Mastering Meal Planning Part 4: The Power of Self-Observation


Are you still looking for the perfect meal plan, or spending more time reading about food than actually cooking? Ever wonder why so many people working as health and nutrition professionals offer nutritional advice for free?

They all know that absorbing the advice is the easy part. It’s the disconnection between receiving good information and building healthier habits that leads us to seek their professional, one-on-one guidance and encouragement. If that disconnect didn’t exist, they’d all be out of a job and we’d all be in perfect shape. Working with a dietitian or personal trainer can give you a great advantage in this regard, but if don’t have access to one, you can still reach your goals with a little self-observation.

The idea is to self-observe and then adjust your actions as a way to turn your existing habits into healthier ones. It’s much easier for a dietitian or personal trainer to notice where you’re slipping up in your diet because we often become blind to our own habits and routines. Consider taking on the following challenge as a way to step outside those routines and identify the mistakes you’ve made so you can avoid them in the future.

The Challenge

1. Create a plan for your next 7 days worth of meals.
– Write down every meal, even what you would normally eat.
– Include your best Recurring Meals if you want.

2. Follow that plan as closely or casually as you want.
– Record everything you eat, whether it’s in your plan or not, without passing any judgement.
– Make note of what was going on when you made your decisions. Were you short on time? Happy to be cooking? Bored/excited/tired/anxious in the moment? Any observation about your mindset and mood will be helpful.

3. At the end of the 7 days, review your week.
– Look for patterns in the decisions you made and why you made them.
– Armed with this knowledge, go after the “low hanging fruit” changes that will help you reach your goal.

You can do this in an Excel file or a Google doc, but fine-tuning the weekly planner in ETM is a huge time saver.

Once you’ve observed yourself and your current diet objectively, it’s much easier to find both opportunities for improvement and areas where you’re doing great. Some of the more common methods for making “low hanging fruit” changes include:

  • Reducing the amount of cooking oils you use
  • Picking a new, healthier item to eat at your regular lunch spot
  • Keeping your kitchen stocked with fresh fruit and pre-cut veggies for easy snacks when you’re rushed
  • Having a small snack before you leave work so you have energy to cook dinner
  • Drinking enough water to avoid dehydration, which often feels like hunger
  • Prepping and packing your breakfast and lunch the night before to avoid dining out

If you haven’t started a free trial yet, using the weekly planner will give you the ability to make and track changes faster than the 30 minutes you’d spend waiting for a pizza delivery. Let us know how you did on the challenge!

Up Next – Mastering Meal Planning Part 5: Efficiently and Economically Using Your Time