely love. I’m making more time for cooking new recipes, reading a ton of books, creating more value in my business, exercising outdoors, and buying lots and lots of plants. I don’t know what it is about this time right now, but I feel the need to fill my house with greenery and plants. Which has been actually really amazing. So, needless to say, we’re definitely finding the silver lining in this unusual time on our planet. And I hope that you are finding your silver lining while remaining safe, healthy and hopeful during this time. Now, moving on. Today, I want to talk with you about planning for success when it comes to healthy eating. There is this quote by Benjamin Franklin that says “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” and I couldn’t agree more. Especially when it comes to your eating habits. You always need to be planning for success. And this is extremely necessary in the beginning when you’re not someone who has the eating habits you want yet. Obviously in my coaching I teach women to create healthy eating habits that feel second nature to them. So, it’s just who they are and they can eat healthy without much fuss. But, in the beginning, it’s not natural to you yet. So, it’s important that you teach yourself and your brain that you’re someone who follows through with healthy food decisions. And first off, I want to clarify what I’m talking about when I say planning for success. We can also refer to this as meal planning in a way. But, there’s a huge difference between planning your meals intentionally and following a traditional meal plan that you find on Pinterest, right? Two very different things. Attempting to follow a meal plan written by someone else means you’re attempting to force yourself to follow someone else’s food rules. You’re going to try and use willpower or self-discipline to commit to food actions that don’t feel authentic to you yet. And eventually, your brain will take over and you will self-sabotage. Going back to your old ways of eating. That is not what I’m referring to here when I’m talking about planning your meals. What I’m referring to is intentional meal planning. Which is where you’re very thoughtfully and intentionally making food decisions ahead of time. That’s it. That’s what intentional meal planning really is. Now, the concept of planning our meals doesn’t sound super sexy, right? When we look at someone who naturally and effortlessly eats healthy, it doesn’t seem like they work that hard to eat that way. I know in the past when I looked at women who seemingly just ate healthy with ease, they made it look so easy. And whenever I would try and plan my meals I always resented the fact that I had to work hard while they didn’t in a way. Which sounds a little silly, but it’s really how I felt. But, I want to tell you why planning your meals intentionally is very necessary in the beginning. And why it’s a prerequisite to creating eating habits that feel natural to you. It’s because if you don’t plan what you’re going to eat, you will always eat based on how you feel in the moment. So, if you don’t make food decisions ahead of time, you will always make food decisions in any given moment based on how you feel then. And this puts us in situations with food we don’t want to be in. If we’re relying on our emotional state to determine our eating choices, we’ll never be able to commit to eating in a way that brings us towards our goals. And to be honest, this is why planning for any goal is so necessary. If you don’t plan what you’re going to do ahead of time, you’re always going to take action in the moment based on the emotions you’re experiencing. You guys know based on past episodes that everything the humans do in life is because of how we feel, or because of how we want to feel. Every action we take is preceded by an emotion we’re experiencing. So, with that, planning is super super necessary. And I say this, because I want to address all of you out there who will say to me, “Well, I’m just not the planning type” or “I’m just not a planner. I’m more spontaneous”. And, you guys. I’m going to give some tough love for a second. Every time I hear that someone is the more spontaneous type and they don’t plan for their goals, I know they’re not getting the results they want. I know it. Because it’s not possible. Our brains aren’t wired to achieve our goals through spontaneity. Because your brain seeks pleasure and avoids pain. Always. So, if you’re trying to be spontaneous and do what you feel like doing in the moment, you’re never going to feel like growing. Or doing what is necessary to become the person you want to be. Or become the type of eater you want to be so you can lose the weight. Or become healthier. Spontaneity keeps you stagnant. Planning and making decisions ahead of time allows you to grow. And what’s very interesting, is most people will have this mindset around planning where it’s very restrictive to them. And they feel like having a plan is putting shackles on their life so to speak. And if you feel like planning is restrictive, this is just because of the thoughts you’re having about it. We’ve romanticized spontaneity in our culture and kind of demonized planning a bit. And the truth is, planning, in the sense where you’re making decisions ahead of time, is what makes you truly free. Because when you make decisions ahead of time, especially with food, you will not have to worry about your goals being achieved. The decisions leading to your success have already been made. What’s more freeing than that, right? In this way, you don’t have to rely on what your brain feels like doing in the moment. You can intentionally and thoughtfully plan your results with food and body ahead of time. So, if you’re someone who has never considered themselves a planner, and you have this resistance to planning, I want you to consider what I’m saying here. And make an effort to change your relationship with the concept of planning.
And then from here, I really need to touch on the other end of the spectrum. Which is those of you who are obsessed with planning. I most definitely was on this end of the spectrum in my past. I’ve always been super Type-A. I love making lists, writing things down, and planning my weeks ahead of time. It’s like my favorite thing. I used to get all of these pretty journals to plan my meals in. And what would happen is I would feel really amazing during the planning process. Almost like my goals were already achieved. I would tell myself that this would be the week I would finally get myself together and follow through on those meals I planned. And then when the week came, I wouldn’t follow through with those food decisions. And this would leave me feeling very frustrated. Because I always planned my meals very carefully with the best intentions. But this had nothing to do with me following through on what I planned. So, I would go out and buy more planners, and find more meal plans in hopes that this would get me to commit to those food actions. Now, the point of this, is I want you to be honest with yourself and see if you’re maybe more obsessed with planning than you are with the plan. So many of us do this. We’ll meticulously plan our meals and then fail to follow through. The reason for this is actually very simple. It’s because when you’re planning you’re getting a rise in dopamine levels which causes you to feel very motivated. It feels very good to our brains. Then, once it’s time to follow through on said plan your dopamine levels and motivation has left the building. So, you’re left with the decisions you made. And you won’t follow through with your meal plan because it will no longer feel good to your brain. Now, the concept of feeling motivated to follow through is a whole other topic that I’ll discuss in future episodes. But, all in all, I just want you to watch out for your obsessive planning tendencies. I once heard another coach say, “You don’t need another planner, you just need a plan”. And I absolutely love that. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. You don’t need another planner. You just need a plan.
