Why Meal Plans Suck

Why Meal Plans Suck

Meal plans.  The fitness and nutrition industry has been prescribing meal plans for a long long time.  Many potential clients have come to expect to be told exactly what to eat and exactly when to eat it in the hopes that magical changes will happen.  There may be instances where meal plans are ideal such as for someone training for a body building show or someone with a specific medical condition, but overall meal plans suck and are not beneficial for the masses in the long term.

Picture this.  A client asks for a meal plan in order to lose weight.  The coach prescribes the following:

Breakfast 6:00am 

3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup vegetables
1 piece whole grain toast
1 cup coffee
1 glass water

Mid-Morning Snack 9:00am

1 medium sized apple
1 handful mixed nuts

Lunch 12:00pm

4 oz chicken
2 cups broccoli 
1 handful nuts
1 glass water

Afternoon Snack 3:00pm (after exercise)

1 scoop whey protein
1/2 cup frozen fruit
12 oz water

Dinner 7:00pm

4 oz grass fed ground beef
1 cup cooked veggies
1 baked potato
1 glass water

At first this may look amazing to someone and they may say, “great, I do not have to think at all, I can just plug these in and be successful”.  But, here are the problems with rigid meal plans like this:

  1. Life is not that predictable – things do not always go as planned and it is very challenging to stick to eating at a certain time for every single meal.  For instance, family events and special occasions will always come up and such a rigid plan takes the fun out of social situations where food is involved if you cannot veer from the plan.  
  2. Boring!!! – eating the same exact thing every single day is boring and will ultimately lead to you wanting all kinds of foods that are not on the plan and will end in a binge and make you feel like a failure.
  3. What about after the meal plan?  This does not give clients any freedom to choose their own foods.  It keeps them helpless and does not empower them to learn how to properly fuel on their own.  When the plan is over, the results go bye bye and the client is left feeling like a failure again.
  4. Short term results – alone the same lines as number 3.  You follow the plan, you feel successful, the plan ends and then so do the results.  You are right back to where you started.  
  5. Too precise – weighing and measuring everything can lead to disordered eating patterns and can get very mundane and frustrating.  The reality is that we are not able to measure and weigh all of the time and frankly it takes the fun out of eating.

Sure, there are times when a meal plan can work.  Athletes or competitive body builders, for instance, need the structure and specificity of a meal plan but this is real life and most of us do not need such rigidity in order to change our eating habits and be happy.  What can you do instead of following a meal plan?  

Find a coach who can help you figure out where the gaps are in your current nutrition.  A good nutrition or health coach will help you focus on your overall health and mindset.  He or she should help you figure out where the gaps are in your current eating plan and help you fill those voids.  For instance, are you eating enough protein?  Do you have ample fruits and veggies in your diet?  Are there any supplements that are missing that could help?  How do you feel overall and what is your mindset around food?  Have you had bloodwork done to check hormone levels?

There is a place for meal plans as I mentioned above, but they are definitely not for the masses.  It is very important to look at each individual person and work to satisfy their specific needs as a coach.  Blanket meal plans do not take diversity into account.  Make sure you interview any coach you plan to use.  If you find that they are set on only using meal plans to help you, run for the hills.  There is definitely a better way!  


Raising the Intuitive Eater

Raising the Intuitive Eater

My son eating his sugary french toast at KiKi’s

Intuitive Eating is a lifelong journey that does not have to begin when you have already been suffering from the yo-yo dieting cycle for 30 years.  It is something that can be taught and encouraged from an early age.  Our relationship with food begins from day one.  Our parents or caregivers are the ones who have complete control over our food choices and the attitudes we develop around food.  This can be good or bad.  Just like any habit, food rules and restriction can begin at a very early age and can create unhealthy relationships with food that will last a lifetime.  For instance, according to the Keep It Real Campaign approximately 80% of 10 year old girls have already dieted once in their lives.  This is alarming to say the least.  

In addition, it has been reported that 40% of parents encourage their children to diet, and that parents engage in weight talk with children as young as two years old.  In the end it has been shown that when parents apply excessive overt restriction on foods that are allowed it can inhibit a child’s natural ability to self regulate their appetite.  These statistics and much more on the topic can be found in the book Just Eat It by Laura Thomas, Phd.  

