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Food Planning

I had a good laugh with a client, a perfectly capable, highly competent woman, over her telling me she just couldn’t plan meals ahead. This happens often when clients insist this task is far too tough for them. Ha! I don’t believe it for a minute.

When a client says, “But I just don’t know what I’ll want for lunch” or “I’m so tired after work, I simply don’t care what I eat” or “It’s too much trouble to plan food ahead,” I know that something else is amiss. My usual rejoinder is, “Your career is challenging” or “Having a job like yours and taking care of three kids is a lot of work. But, hard? Being President of the United States or living on the streets is hard, but, food planning? C’mon.” Such contrasts helps clients see how ludicrous their protests are. Fact is, meal planning is not all that difficult, but some disregulated eaters turn it into mission impossible. Some other barrier is holding them back and must be dismantled for them to comfortably plan and prepare meals ahead.

Let’s follow the trail of mislabeling food planning as difficult to see what’s really going on. Say, along with your conscious intent to eat healthfully, you also have an unconscious desire to continue misusing food the way you have been doing. One aspect of you wants to swing by the drive-through for a burger or fries, wishes to eat ice cream or candy when you’re out and about doing errands, and can’t wait to get home from work and stuff yourself silly with Doritos. Can you see that your underlying desire to eat in these ways—which you don’t want to acknowledge—drives your behavior?

And why might that desire to turn to food in unhealthy ways be so strong? One reason is because food is the way you’ve maladapted to zoning out and relaxing. Rushing around doing all your “must-do” errands or working overtime to please your boss, you haven’t felt it’s okay to take time and eat healthfully because you consider that wasting time. Making a decent dinner seems too hard because of all the other stuff you’re doing that’s wearing you down. Not breaking for a nutritious, satisfying lunch and, instead, eating junk, gives you a chance to be mindless when you could have done something really mindless like read a book, take a walk, rest, or play computer games to chill out.

So, please, no more telling yourself that planning ahead with food is hard. Instead, when you start to think that, ask yourself what would give you the break you need. The good news is that you can plan and enjoy a nutritious, tasty meal and also do something mindless and relaxing to take care of the part of yourself that needs a time out.