An Unpopular Opinion: I'm A Meal Prep Skeptic
When I first heard of the meal prep trend I thought, This is too good to be true. People are telling me I can plan all my meals ahead of time, and it will be easy, fast, and healthy? No way in hell. Can you tell I’m a skeptic?
My distrust of the meal prep practice grew when I did an elimination diet. An elimination diet is a process of cutting out specific foods from your diet. These foods are "high risk" and commonly cause allergies or intolerances. For a given amount of time, you don't consume ANY of the "high risk" foods. Then you reintroduce "high risk" foods into the diet gradually, usually one at a time. For example, most elimination diets will cut out all dairy. So you don't eat dairy for about three weeks. When you reintroduce dairy into your diet, a lactose intolerance becomes very obvious. You'll know because your body will produce a rapid negative reaction as soon as you eat it!
The elimination diet was useful beyond words - without having done it, I would never know about my gluten intolerance. But making homemade meals with specific guidelines for thirty days was hard! It took A LOT of time and energy to buy the specific food and cook everything from scratch. By the end, I was grateful to know my food intolerances, but I was also exhausted. The diet book even wanted participants to continue the strict regimen longer. I could not fathom living that way every day.
I'm not against the idea of eating clean or preparing meals. But I could not see a livable, long-term solution to the strict meal plans I saw in books and online.
So I decided to honor the most important cues my body taught me during the elimination diet: avoid gluten, heavily processed foods, artificially sweet foods, and greasy foods. I began to feel better about the meal planning process. These changes made a difference in how I felt and were livable most of the time. I learned that what I really needed was sufficient time to make the changes and to practice the new habits. I also needed time to feel how my body responded to the meal planning changes.
And there are days that I feel like “cheating” on my personal plan. Sometimes I do. But those days are becoming fewer and farther between. Each time I allow gluten, lots of sugar, and processed foods into my diet, I regret it. My body has become such a well-oiled machine, it sputters and shakes when I put the bad stuff in. Headaches, stomach aches, low energy, foul moods. Trying my best but being imperfect has actually been the healthiest choice. Because I truly feel better on the healthy stuff, I can successfully avoid the unhealthy stuff.
And the process is never-ending. Two years ago I ventured into a gluten-free diet. Today, I’m exploring new diet choices that agree with both my body and the environment. Truly, I feel so much better when I don’t eat red meat or poultry. For me, this is still a process as I explore greater intake of unprocessed and plant-based food items.
To this day I remain a skeptic about specific diets and meal plans that claim to be the end-all, be-all of nutrition. Any diet program that claims to be a cure-all cares more about sales than about individuals with specific health problems. Listening to my body and making gradual changes has proven much more sustainable and much more successful.