Picture this, your 3 year old is in his high chair and you have laid out several different food options:  chicken, peas, avocado, and sweet potatoes.  He picks at the food and enjoys it for as long as he wants to and freely chooses what he is in the mood for.  Eventually he gets full and starts throwing the food on the ground and feeding it to the family dog.  This is a prime example of what intuitive eating is and how we are born with the natural ability to know our limits when it comes to eating.  Unfortunately, parents, not intentionally, society, and diet culture slowly creep in and create insecurity and, as a result, confidence in food choices, hunger, and satiety plummet.

In my blog about restriction and food freedom I explained and outlined the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.  These principles apply to children as well and can be integrated into your food experiences early on.  We try our best as parents and sometimes due to how we were raised we impose our food issues upon our kids at an early age without even realizing it.  Do any of these statements sound familiar?

“When you finish your dinner you can have your dessert but you must clean your plate first.”

“If you don’t eat you won’t grow.”

“You can’t have that because it is bad for you.”

I am not saying I have not said these things to my children.  I totally have.  But, there is a way to encourage our children to become confident in their eating and food choices without being too pushy.  As of late, I have been encouraging our younger boys to stop when they are full and have tried to not force them to finish all of their food.  Baby steps.  “What about health you ask?  I am not going to let my children just sit around eating cookies all day!”  I get it.  I am not going to do that either.  Here are a few tips to encourage intuitive eating in your child while at the same time promoting healthy food choices as a priority.  

Raising an Intuitive Eater

  1. Include lots of options from day one – always provide ample vegetable choices, protein sources, carbohydrates, and good fats in every meal.  Even if they choose not to eat something rotate it back in every few weeks to keep giving them the option.  Don’t get stuck serving children the same thing over and over.  Variety will encourage trying new things.
  2. Include your child in food choices – take them to the grocery store with you.  Ask them if you should get broccoli or green beans.  Let them own the choices and they are more likely to eat what you serve.  
  3. Include your child in preparing food – if they feel like they have ownership in the process they are more likely to learn to enjoy preparing healthful meals and enjoying and appreciating the hard work that goes into cooking.  
  4. Avoid all or nothing language – try not to say that foods are good or bad.  Ask your child how certain foods make them feel.  For instance, if they overindulge in their cookies gently ask them how they feel and nudge them to understand that sometimes when we eat too many foods that are not as nutrient filled we won’t feel very good physically.  Let them figure it out on their own.  
  5. Encourage exercise but not as a form of punishment for what we eat – plan active days with the kids.  Swimming, walking, biking, etc.  Let them learn for themselves how good it feels to get out and move our bodies.  Also, make sure they see you making movement and exercise a priority in your life.  Monkey see, monkey do!
  6. Avoid forcing them to clean their plates – let them graze if they want to.  Sometimes that is all we want to do so why force them to eat it all?  You can set boundaries and say that if you are hungry again in the next hour the food will still be here for you to finish if you want.  My 7 year old wants to go right to dessert most nights and I encourage him to sit with his fullness first and see if he still wants the snack in 30 minutes.  It is a thin line to walk but being gentle about it is key.
  7. Avoid talking about your body in a negative light in front of your children – they learn dialogue from you so be careful with this one.  Even complimenting them on their bodies sends the message that their value is in how they look. 

In a nutshell, don’t beat yourself up for anything you have done as a parent.  It is never too late to start practicing these tips.  Parenting is a tough job, but if you integrate these small things into your conversation around food with your children not only will they have the foundation to grow up confident in their ability to feed and nourish themselves, but it will also help you as well.  


What is the big deal with bananas?

What is the big deal with bananas?

Hey y’all! Yes I said y’all….I am originally from California but was raised most of my life in Gainesville, Florida so I am pretty much southern. My very southern grandmother would be so proud if she were here to read this! Anyhow, I digress. You are probably wondering what the hell is this banana this crazy woman keeps talking about and why is this blog called Eat the Banana?  What in the world can this woman come up with that is interesting about a damn banana? Before I tell you why I named my blog what I did, let me tell you a little about what brought me to this point of sitting in front of my laptop blogging about bananas.

I was raised by a single mom who taught me I should always pursue my goals and dreams and that I should never let anyone or anything stop me from doing so. She also taught me to do all of the “right” things.  You know, go to school, get good grades, be nice, be successful, work your ass off and go to college, get a job, and be happy.  It is that simple right?  I am in no way knocking the lessons she taught me because without her I do not know where I would be, but she did her best right? She was doing what any woman trying to support a growing kid would do and that is fantastic.

