INDICATIONS I NEED A MEAL PLAN
Read through the list of Indications and put an x next to the ones that apply to you.
Indications a meal plan is needed:
You are out of touch with nutrition information and serving sizes.
You have no idea of the amount offood you need.
You do not feel or do not trust your hunger andfullness signals.
You feel safer knowing ahead of time what you need to eat.
You need to gain weight, but are afraid of adding too much food.
You are too afraid to eat what you need or want.
Your anxiety or compulsivity makes it too hard to make decisions in the moment.
You are too entrenched in your current eating behaviors to try anything else.
You work well with structure (it aids your success and does not cause rebellion).
You have tried to get better without a meal plan and it has not worked.
Even checking one item might indicate a needfor a meal plan. If you checked off a few items, this is a strong indication that a meal plan is needed to help you get your food on track.
MAKING A MEAL PLAN
Everyone has different nutritional and caloric needs, so creating a meal plan is a very individualized endeavor, which is why we suggest getting professional advice, but if you are not able or ready to go to a professional, hopefully you can find someone else in your life who would be willing to help you with support and accountability. (Even voicing your commitments or intentions to another person increases the likelihood that you will follow through.) You can use the Conscious Eating Guidelines to help you make and follow a meal plan as a first step in working toward becoming a conscious eater. Eventually conscious eating becomes natural to you and meal plans unnecessary.
Meal Plan Example
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 piece of toast, 1 teaspoon butter, jam, 1 orange.
Snack: 1 Clif protein bar.
Lunch: Turkey/mayo sandwich (4 ounces turkey), 1 cup cut-up veggies, and 1 cookie.
Snack: 3 pieces of string cheese, 15 Wheat Thins.
Dinner: Veggie burger with cheese and bun, green salad with 1 tablespoon dressing, and % avocado. Snack: 1 cup of low-fat ice cream
The above meal plan is just an example and not meant for you to follow. It is included to show what a specific, concise plan looks like. The plan is easy for you or anyone else you have chosen for support and accountability, to see what you need to eat and determine whether or not you ate it. For best results, keep it simple, balanced, and specific enough for you to follow with some challenges, but not too many too soon. If it is too easy, it will not help you grow and change. If it is too difficult, you might get frustrated and give up. Remember, being dependent on a meal plan is not the ultimate goal, but rather a step toward being able to eat consciously without one.
Here is what a few recovered clients have to say about the process of going from using a meal plan to becoming a conscious eater:
While in treatment, and gaining weight, I needed to follow a meal plan. I was not aware of my hunger and fullness cues and usually felt uncomfortably full after eating anything. Sometimes I felt hungry and full at the same time! It was all very confusing and I could not imagine following the Conscious Eating Guidelines without a specific plan, but they taught me that, even following my meal plan, I could be doing it consciously and therefore be a Conscious Eater. I thought my body was broken, and in a sense it was. It wasnt until I was weight-restored and regularly followed a meal plan for months that I could transition to a more intuitive way of eating using the conscious eating guidelines with no need for a meal plan.
One year after leaving intensive treatment I was still very afraid of food and weight gain, and so I tended to eat a narrow range of foods. As my weight gain stabilized, I became more comfortable branching out a bit and trying new things, but still within the constraints of a meal plan. I worked on being a conscious eater while following my meal plan, and over time I felt my brain begin to change. I became less anxious and obsessive and gained increasing comfort with food. As I progressed in recovery, I started a new job and began making friends, and the meal plan didn’t always fit in with my work schedule or social life. The meal plan began to feel like a burden rather than a safety zone. I wanted a bigger, freer life and realized that I needed to try conscious eating without a meal plan.
Initially, I was afraid to follow my hunger cues. I thought that if I ate when I was hungry, I would never stop eating. I didn’t trust that my body would tell me when it had enough. Part of my fear stemmed from the way my body responded to restriction during my eating disorder I was hungry all the time, even though I would rarely admit it. With my dietitian’s help, I began integrating conscious eating into my meal plan, noticing when I was hungry and full, as well as the degrees of hunger and fullness. I paid attention to which foods I enjoyed, rather than which foods made me feel safe. I experimented with going outside the meal plan, such as having brunch with friends. My initial forays outside my meal plan, using Conscious Eating principles, reassured me that my weight wouldn’t skyrocket because I was able to eat French fries with my friends and not get fat. I began to trust my hunger and fullness signals. If I had a big breakfast, I wasn’t as hungry for lunch. Conscious Eating allowed me to let go of counting calories or exchanges and worrying over how eating certain foods would impact my weight. As long as I continue to respond appropriately to my body, I can trust it to tell me when it is hungry and when it has had enough. I have been fully recovered for a few years now and continue to eat this way. For me, Conscious Eating was a major turning point on the path from being in recovery to being
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