For the longest time trainers and gyms would give their clients meal plans to follow (and a lot still do by the way)... but has this approach been effective?
Maybe a better question is, has this approach been effective in helping someone achieve long term permanent change in their body composition?
For most people, no.
Meal planning tends to work "ok" in the short term, but in my experience it tends to lead most people right back to where they started a few weeks later.
What do I mean by meal planning?
I would define meal planning as someone prescribing a diet that had a set amount of macro nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins), calories and certain foods for someone to eat.
Done for you nutrition pretty much.
You hire someone to tell you what to eat, how much of it (down to the teaspoon or calorie for some) and exactly what foods to eat and when.
Here are some of the problems that usually tend to rise up.
Most people fall of track after a few weeks or months, because they lack the motivation in order to maintain such a tight nutrition regime. The initial rush of motivation that you felt on day 1 is no longer there on day 90, especially when circumstances in your life change.
Yes believe it or not, when you hire someone who has a set way of doing things (dogma) with their clients/members you are a slave to their direction. They are the expert, not you. And when this happens you are completely dependent on that expert. There is no preference, no choice and no collaboration. You simply follow the plan in order to get the result.
How many times have you heard the message "You can lose 10 lbs in 10 days, if you just follow the plan!"
The quick fix, just follow the instructions trend in fitness is growing, but there is an alternative.
Here are some more problems.
Meal planning down the calorie and macro could actually be very effective for most people IF there weren't any other variables involved. Like hormones and your overall energy expenditure, which are both constantly changing and are near impossible to track (unless you have a metabolic chamber sitting at home).
Long Term Compliance
When you delegate your wisdom to somebody else or certain plan, you deny yourself the ability to learn. When you deny yourself the ability to learn you completely block yourself chance to adapt and maintain progress.
Some women in there 50's and 60's are not able to eat the same way as they did when they were in their 20's and 30's. The successful ones who are able to maintain their progress are the ones who are constantly learning about their body's and are not on a constant search to find the perfect diet.
What is the Solution?
Become your own expert. With the help of a coach of course.
Instead of directing your focus toward finding the perfect diet, choose to focus on constantly learning about your own body and being the best student that you can be.
Asking questions. Willing to go through trial and error. And never quitting.
This is where having a coach becomes so valuable. Not only are you figuring out what works for you, but now you have the expertise, guidance and experience of a coach to help accelerate that process.
The payoff is worth it. You will end up gaining the ability to maintain your results permanently no matter what circumstance pops up in your life.