Have you been struggling with food choices? Feeling out of control, overeating, or binge eating is never nice. One of the key tools I teach my clients to get them out of that place and into loving their food is how to meal plan.
Quite simply, meal planning is one of the best things you can do for your emotional eating and weight loss. If you're not planning, then you don't know where you're going or how to get there—it's no wonder food is taking control!
Let's take that control back.
When you get meal planning sorted, all the time, energy, and you that you put into thinking about food and worrying about the decisions you made—all that energy can go into other things. Imagine having more time and patience for you kids, more creativity at work, and less emotional eating.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, consistent meal planning can definitely help you get there. Here’s how.
You've probably been relying on willpower to make all your food decisions. You say to yourself, "Today I'm not going to have that burger at lunch; I'll have the salad. And I'll definitely cook a healthy dinner after work." This is great, but you're trusting yourself to make those decisions with no further planning or support.
Has that been working for you?
Maybe some days it does. But when you're busy, stressed, or really tempted…it all goes out the window.
Why's that? Basically, you only have so much willpower, and it gets used up. This is 100 percent not your fault.
Every decision you make, from what shoes to wear to whether to answer that email right now, to how to structure your work report, all tap into your willpower. By the end of the day, when you need that willpower to choose a healthy dinner, it's all gone.
Obviously, you can't stop using your willpower for work and life decisions. So, what does that leave you with when mealtime or cravings roll around?
You've got to create support structures in your life to take the weight off your willpower. Use meal planning to take the pressure off and support yourself in choosing meals that really serve your goals, painlessly.
If you typically go through your days choosing food in the moment and spend a lot of time and energy worrying about those choices—past, present, and future—then meal planning just frees up SO much time and space.
If you're an emotional eater, you know how much stress contributes to your unwanted eating. Reducing stress that's also related to food is an amazing way to heal.
Planning meals reduces stress because you have a solid plan for your week, and you won't have to wrack your brain at the last minute to figure out the age-old question "what's for dinner?"
Unwanted eating, like emotional eating, overeating, and binge eating is never just about the food. Meal planning can help you choose the foods that are going to nourish you best—not just nutritionally, but emotionally.
For example, if you know you need something comforting after work, you can either plan that so you're making a healthy AND comforting choice, or you can plan to fill your needs in a nonfood way. Because meal planning takes some of the pressure off your willpower, healthy choices become so much easier to make.
You're also able to really enjoy your food because you don't have to worry about whether you chose the best food option at lunch or what it'll mean for your waistline. You already KNOW, so you can just chill and eat your food in peace, which actually means you'll taste it more, enjoy it more, and absorb more nutrition from it. Win-win-win!
Meal planning also saves you time and energy, so you have more to put toward yourself and your needs. When you don't have to spend all that time each day worrying about the doughnut you ate in the break room, you can devote that mental space to connecting more with yourself and others. Giving yourself the space to work through the emotional side of your eating is invaluable.
How to get started with meal planning
So, you're convinced. Meal planning sounds like it's worth a try (or a re-try). How can you get started?
If you're not quite ready to sit down and do a full week's worth of meal planning, don't sweat. That's OK! No need to push too hard and throw the whole idea out. You can simply start by sitting down for a minute or two each night before bed and writing a list of exactly what you're going to eat the next day.
Practice writing this list, visualize yourself eating the foods you've planned, and then just stick to the plan the next day. As you do this, you'll get the support of meal planning as well as learn a lot about who you are as an eater. When, and if, you're ready, you can start planning more than one day at a time. Just ease into it and let the freedom meal planning gives you really settle in.
You really can learn how to make amazing meal plans with ease (and how to truly stick to those plans). Try planning just three meals this week and feel the difference it makes.
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