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Why Meal Plan Dieting isn’t the Answer

Time and time again, I watch clients embark on a new diet, where theyre given a specific meal plan to follow. Something like:

Breakfast - 8 a.m.: 3 eggs, 1 cup sautéd spinach, 1 orange, 1/2 an avocado, 1 cup coffee, 1 glass of water

Snack - 10 a.m.: 12 almonds, 5 carrot sticks with peanut butter

Lunch - 1 p.m.: 6 oz of tuna, 2 cups salad, sugar-free smoothie, 2 glasses of water

You get the point. Meal plan dieting is precise and organized and specific and rigidall of the things you think you need to lose weight.

Specific meal plans are what many people come to me looking for: Just tell me exactly what to eat and when, and Ill do it,  they promise.

But the truth is, most people follow the plan for a whilea few weeks to a couple months maximumand then they fall off, because most people arent wired to be that rigid all the time.

The real problem comes once they fall off, because then these people often have no idea what they should be eating, so all hell breaks loose in their lives. Their only tool was to follow a temporary plan, but now they cant tell you why they should avoid lectins, or why its important to have fat with every meal and theyre not sure what to eat anymore.

It comes down to memorizing versus understanding:

Meal plan dieting is just memorizationmeaning youre doomed to fail. True understanding is where long-term success lies. 

Now Im not saying memorizing something is always wrong. In fact, you dont have to look beyond a 2-year-old to see that memory is a fundamental tool in the learning process. Toddlers revel in reading the same book over and over. The same stories over and over. The same songs over and over. Ad nauseam to parents far and wide

In fact, we are taught from a young age that we need to develop our memorizing skills. I know when I was in high school, I memorized my way through many history and biology tests.The problem was I didnt retain half of the information I memorized for the test. Had I been re-tested 6 months later, I likely wouldnt have passed the test.

This is because real learning doesnt happen until we understand the information and then apply it to a new situation or experience.

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize the importance of learning the science behind nutrition versus just memorizing what foods I should eat.

Learning allows you to truly understand the why behind what youre eating, which will allow you to make better decisions in the moment and be more creative with your cooking, which will help you make healthier meals that still taste really good.

It will also help you be more critical in your thinking and realize there isnt one way to do things; sometimes trial and error with your body and your diet is a good thing, and the more educated you are the more youll be able to play around with what works for you and what doesnt. Ultimately, it will allow you to pass that diet and nutrition test 6 months, 1 year, 2 years later, so to speak.

A few ways to educate yourself if you dont know where to begin:

Your coach:

Were always willing to sit down with you and give you all our nutrition secrets and information. So dont be shy. Ask if you want help. 

Precision Nutrition:

If youre really serious, you could go so far as to take their Level 1 certification, but at the very least the Precision Nutrition website is a wealth of knowledge for you. Even their newsletters are helpful

Robb Wolf:

The author of the Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf is one of the smartest, most critical thinkers out there on the topic of nutrition. Hes open-minded, critical and always considering new science.


The Whole30 posts some great blog posts worth reading. And I know tons of people who have had great success following the Whole30 diet.

Dr. Barry Sears

The author of the Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears also writes a lot of information about inflammation and diet.