Now, here are the basics of intentional meal planning. Where you’re creating your own meal plan based on food decisions you make for yourself ahead of time. First, you’re going to write down the plan. Now, you can physically write it down on paper or write it out somewhere digitally. But, it’s important for your brain that you physically write the plan somewhere so you can have it there to reference. When writing the plan you’re going to consider three things. You’re going to write what you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat, and where you’re going to eat your meals. Just those three things. And then, you’re going to follow through with your meal plan no matter what. You’re going to keep those promises to yourself. Meaning when a negative emotion comes up for you, you’re going to commit to yourself and not indulge in overeating. When you feel cravings to eat more because your body is still in starvation-mode you’re going to take a step back and commit to what you promised yourself. You’re going to follow through with the food decisions that you already made. Now, if you don’t follow through during the week, this is where the work begins. Because this will give you the answers as to where your work truly is, right? Setbacks are the waypoints to life-long success. Where you stumble or miss the mark are the clues that will give you an idea of where your growth is. And next week, I want to get into the topic of what really happens when you don’t follow through. But, the idea here is that when you create an intentional meal plan, based on food decisions that you make, you are going to reach a point where you’re following through no matter what. Now, in order for this to work, I want you to keep something very important in mind. I want you to meet yourself where you are. I know from experience that many of you will want to rush ahead of the finish line. You’ll want to eat the healthiest foods right away. Or you’ll want to significantly lower the amount of food you eat right away. Or you’ll want to lower the frequency of times you eat in a day. And if you feel called to rush these changes in your meal plan, it’s because you think that over there is better than over here. You think that on the other side of eating a perfect meal plan is happiness and fulfillment. And this isn’t true. I want you to practice feeling fulfilled and happy along this journey to healthier eating. Which means, I want you to simply practice keeping food promises to yourself in the beginning. So, the first step to intentional meal planning is to not change what you eat or how you eat necessarily. It’s to simply prove to your brain and yourself that you’re someone who eats what she says she’s going to eat. That you’re someone who honors her own food decisions. This is really such a huge secret to becoming someone who intentionally eats in a way that serves them. Before focusing on changing your food actions, you simply need to become someone who commits to the meal plan that she creates. Once you become a person who commits to her food decisions, then, and only then, can you make tweaks to what you eat, when you eat, and where you eat daily. And you’ll be able to do so with much less resistance than before. A way to further meet yourself where you’re at is to commit to making food decisions 24 hours in advance. And I highly recommend this. Most meal plans will have you believe that to change the way you eat you have to make food decisions a week in advance. And if you’re not currently someone who keeps weekly commitments with food, this can be a little daunting to start off with. Your brain might be like “Hell no. We are not someone who follows a meal plan for an entire week. Slow down”. So, to make it easier on your brain and to move forward, you can simply commit to making your food decisions 24 hours ahead of time. So, this might look like you deciding what you’re going to eat the night before. In a way where you’re meeting yourself where you’re at and being really honest with yourself. It’s funny I had a client that according to her was just really addicted to eating fast food. And she couldn’t even imagine yet not eating that fast food. So, one of my first steps with her wasn’t to change what she was eating. But was to plan for everything she was going to eat. No matter what it was. So, she planned for eating that same fast food for the next week. And what’s so funny, is her brain even felt a little resistance to this. She was eating the same things, but instead of it being spontaneous, she was simply making her decisions ahead of time. And her brain still felt resistance! And this is because she was training herself and her brain to become someone who honors their food decisions ahead of time. Now, after becoming that person she was able to make changes to her diet and see the results she wanted. But meeting yourself where you’re at has to be the first step, always. And this is where most other food programs and weight loss programs go wrong. They’re not doing this.
So, practice the act of intentionally planning your meals every week. Or at least 24 hours in advance. And just be really thoughtful about this practice. And keep it very, very simple. I don’t want you to become obsessed with the planning process and make it complicated for yourself. Make your intentional meal plan very basic for you. Write it down on a blank sheet of paper. Or calendar it digitally. But keep it very simple. To the point where it seems boring. This is key. You don’t need to become obsessed with the planning process by adding frills to it. You don’t need another planner, you only need a plan. Make those decisions and then focus on becoming someone who follows through with them.
And just know that you will get to a point where when you make food decisions ahead of time, it’s as good as done. In my mind, when I plan something on my calendar whether that’s what I eat or other things, it’s as good as done. There’s no mental chatter about it. I’ve developed that integrity with myself and my body that once I make a promise to myself it’s done with. And nothing about this feels restrictive to me. It actually feels the opposite. It’s incredibly freeing and calming. Because this allows me to be present and live in the moment every single day. Knowing that I’ve already made the best decisions for myself ahead of time. All I have to do when I plan my meals or goals intentionally is follow through. That’s it. And this can become the easiest thing in the world when you plan intentionally and thoughtfully for healthy eating success. Alright, my lovely friend. I’ll talk to you next week.
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.