The Hemp Connection + vegetables

What meal plans will-and won't do for your PCOS

I've been a dietitian for 26 years now. I've seen, at this point, thousands of clients for dozens of reasons. And despite all of the new information available, medical advances, and my own experience, one thing has not changed.

Meal plans do not solve medical problems, they do not cause weight loss, and they do not improve your fertility.

If I had a dollar for every time someone called me, asked for an appointment, politely listened to everything I had to say, then changed the subject and asked for a meal plan, I wouldn't have to write this blog to earn a living.

Face it. If a meal plan was what you needed, you could buy one for $15 at Borders. Better yet, you could get it for free at the public library. By the time you likely asked for help, you'd probably tried several meal plans…and none of them worked.

Or, you tried the meal plan, and it worked, but you quit using it. And started looking for another meal plan.

The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again…and expecting a different result.

If you are bouncing from meal plan to meal plan, and either not trying them long enough to see them work, or not following a meal plan that works and hoping that dropping money on a consultation with a nutritonist will produce results that you didn't get the last time you didn't try something…

…you are participating in insanity.

So for the benefit of women everywhere looking for help with their PCOS, here is a list of considerations. If you are honestly (and I mean honestly) looking to learn how to eat better, here is a list of what meal plans can and cannot do.

1. A meal plan can help you to get a handle on realistic portion sizes. No dietitian out there expects you to weigh and measure your food for the rest of your life, but our estimation of portion sizes tends to creep up over time. Getting back on track with portion sizes can be useful.

2. A meal plan can remind you to eat from a variety of food groups. My experience is that people eat best when they focus on what they CAN eat, rather than on what they CAN'T. Most people who are not eating well are not eating fruits and vegetables. A meal plan can remind them to get enough of these important foods, and most people who DO are full enough to not be hungry for foods that get them into trouble.

3. A meal plan can encourage you to try foods you weren't hungry for when your carbohydrate cravings were in control. This is an important one. Many women with PCOS are clueless when it comes what to eat, because they have spent so much time trying to satisfy cravings that originate from their hormone imbalance. Once those cravings are corrected, which our program is very good at doing, a meal plan can teach you what normal eating is like.

Now, here's what meal plans WON'T do.

1. Meal plans won't cause weight loss. Following a meal plan can correct a calorie imbalance and encourage weight loss. But you have to follow it. Buying one from a bookstore or a dietitian and letting it collect dust on your desk, won't give you results.

2. Meal plans won't make babies. We're pretty good at correcting hormone imbalances, but even so, we cannot make guarantees. We do know that women who have the ability to make changes over an extended period of time are more successful at correcting hormone imbalances that make it hard to have a baby. But the keywords in that last sentence are make changes and over an extended period of time. Buying a meal plan is not making changes. Following a meal plan is making changes. One week is not an extended period of time.

3. Meal plans won't teach you how to recognize hunger and fullness, and how to distinguish hunger from cravings. A dietitian, if you trust him/her, can guide you through that process. But you have to look up from your meal plan and listen…and try…what they're excited about teaching you.

4. Meal plans won't stop you from emotional eating or binge eating. If you have a history of yo-yo dieting and binge eating, a meal plan may actually set you off. You may rebel against it. But why? The only person you rebel against, when you rebel against a diet…is yourself. A meal plan is an attempt to impose superficial structure over chaos. Not all that different from putting a shiny new paint job on a rusted out old beater, hoping no one will notice the inside. And when you fail, you end up reinforcing with yourself that you do not deserve to succeed. A dietitian can help you succeed. But only when that is what you are ready to do.

Next time you ask a dietitian for a meal plan, be sure you have been able to verbalize, out loud, just what it is that you expect the meal plan to do for you. Better yet, go into your bathroom, look yourself in the eye in the mirror, and say out loud,"I would like a meal plan because it will help me with __________________. I commit to following the meal plan for __________ weeks before I determine that it is not working. And before I quit, I will ask the dietitian I asked to give me a meal plan for help in problem solving why it didn't work. I will ask her how to help me succeed."

Then write your commitment to yourself on two pieces of paper. Post one on your refrigerator and the other on your bathroom mirror.

If the thought of doing this leaves you feeling uncomfortable, it's time to be honest with yourself. Maybe a meal plan is not what you're looking for.

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