blog

THE NOURISHRX

we have you covered at every step of your healing journey.

CATEGORIES

eating disorders

intuitive eating

diet talk

meal planning

movement

parent support

work with us!

tell me more!

I'm Ryann. Founder of NourishRX, mom of three and a certified eating disorders registered dietitian. To us, you're a unique individual with a story that led you to where you are today - not a stereotype or just a name on a chart.

Hello!

take the quiz

Which NourishRX PATH is right
for you?

What is the Purpose of a Meal Plan in Recovery?

Meal Planning

December 2, 2021

We know how hard it is to feel bound to a meal plan when food freedom seems right around the corner. As frustrating as this may be, there is always a purpose of a meal plan - it is one of the “MVPs” in recovery!  If you are a part of the NourishRX PATH community, you will be hearing all about meal plans, but you may be wondering "what is the purpose of a meal plan?"

Think of it this way - a meal plan is like a cast.  If you break your arm, your doctor will put a cast on it, right?  This is a temporary treatment that will ultimately ensure that your arm heals quickly and properly.  Once the arm is healed, the cast comes off.  Sure, there may be a learning curve, and you may need to re-train your arm to do the things that it used to do, but ultimately, that cast was key for recovery.  A meal plan is similar in some ways - it is a tool used for eating disorder recovery to help correct any of the physical, mental, or emotional effects of the disorder, but it is not permanent!

Recovery comes with a plethora of changes to both your mind and your body.  Without guidance for adequate nutrition, it is difficult to change your thought patterns and correct any physical symptoms.  Beyond this, a meal plan has several other benefits and can be your rock throughout the recovery process if you learn to trust and embrace them.

Let us first explore the array of benefits associated with meal plans followed by an example.

 

Benefits of Meal Plans in Recovery

1) Meal plans can help to decrease preoccupation with food

Knowing exactly what to expect in a day in terms of food can help alleviate some obsessive thoughts around food rules and restrictive eating patterns.  When someone else is guiding you towards what adequate nutrition is, the part of your brain that questions food choices can finally “turn off.”  

Many of our clients tell us that a majority of their day is spent thinking about food.  According to the Minnesota Starvation Study , there is a biological reason for this!  When we restrict our intake, it is natural to think about it more throughout the day.  However, once you begin receiving adequate nutrition, that preoccupation will likely decrease.

 

2) A meal plan can help to restore hunger and fullness cues

Have you ever been relentlessly badgered by a sibling who simply will not leave you alone?  What happens if you just ignore them?  They usually stop bothering you, right?  Believe it or not, our hunger and fullness cues are similar.  The more that we ignore them, the more likely they are to get quieter, and eventually go away.

When you restrict intake for a prolonged period of time, you may notice that you stop feeling hungry and full.  This is because with restriction, we often ignore the cues that our bodies send us to tell us if we are hungry or full.  If we ignore them long enough, they will eventually cease, and it can be tough to tell when we need to eat.  However, this can be restored!

One purpose of a meal plan is to help your body recognize that food will be coming and will no longer be in that low energy availability mode. Metabolism will then increase, and hunger and fullness cues will return in time.

 

3)  Meal plans can help to decrease the chances of both under-eating and eating past the point of fullness

If we go a long period of time without eating, it’s likely that we will reach the point of extreme hunger.  When we reach that point, we may resonate with the phrase “I could eat a horse!”  With that feeling often comes the urge to eat past the point of fullness.  

Without being able to rely on hunger and fullness cues, it can be hard to know when it’s time to eat.  However, a meal plan can help provide guidance on when to eat and how much is adequate.  As we mentioned earlier, the meal plan is like a cast that helps keep things in place.  Following a meal plan from your dietitian can help prevent you from getting to the point of extreme hunger, therefore preventing over or under eating.

 

4) Meal plans can help improve concentration and problem-solving skills

Believe it or not, our brain uses ~20% of our total energy to function optimally.  Without adequate nutrition, we may see a decline in cognitive function and memory because the brain is not receiving enough fuel!  One purpose of a meal plan is to ensure that your body is getting enough nutrients to fuel your entire body to perform at its best ability.   By following a meal plan, cognitive function and memory can be restored.

 

What does a typical meal plan look like?

In an effort to both challenge the eating disorder and allow for optimal nourishment, we always recommend consistent and balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Ideally, this looks like three meals and three snacks every three hours that are comprised of a variety of food groups.  You may hear this referred to as the 3x3x3 meal plan from our dietitians and in the NourishRX PATH community.

An important part of a meal plan that is often overlooked is the inclusion of “fun foods."  We use this phrase quite a bit to describe foods that have been labeled as “bad” or “forbidden” by diet culture or your eating disorder. Maybe you would even consider them to be fear foods.  Adding these foods into your meal plan regularly promotes flexibility in eating and the “satisfaction factor”.  Being able to enjoy these types of foods without guilt and anxiety is an exciting milestone in your recovery journey and a step into food freedom. Remember - the more we practice the easier it gets! 

You might notice that some meal plans we are talking about do not include portion sizes or calorie recommendations. This is because measuring food, counting calories, and following portion sizes can lead to feelings of rigidity with food and potentially restriction.  It is important to realize that a meal plan is NOT a diet - it is a tool to help you restore your relationship with food and reconnect with your own body.

Without adhering to specific portion sizes or calorie goals, you have the opportunity to listen to your body's signals to tell you when you are hungry or full. This is a part of the reconnecting phase of treatment, where we learn to really trust and listen to what messages our body is giving us.  Let's take a look at an example.

Example Meal Plan

 

Breakfast

- Carbohydrates
- Protein
- Fat
- Fruit or Vegetable

Snack

- 2 of the following: dairy/dairy alternative, carbohydrates, fruit/veggies, protein, fat, fun foods

Lunch

- Carbohydrate
- Protein
- Fat
- Fruit or vegetable
- Optional “fun food”

Snack

- 2 of the following: dairy/dairy alternative, carbohydrates, fruit/veggies, protein, fat, fun foods

Dinner

- Carbohydrate
- Protein
- Fat
- Fruit or vegetable
- Optional “fun food”

Snack 

- 2 of the following: dairy/dairy alternative, carbohydrates, fruit/veggies, protein, fat, fun foods

 

The 3x3x3 concept (as seen above) has been used to successfully treat a variety of eating disorders as well as gastrointestinal issues and diabetes. It can also serve to help athletes, parents, children, etc., who need nutritional assistance and consistency.

Although this might seem like another overwhelming addition to recovery, it is actually meant to manage and decrease ED thoughts and behaviors. We understand that following a meal plan can be easier said than done, and often times, it takes guidance and practice to figure out what works best for you.  Joining the NourishRX PATH community or speaking with one of our dietitians may be the extra step you need to put a meal plan into practice.

 

share this post:

Reply...

Comments Off on What is the Purpose of a Meal Plan in Recovery?

CATEGORIES

eating disorders

intuitive eating

diet talk

meal planning

movement

parent support

work with us!

tell me more!

I'm Ryann. Founder of NourishRX, mom of three and a certified eating disorders registered dietitian. To us, you're a unique individual with a story that led you to where you are today - not a stereotype or just a name on a chart.

Hello!

take the quiz

Which NourishRX PATH is right
for you?

© 2021 NOURISHRX | PRIVACY POLICY | PRACTICE POLICIES