One way to control your food intake is to write down everything you eat. Or at least, so we’re told by countless magazines and food experts. In a way to try and get insight in what I eat, how much, and when, I decided to keep track of what I ate for 6 weeks leading up to summer. What started as a brilliant plan to keep track of every morsel of food that passed my lips, turned into a big let down and one of the most demotivating processes I have ever experienced.
Weekly meal plan: week 1
What I started doing was write down all the meals I planned to eat during the week. Then I scratched out and altered the list as time went on. I also kept track of my workouts and wrote a goal for that week at the top. From eating less sugar to going gluten free to whatever it was that I wanted to do that week. The first week started out fine. The first page is nice and neat, but then on the back, when we get to the second half of the week there is a lot of scratching out and changes that happened. In itself it’s not a bad thing, but I found out, that as time progressed, keeping a food diary doesn’t work for me.
Weekly meal plan week 2
The reason the plans didn’t work were manifold. First of all, I implemented the plans in one of the busiest times of the year for me. During May and June I had more social gatherings than I could count, went to a few concerts and festivals and I was crazy busy at work. On top of that I was away almost every weekend, trying to have some sort of social life, meeting friends and family. And with those social gatherings comes food and not always the best kind. So even though I was very honest with myself and I did indeed write down every scrap of food I ate, when there is simply too much food around and too much bad food at that, keeping track of your food intake isn’t all that motivating.
Weekly meal plan week 3
A second reason why the meal plans didn’t work for me is that they took the joy out of food for me. I enjoy food and love to cook and bake. But when I wrote down every crumb and sliver, it didn’t so much show me what I was doing wrong, but simply served as a reminder what I still had to do. Rather than a list to keep track of things, it felt like a ‘to do’ list. As if every entry on the list was a slap on the wrist going: oi! You still haven’t had this or that. Instead of helping me, it only made me feel bad and I felt I had so much excess food, where I am usually really good at emptying my fridge every week.
Weekly meal plan week 4
Because of the feeling that it felt like a set of rules, rather than an experiment, I quickly started slacking in my planning skills. Where the first few weeks were nice and organized, by the end of it, the lists became shorter and less insightful. I scratched out more, felt less inspired to decide what meals to eat and I had trouble coming to a comprehensive meal plan for the week. And because I wasn’t keeping track of things anymore I also allowed myself a lot of freedom with what I ate. Enter some back pains and general fatigue due to my busy schedule and I was left with a plan that did the opposite of what I had hoped it would do.
Weekly meal plans week 5 & 6
In short, what this little experiment taught me is that I am better off making my food decisions as I go along. I only do groceries once a week anyway, so my food choices are limited. But I like coming home and thinking: ah but I don’t want to have this, I want to have that. I like opening my fridge and seeing what’s inside to see what I can create out of the ingredients there. Without the plans, I feel I waste less food, enjoy preparing food more and therefore I also enjoy eating more and am more motivated to make better choices.
Have you tried meal plans in the past? Did they work for you?