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The Truth About Meal Plans

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Ethan Quant. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Health coach Ethan Quant, of Elite Wellness Solutions, has succeeded in his weight loss journey and now wants to share his methods with the Bahamas in an effort to foster a culture of wellness and conquer the obesity epidemic.

I know that most of us have tried and failed at following a meal plan at least once on our health, wellness and fitness journey.

I know that personally I tried all types of meal plans, from online meal plans to “customised” meal plans from trainers, to meal plans from weight loss support groups, meal plans from family and friends who swore it worked for them.

If it told me what to eat how much to eat and when to eat, I tried it. But the sad reality is that almost always I couldn’t follow it. Either it was too restrictive or too expensive, or had a bunch of stuff that I didn’t like to eat, or was just not realistic to maintain over the long term. So I would stop following it, gain back any weight I did lose, and just wait for the next magical meal plan formula to come along. Then I would try that one and fail again.

The thing is that because most people fail to follow the meal plan, they don’t get the expected results. If they do follow the meal plan and get the results, they are short-lived, because eating the way the meal plan recommends is simply not sustainable over the long term. That’s why they don’t work!

Most of us have challenges with our diet and nutrition, but the key to long-term success is first focusing on our eating habits. I like to start my clients off with the ‘mindful eating cycle’. It often comes as a surprise and most people are very sceptical at first when I tell them I am not giving them a meal plan. But what is the point in giving you a meal plan to follow if we haven’t yet identified and addressed your behaviours as it relates to eating.

The mindful eating cycle is simply a self-study of understanding your thinking patterns, emotional moods, appetites and habits related to food – without judgement. I know that sounds like a lot, but all it really is, is you stopping to ask yourself five questions when you are going to eat.

Why am I eating?

When you ask yourself this, really the goal is to find out if you are eating because you are hungry. That’s why we should be eating; hunger is the message that our body sends our brains a message to say that it needs fuel. No if you are eating because of another reason that is something that we can look at after. The key here is to raise awareness.

When am I eating?

Asking yourself when you are eating is also a good way to raise awareness. Some of us already know that we eat when we are stressed, or bored, or sad. But if we know when we tend to eat then we can start to retain our minds and find other healthier ways to deal with these issues instead of turning to food.

What am I eating?

I used to track my food in a journal, that really didn’t work well for me for two main reasons. One, it was time-consuming to log everything I ate or drank, and two, I wasn’t always honest with what I wrote down because I didn’t like to see “3 chicken patties, 2 candy bars and 2 cans of coke” as lunch. Now, I simply ask my clients to take a picture. It’s easy to do since most of us take pics for Instagram anyway. But however you do it, really paying attention to what you are eating helps identify areas that you can improve upon.

How much am I eating?

We know that portion sizes is something that most of us don’t pay attention to. It doesn’t matter if we are at home or eating out, most of our food portions are way above the recommended amounts. Yet even with this I ask clients just to start by looking at what they normally eat and then once we have that baseline we can look at ways to improve it.

Where am I going to use this energy?

This is a question I really didn’t start asking myself until I became a competitive bodybuilder. And I know that most people don’t even think about it. But if you agree that food is fuel, this it is a valid question to ask, what are you going to use this fuel for. The equations for weight management is simple. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. So the next time you sit down to eat, think about what are you going to do with all of that good energy.

Remember, if you need help with this or any other aspect of your health wellness and fitness journey feel free to reach out to me directly. #letsgetit

• If you need help navigating any part of your health, wellness and fitness process, you can contact Ethan Quant at ethan@elite-wellnesssolutions.com or on Instagram at @ethanquant.

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