“I want to eat more mindfully, but it seems as though I can’t then plan my meals. I mean, what if I simply don’t feel like what I’ve planned? Or what if I’m more or less hungry? Which wins…planning or mindfulness?”…. asks my new client this week.
“Great question!” I answer. At first glance, it might seem as if mindful eating & meal planning are not natural bedfellows, but with some reflection and thought, there are ways to bring the two together in harmony. Meal planning certainly doesn’t have to be rigid or super structured, but can add some “rhythm” to your day or week that can free your body & mind to get on with…..well…..life! And although, as you’re probably aware, I personally seem to have a vendetta against #SundayFoodPrep, I completely understand the benefits of meal planning. For many people, it’s the glue that holds the week’s nourishment together and can be a wonderful self-care strategy.
First up, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about your experiences around meal planning and acknowledge how it might help, or hinder your relationship with food, eating and your body. For example, if you’re aware that you have a tendency towards being over-controlling with your food, then stepping back the meal planning to just one meal per day (such as dinner) could be really helpful. In other words, you might need to practice more of the “flexible” parts of mindful meal planning. If, on the other hand, you recognise that there is no particular rhythm to your week and this is problematic for you because you get *too hungry-too full-too hungry-too full* or are making food choices based on what happens to be closest at meal time, then you might benefit from stepping up the planning a little, just to add a “scaffold” & reliable nutrition to your day.
Let’s see how we can integrate the principles of Mindful Eating so you can nourish yourself in a way that meets your needs (physical, emotional, financial) as well as feeling more confident about the way meal planning can fit into your wellbeing goals without slipping into rigidity or inflexibility.
Meal planning is helping you when it’s…..
- Reducing stress or anxiety
- Adding a “scaffold” to a busy week/part of a week
- Remembering to put items on your shopping list
- Feeding a family, perhaps with a variety of needs
- Nourishing yourself
- Reducing stress or anxiety overall
- Left open to changes in events
Meal planning is more of a pain in the rear when it’s…
- Increasing stress or anxiety
- More about counting calories
- Rigidly organising yourself within an inch of your life
- Backing yourself into a corner so that you feel like you can’t change your mind
- A set of rules
- Not flexible
- Not meeting your needs
Where Mindful Eating & Meal Planning are well matched:
Respecting your body cues
Acknowledging that your needs, and desires may change from day to day
Aiming to satisfy from a physical & emotional perspective
Using meals as an opportunity for self-care
Saving time for events or people in your life that you value
Sharing meals with a family
Making time to pause, and consider your needs, and those for/with whom you may be preparing meals
Experimenting with what works well, and what doesn’t
Doing your best, being kind with yourself
Connecting with food and eating in a joyful way
Opportunities to reflect on your relationship with food, eating, your body & yourself. There’s lots you can learn!
So given I’m a tippety top meal planner myself (*ahem*), I’ll offer you my top tips for a happy & content household come mealtime *sarcasm alert but this is REAL folks*
Step 1 – Grab envelope
Step 2 – Write down list of delicious & nutritious meals for the week
Step 3 – Consult brain to check whether Mr 4 & Mr 6 will eat
Step 4 – Scrap all meals above
Step 5 – Plan meals in a combination of a. meals that we’ll all eat (limited to spag bol, honey chicken cheese on toast…..) b. meals that are sure fire winners for one of them (but not both, never both *GAH*) c. our adult faves, full of chilli & spice. Kids can fend.
All jokes aside, finding ways in which you can bring together your efforts to nourish yourself, get some rhythm in your week and stay flexible to attend to your changing needs isn’t always easy particularly when we’re bombarded with confusing messages. To cut through the stuff that isn’t a good match for you (even just for right now), your Non Diet Dietitian will be able to help you with some personalised advice that is suitable for you, and your life.