Liberation in a Meal Plan

What are the first few things you think of when you hear the words “meal plan”?

Me? I think of very strict, hard and fast rules about what I can eat. I think of very “old school” words like “2 starches, 2 proteins, 1 dairy, 1 fruit, and 1 fat”. I think of nothing other than foods I DON’T like to eat, and am forced to anyway.

I remember back to days at “Camp Needlepoint”, long ago when “exchanges” were the way things were done. Not eating meat, I was instructed to replace my “protein exchanges” with something else. You know what it usually was? A whole freaking cup of creamy peanut butter. Literally — a CUP of creamy peanut butter, with a spoon.

And they wondered why I got sick each and every year I went.

All of this ran through my head when I started to talk with my dietitian about a meal plan.

Was I really uttering those words – the words that meant nothing but guilt and anxiety to me? Words that made me feel “weird” for not liking “normal” foods?

Yes I was.

Because I recognized that lack of a plan got me into trouble every night, I was ready to make some changes.

I get home from work later than the rest of the family. They are well done with dinner by the time I get there. Not being sure of what I wanted to eat, I would just fly by the seat of my pants. I would make something that I thought I wanted, eat it, not feel satisfied, and start making something else! By the time it was all said and done, I would have eaten three or four dinners by the time I felt satisfied or just too damn full to eat anymore (even though I was STILL not satisfied!).

With the sheer quantity of food I was eating, my carb counting got real sloppy. I would over-estimate and run low in the middle of the night – causing a kitchen raid (again), or I would under-estimate and run high all night. Neither one is good for weight management or A1C tests.

So I faced the dreaded “Meal Plan”.

I have nothing but great things to say about my dietitian – I’ve raved about her before. She helped me put together a meal plan that I would actually follow. Eating foods I like, just watching the balance and the quantities.

But I was still scared.

plan

Rules and regulations? Measured quantities? Eating what is planned rather than what I feel like? Can I do it?

What about my Cool Ranch Doritos, or handfuls of M&M’s from the work candy jar? What about my …? What? What about all that crap? Well, it’s still there, every once in a while.

I was very worried about feeling confined and trapped by having a meal plan. I was worried about losing the very flexibility that has graced my life with worrisome A1C results. I needed a change, and this was the place to start.

For the first three or four weeks, at least during the weekdays, I was eating the same things every day at about the same times. And I was seeing fantastic results. Mind blowing results. Results that were evidence enough of the power that food choices had in regards to diabetes management.

But I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

The first taste of which happened when I ran out of the dried blueberries I tried (and liked!). I went back to the store to buy more, and was devastated when they didn’t have them anymore.

What was I going to do?!

Please remember, I am not the normal eater, and losing this critical item from my limited food menu horizon was a show-stopper. Luckily enough I was able to find them at a different store in the area, but the scare was enough to convince me. I needed to make another appointment (with my dietitian) and come up with options, which I did.

A couple years ago I lost a bunch of weight. I did it by carefully counting calories, and burning more than I consumed (it’s simple math folks, it’s just that the truth hurts most of the time). I tried going the same route again recently, and found that it was just way too much to keep track of. One would think that if you are already counting carbohydrates, that adding calories to the mix should not be that hard! Try it. I burned out real quick.

wallace-freedomOne of the surprising things that I have found as a result of following my meal plan – freedom. I plan my meals, and know ahead of time what they contain for calories and carbs. It is surprisingly liberating to not have to count all that stuff! I mean, sure – I still count it, but just not in the heat of the moment. It’s all planned.

I know that the menu I put together is good for me, and provides what I need, and usually satisfies me. It is really liberating. Exactly opposite of what I thought it would be.

Sticking with the meal plan is a challenge, but I know that I get immediate and positive feedback when I do. Awesome BG days where the “line” doesn’t leave the target zone, great energy and stamina on the basketball court, and just general “feel good” periods!

Now if I could figure out how to resist those cheesy tots at Burger King…

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. Patient Success Manager, USA for mySugr (All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the position of my employer).

Diagnosed in April of 1980, I recognize the incredible mental struggle of living with diabetes. Read more…