I talk to a lot of clients, athletes, and people on social media, and they frequently want to know about nutrition. And from decades of experience helping people get fit, improve their health, and change their bodies sustainably, here are the 3 most common Meal Plan mistakes I see people making that limit progress towards their goals long term.
Now, I didn’t say these 3 mistakes are what keep people from dropping weight in the short term. I’m specifically focused on the long game and how to go beyond a quick fix, so that reaching and maintaining your goals transforms from high effort to simply second nature.
Skipping Quality and Food Hygiene to get to the numbers first (skipping Phase 1)
Measuring things incorrectly and without precision – (never doing Phase 2 meticulously)
Asking advanced questions before you learned the basics (starting with late stage Phase 3 questions without building foundations)
Just give me the numbers, Coach. I need to know how much to eat. I don’t need a meal plan. This is such an easy and common mistake people get roped into. The reason being is that it works very well in the short term. How do you make a meal plan that will uncover exactly how you would do this and get the numbers headed in the right direction, but the point about long term success has shown me time and time again that you need to have a deep understanding of good quality and good food hygiene to be successful even with good numbers.
what type of foods you eat
did you cook it yourself
was it sourced locally
is it organic, grass-fed, wild, pastured… (all the healthy buzz words)
how did you consume the food
did you chew the food sufficiently
did you slow down to eat or shovel in
were you distracted eating in front of a screen or calm and connected
did you breathe during your meal intentionally and smell your food
Low-quality food and improper hygiene ultimately leads to the following issue long term on your meal plan:
undernourishment of micronutrients
build-up of toxins
poor satiation cues and understanding of your hunger signals
stress on your digestive system and damage to your gut lining leading to gut inflammation and bloating
inability to every stray from your numbers without feeling lost and unable to navigate food without a spreadsheet
Mistake #2: Measuring Incorrectly
So you have decided to tackle the weighing and measuring approach to your meal plan. I’m a big supporter of this at the right time for clients. I’m a big supporter in the same way I support a chemist deciding to tackle and experiment and attempt to learn something new about the chemistry in their test tube experiment.
I honor the scientific method. Food measurement for anyone that takes it on should at one point be treated like the scientific methods. Every variable accounted for, documented, measured as precisely as you can, and done for an extended enough time period to see the value that metric played in your experiment (fat loss, performance, muscle gain, etc).
If a chemist did a wet lab experiment and just randomly poured powders and solvents into a tube without precision, what good would come from that? Unfortunately, I see people approach their weighing and measuring this way often. They do it far too loosely and don’t get the details right. The risk is when something works they really don’t know how to repeat the success, because their inputs were never accounted for correctly.
Alternatively, if something doesn’t work, clients will be quick to say that this doesn’t work for them and that their body is “unique” and can’t be figured out. In either case, the experiment was a failure because the work was never done correctly. It is annoying for many people to weight and track all their food. It takes time and is an added step that is hard to be compliant with. What is even more annoying as I see it is doing 50% of the work and having NOTHING to show for it at the end.
Measuring correctly means:
Everything that goes in your mouth in a day is accounted for
You ideally weigh every single ingredient on a scale and note the form you weighed it (cooked rice, raw meat, steamed veggies)
Sauces, oils, and added ingredients are all accounted for as well
Liquids are all accounted for too
One important and perhaps helpful thing to note. You will not have to do this forever. Doing it with precision once in a while for a period of 30 days is enough to reset baselines, establish what is working or isn’t working, and remind you that this mysterious nutrition thing isn’t so mysterious after all. Then you can go back to your looser ways of tracking and being accountable. When the inevitable time comes when you aren’t seeing what you like or feeling the way you want you can go back to the drawing board and establish a new reference point and accountability check.
Mistake #3: Asking Questions Out of Order
Picture this scenario. A new client walks into the gym and asks, “Hey, I was told I should start working on my Snatch 3rd Pull and really start honing in on my Snatch Drop and Snatch Balance accessory lifts. Can you write me a 5x/week program with those involved?” The coach then proceeds to ask the client to perform a PVC pipe Overhead Squat. The client obliges and demonstrates the most hideous and out of position OHS the coach has seen in months. The client is up on their toes, PVC forward, shoulder internally rotated, and back flexed in 2 spots.
What was the issue here? Is asking about 3rd pull drills like the Snatch Drop or Snatch Balance wrong? No, they were just asked about a year or two before the client was ready to be asking that question. In nutrition, this happens all the time. With so much information available to you on the web it is easy to get bogged down with one new advanced trend or the other. Should I carb cycle? Should I do keto? Should I fast? When should I take my amino acids? Is this supplement something you advise?
Why is asking questions out of order a problem and not good for long term success?
often times these answers and some of these experimental methods get you short term results
short term results that eventually fail on the premise that you don’t have good Phase 1 and 2 foundations to guide you
Phase 1 combined with Phase 2, done diligently and with consistency, will get the vast majority of people to their goals without a big need for more tweaks beyond that
Phase 3 questions have the power to make the process of doing Phase 1 and Phase 2 more sustainable for you. But please remember, long term success comes from knowing how to do Phase 1 and Phase 2 correctly for a long time.
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