The goal of meal planning is a predictable and reliable daily calorie intake. We can't really wear an eat watch to tell us when to stop eating, but we can accomplish the same objective with a little paperwork in advance. By planning meals then sticking to the plan, you're not only guaranteed to achieve your goal, you eliminate the uncertainty about meals and the need for on-the-fly judgements about what, when, and how much to eat that are a prime contributor to weight gain in people living stressful, chaotic lives.
Planning meals in advance may seem foreign; an act that stamps out some of the precious spontaneity that makes life enjoyable. I think you'll see the reality isn't that bad, but first consider why planning meals is worth discussing at all. Eating is important; it's one of very few things in life that isn't optional. If you don't eat, you die. If you eat too much for too long, you die. You wouldn't consider for a moment investing in a company that had no budgets, where everybody said, ``We just spend whatever we feel like from day to day, and hope it will all work out in the long run.'' Not only would such a business be prone to bankruptcy, its managers would have no way of knowing where the money was going; there'd be no way to measure actual performance against goals to discover where problems lay. No, only a fool would risk his money on such a venture.
Yet by trying to ``wing it'' with regard to what you eat, to balance your long term calorie intake meal by meal, making every decision on the spur of the moment, you're placing something even more precious than your money, your own health, in the hands of a process you know inevitably leads to serious trouble.
You encounter, in business, the rare exceptions: managers who can run a small to medium sized business without a budget or a plan. They are ``naturals,'' endowed either with a talent for assimilating vast quantities of detail and extracting the meaning within, or else with a sixth sense for emerging problems and an instinct for solving them. These rare individuals, born with a ``sense for business,'' are the managerial equivalent of people with a built-in eat watch like Skinny Sam. They can get along without the help of the numbers and calculations the rest of us need to steer a steady course.
So it is with weight control. Just because some people manage without planning their meals doesn't mean it'll work for you or me. We must, like most managers in business, supplement our unreliable instincts with numbers that chart our goal and guide us there.
By John Walker