But, in teaching me how to be a strong woman with goals, she forgot one simple detail. My mother was very clear that there were many people who will try to bring me down but she was not clear on the fact that I, my own self, would self doubt and be the biggest obstacle to success if I let my thoughts take control. She was brought up in the 60s and 70s and wanted me and my generation of women to be strong and say fuck it to all of the norms and rules of society, and while this is an important lesson to learn for a young girl, it is not your biggest enemy. Your biggest enemy are the voices in your head telling you that you are not good enough or you cannot accomplish what you want to do in life.

Fast forward to my 20s. I am living alone in Atlanta working at a job I really did not love but it was the job I got out of grad school so it was the right thing to do right? I made very little money but gained good experience and lots of good friends while in Atlanta, but I ended up moving back to Gainesville where I got married to my first husband, because, that was the next step right? That is what we are supposed to do at that age! A year later I was a new mom and my marriage was falling apart. I do not regret this a single bit but it was tough to say the least. Believe me when I say that I started to believe I was not capable of a loving and solid relationship that would last. It was my BIGGEST insecurity!

Fast forward to my 30s, where I am married to my second husband who is seemingly amazing and perfect and a year or so into that I am a mommy again. A few years later this marriage was falling apart. I tried my best to fix it but it just could not work and BOY did I feel like the biggest failure of a lifetime!  Two babies from two different dads made me feel like I was going to be called to be on the Maury Povich show any minute. At this point I was just a stay at home mom and had no job so I of course felt like a total loser in that I had no idea how I would go back to work and support myself and be a mom.

When life give you lemons right? I picked myself up, still with all of the self inflicted judgement that was going on in my head, and I pursued a passion I had always wanted to pursue.  I quickly became a personal trainer and moved my way into a very lucrative and satisfying career at Orangetheory Fitness Gainesville. I could write an entire novel on how much I adore my job but if you follow me on social media you get enough of that on the daily so I will spare you the gory details.

One of the continuing education certifications I earned early on was the Level 1 Nutrition Coach through the Nutrition Coaching Institute. I originally thought I was way too busy with two kids, 17 coaching hours a week, and very much needed me time and time with my fiance, to actually use this new certification but one day a member at OTF approached me and asked if I could help her. Before I knew it I had about 10 clients on my hands!

During this time I had the amazing luck to have a skilled therapist who helped me own my experiences and be proud of them.  She helped me shout it from the rooftops and not care what anyone thinks.  So yes, I have had two husbands and both marriages failed.  Yes, I have two kids from two dads.  And finally, yes I am happily engaged to the love of my life.  WHO GIVES A FUCK!  If you do not like it then you can quietly exit stage left and I am fine with it.

The point is that you are your biggest critic. More than likely you are judging yourself harder than others are and the MOST important person you need to please is yourself. You do not have to follow any path that you do not want to nor do you have to do anything to fit someone else’s opinion of what you should do. All of the other people who may judge you do not have to look at you in the mirror and be happy with what they see. You do. In the end you are truly the only person who needs to be happy with what they see.  Otherwise, everything else goes to shit.

You are probably thinking, get to the point woman! I want to know what the fuck is so great about a banana and is it going to change my life for the better? Well that depends on how you think about the banana. See, the banana is just a metaphor. While I am loving all of the posts people send me while they happily and proudly eat a banana, (insert shameless tag of Chiquita banana for some sort of endorsement here) it is not just about an actual banana folks.

How did the banana come to fruition?  In my pursuit to save the world as a nutrition coach I made a post one day about how people are so scared to eat fruit or carbs or sweets and I assured everyone that they will not die if they eat a banana nor will the become obese and unhealthy (that just happened to be the fruit I was eating at the moment). The original post is pictured below but I stressed that the diet culture has ruined our mindset about food and terrified everyone, specifically women, of a simple little banana. In my post I urged people to just eat the damn banana. From that my business name was born and now I am setting out to save the world, one banana at a time.

I figured another way to get this very important message out was to write a blog about bananas. No I am not going to write about actual bananas each week. I am going to write about nutrition, life, fitness, health, kids, family, love, and how to maintain sanity with all the crazy that life brings us. Most importantly I want to empower women not to be afraid of a little banana (insert whatever word you want here) and inspire them to be true to who they are.  In other words, if you follow this blog you will probably laugh, cry, learn a thing or two about nutrition and fitness, but most importantly you will learn to grab life by the damn BANANAS and go get what you want!