Meal Planning Fails: The Double-Edged Sword of the “Sensible Dinner”

Has this ever happened to you before?

You trying out a new diet plan where the instructions tell you to be strict in your nutritional regimen for breakfast and lunch, then feel free to go nuts for dinner, as long as it’s “sensible”.

You’re suckered in, because that “sensible dinner” ploy makes you believe that you can still be creative and “enjoy yourself” at least once a day. It makes the whole process of restricting yourself for 2/3 of your meals seem worth it. You’ve invested in meal-replacement shakes, protein bars and frozen, pre-packaged meals, and your only responsibility is to eat something healthy on your own once a day.

If it sounds too good to be true… well, 9 times out of 10, it probably is. That’s because we didn’t make it to the size we are by “eating sensibly”. Any of us who struggle with weight know how to read a diet book. We know how to follow recipes. We know how to follow directions on an exercise video. It’s not that we don’t know how. It’s just that we don’t.

For me, my biggest struggle is portion-size. I actually love healthy food. And, as a person who works in healthcare, I’ve done my fair share of classes on nutrition, exercise and healthy living. I know what fuels my body and I happen to love all of those things. I just love them to excess.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been practicing a meal-prepping regimen. Typically, my go-to is a protein shake for breakfast and a spinach salad with a hard boiled egg for lunch (and a small serving of Caesar dressing because I haven’t been able to wean myself off of creamy, fatty dressing just yet). Overall, I’d give this an 8.5 out of 10 for healthy dieting.

On my way home from work, I’d start fantasizing about what I could make for dinner. So many ideas to choose from! Meat and potatoes. Chicken and rice. Tacos. Pizza. Pasta. I could make these with some “healthy ingredients” and all would be well with my diet. Funny how a salad never entered my head during my dinner brainstorming…

As I sat down for dinner, this healthy meal turned out to be a “sensible dinner” for a family of 3-4. No wonder the scale wasn’t budging! A closer glance at the plate revealed that I had likely cooked my healthy ingredients in such a way that their nutritional benefit was now questionable. Maybe I’m not even the healthy eater I thought I was?

Left to my own devices, dinner was frequently a dieting disaster. This would only fuel my negativity toward dieting, making me resistant to “get back on the wagon”. Another fail in a decades-long line of almost daily failures, leading to how I became the size I am today.

Fast forward two weeks later, and I’ve upped my meal planning game like crazy. I’ve come to learn that I’m not mentally, emotionally or physically capable of making good nutritional decisions on a whim. I just can’t be trusted. And, that’s okay. I’m not a bad person for admitting my flaws. I just need to make those flaws go away.

To me, going strict on breakfast and lunch is necessary. I have just always been more successful when I have a routine, in dieting and life, in general. So now, I have to go strict for everything else as well. My meal prepping has now extended into snacks and dinner. My refrigerator is stacked full of containers for my weekly meals. My snacks are appropriately portioned and individually packed. I know what I’m going to eat for every meal for the next eight days.

Boring, you say?

Maybe, but being spontaneous and fun with food has only made me more unhappy with myself. Which means that if sacrificing the spontaneity gets me to where I need to be, I’ll gladly do it.

Stay tuned as I will be posting my weekly meal plans, as well as the pros and cons of each, in the coming weeks!

Happy dieting all!

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