Many “successful” dieters have independently, or as part of a formal program, used meal replacements. That isn’t to say you cannot be successful without this strategy, there are benefits as well as drawbacks. Here are some things to think about.
Why consider meal replacements?
The biggest advantage of meal replacements is convenience. Poor planning and tight schedules can make it tough to eat nutritionally sound meals that support weight loss. Instead, in the rush of our grab and go lives, it is easy to consume too many calories. Chosen carefully, meal replacements can offer better options, even for the most time crunched. They are easy to have on hand and require little advance planning or shopping.
Develop new eating habits
Although there are a number of factors that lead to the need for weight loss, a common one is mindless eating. We eat for comfort or out of boredom. We give little attention to portion sizes and fail to notice when we have had enough. Meal replacements are pre-portioned and unfamiliar. Making the switch can help us learn to pay attention to what we are eating as well as how much. Meal replacements may even encourage us to rethink our relationship to food and develop new eating habits.
How to make meal replacements work for you
• Replace only one or two meals each day. Feeling too deprived or taking in too few calories will derail your weight loss efforts. Too few calories will slow your metabolism and likely lead to binge eating.
• Go for variety and taste. Meal replacements have come a long way. There is actually a great deal of variety and some of the selections are pretty tasty, too.
• Read labels. Remember food, including meal replacements, is fuel for the body so quality counts. Stay away from sugar laden products and reach for nutrient dense options that include fiber and whole grains.
• Add fruits and veggies. Have an apple or some tomato slices with your meal replacement.
• Be mindful. Chew slowly, noticing the taste and texture of each bite. Pay attention to what you are thinking and what is going on around you as you eat. Imagine the nutrients feeding your cells.
• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water all day so thirst isn’t confused with hunger.
• Use your journal to explore your relationship to food and the reward of eating. Understand the underlying need and explore new ways of filling that need.
Meal replacements can be a convenient option for healthy choices on the weight loss/maintenance journey. Still, they don’t guarantee success. Increase your chances by understanding your motivation and getting support to develop new habits that help you stay on track.