There are a huge number of choices when it comes to diets and eating plans. Most of them have some sort of merit and you may achieve the results you’re after. However, the best weight loss meal plan is one that has been personalized to you. There are so many factors that make you unique. Therefore the way your body responds to a meal plan will be different to the way your friend’s body or sister’s body responds.
Learn to listen to your body and read its signals. That way you can tweak your weight loss meal plan to suit your special, individual requirements and get the results you’re after. Check out these great tips for creating your own weight loss meal plan that will help you no matter what philosophy you’re following. For specific direction on how to identify what works best for you, check out the 131 Method.
Start with some reflection
Begin by asking yourself some questions that will help you to figure out how your weight loss meal plan will fit in with your lifestyle:
- What will your exercise plan look like? This will have an effect on your weight loss meal plan in terms of what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat.
- How often do you plan to dine out? If you do so often you need to figure out how to make healthy choices that fit in with doing so.
- How much time do you have available for preparing and cooking fresh, nourishing food? You’ll need to be able to plan for healthy options that fit in with the time you have available.
- What do you need to purchase that will make your weight loss meal plan easier? Do you need to buy a food processor, smoothie maker, cookbook, or organic vegetable box delivery?
Asking yourself these questions gets you kick started into the planning and preparation phase of your weight loss meal plan. This is an important first step so that you’re ready for action.
Keep a food diary
The simple act of writing down the food you eat can greatly increase the success of your weight loss meal plan. One study of nearly 1700 participants showed that keeping a food diary can DOUBLE a person’s weight loss results[i]. That’s quite an impressive statistic resulting from simply keeping a record of what you eat!
Writing in a food diary creates added awareness around what you are eating. You’ll probably be less likely to eat “mindlessly” and you may think twice about eating certain things if you’re writing it all down. You may even eat less overall. Keeping a food diary doesn’t need to be complex. Here are a few guidelines for doing so:
- Use a basic journal or create an online template. Aim to record down everything you eat and drink.
- Include any notes about how you felt at certain times of the day. For example, hungry, full, bloated, tired or energetic. You may find you can connect these feelings to what you have previously eaten.
- Tweak your dietary intake once you start learning how you’re responding to certain foods or food combinations
- The SmartLife PUSH Journal also includes pages for tracking food, meal timing, water intake and sleep!
Stay away from complete deprivation
If you tell yourself there are foods you can “never” have, and these are foods that you love to eat, how easy do you think it will be to sustain your weight loss meal plan efforts? It will be tough! If you deprive yourself completely you may be more likely to binge later on either as a result of the psychological games you’re playing with yourself, or from genuine cravings because your body is not getting all the macro and micro nutrients it needs.
Changing your habits might not be easy, but it shouldn’t be so hard that your body sees it as extreme deprivation. The last thing you want to do is give up on your weight loss goals because the diet you’ve created is too hard.
A few tips to stay away from complete deprivation with your weight loss meal plan
- Focus on ADDING the foods that will nourish your body and take you closer to your weight loss goals. When you are well nourished and your body is receiving the nutrients it needs you’ll be less likely to get major cravings.
- As well as adding nourishing foods, think about “swaps” you can make. Instead of taking away the foods that you love, what are some “healthier” versions you can choose? For example, swap a processed chocolate bar for a bliss ball or raw chocolate slice that is free from refined sugar.
- Apply the 80-20 or 90-10 principle, which means that you eat meals that will take you closer towards your goals for 80% or 90% of the time. Then you relax and don’t worry about following any “rules” for the other 10-20%. Some diets or philosophies have “cheat days” or “cheat meals”. Just be mindful that a “cheat day” or meal isn’t a full blown binge for you. If it is it probably means that whatever you’re doing on the others days is a bit too extreme and may not be sustainable in the long run.
- Make small changes rather than doing a drastic overhaul. You might have to be a little more patient in terms of results with this approach, but you’ll be more likely to maintain small changes as part of a long term lifestyle outlook. Small changes will also feel easier and therefore the process should be more enjoyable.
Focus on real foods
No matter whether you’re following the keto diet, paleo philosophy or you’re living on a raw vegan diet; the primary focus should be on “real” food. Real food is generally high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help your body function effectively and make weight loss easier. Here are a couple of guidelines for following a “real” food weight loss meal plan:
- Select foods that come from a plant or an animal. Aim to consume them as closely to their natural form as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t cook your food or prepare it into a delicious recipe. However think about the differences in nutrients between a pre-cooked can of “spam” as opposed to a fresh cut of meat.
- Limit foods that come from a can or a packet. The majority of your weight loss meal plan should include fresh, perishable foods. If you need to eat food from a can or packet, consider how processed it is, and then choose the least processed option you can find. You can determine this by reading the label to see how many ingredients, and particularly how many artificial additives are included.
Gather a personal support team
A great support team for your weight loss meal plan will help increase your chances of success. Being able to share your goals, wins and challenges with others is helpful in terms of accountability, guidance and support. Here are some tips for building a weight loss meal plan support team:
- Which of your friends and family members are supportive of your weight loss endeavors? Spend more time with these people. Perhaps they’d like to cook and enjoy a healthy meal with you or go on an active outing to help complement the efforts you’re making with your nutrition? In either case, these people should help you feel encouraged and supported in your journey
- A healthy lifestyle practitioner or weight loss coach can play an important role in your journey[ii]. They can help you review and reflect on your food diary and create new targets to help you move forward with your progress.
- Find a weight loss support group, either online or face to face. Participants can share challenges and wins and support each other from a place of understanding.
Once you’ve got your own personalized meal plans, weight loss will become easier. Your plan takes into consideration your lifestyle, food preferences, and what your body personally responds well to. It should be both enjoyable and rewarding so you can get the results you deserve.