Why ready-made ‘diet’ meals are your worst enemy when it comes to weight loss.
If you’re considering jumping on the ready-made meal bandwagon in order to lose weight, you’re likely to be spoiled for choice.
But going down this rabbit hole will do more harm than good.
What are ready made diet meals?
For decades, the diet industry has trotted out
meal plans that feature ready-made meals or foods designed to help you lose weight. The idea is that eating carefully portioned, calorie-controlled meals is a sure way to lose weight. After all, we’ve been taught that weight loss is simply a matter of making sure that you burn more calories than you consume. But as we know, weight loss is much more complicated than that.
While some of the earlier plans featured food that was obviously ‘diet food’, in more recent years these have been marketed as ‘healthy options’, or ‘calorie-friendly’, in an attempt to fool the consumer that they’re not following a diet plan. But despite their new packaging and the way they’re marketed, ready-made meals are still diet products. And as we know, diets just don’t work Ready-made meals promoted by the diet industry can be:
- Meal replacement shakes
- Meal replacement bars
- Protein bars or balls
- Juice detoxes
- Fresh or frozen pre-made calorie-controlled meals from the supermarket or gym
- Juice detoxes
Pre-made meals delivered to your door which can be labelled as high-protein, low-carb, keto, ‘clean’, or anything else designed to make you believe that it’s a healthy choice that will help you lose weight.
The problems with relying on ready-made meals
You don’t address the habits that have led to weight gain
Many people mistakenly believe that by reducing their caloric intake, they will automatically lose weight. Combined with the time-saved from not cooking, along with the convenience of having something ready-made, you can see why this type of weight loss solution is so popular.
While the marketing departments of these ready-made diet meals promise you they’ll help you lose weight, weight loss is never about what you eat, or how you exercise. The reasons why you have become overweight are not primarily based on your diet or exercise plan — it’s why you eat like you do, move how you do and believe what you do — which is based around your habits.
Simply following another diet plan fails to address the core factors (habits) that have caused you to gain weight, which means that if you do lose weight eating ready-made diet meals, you won’t keep it off long-term. Instead of empowering you to develop new, positive habits, eating ready-made meals only enables your current, negative habits.
You can find more information to explain the impact that habits have on your weight, in our blogs What’s a keystone habit and why do you have to focus on it to get results and Struggling to lose weight? The real weight you need to lose to change your body shape.
You don’t learn what foods work for you
Eating ready-made meals leaves no room for you to explore what kinds of foods you like, which ones you don’t like, and which ones work for you. For example, some foods may cause you to feel bloated, others may help you feel energised.
As we have seen there are no good foods or bad foods — just foods that serve a purpose. Some foods help your refuel your body after a workout. Other foods helping you celebrate family birthdays. Both of them are ‘good’ for different reasons.
You don’t learn healthy habits around food
Having someone else do the work of preparing your meals means you’ll never learn how to cook healthy meals for yourself, or the art of weekly meal prep. One of the key factors in long-term, sustainable weight loss is having the right foods ready and available, and being able to prepare them for yourself. We teach all our clients how to set up their environment for success, including the importance of having nutritious, tasty meals at their fingertips.
You see, when it comes to eating, proximity rules. That means that when you’re hungry, you’ll reach for the closest thing. If you have learned the art of weekly food prep, and how to make meals that will help you lose weight, while nourishing the body, you’ll always have the right food on hand. Relying on ready-made meals means you’ll never learn this important skill.
It takes a one size fits all approach
The ready-made meal model of weight loss is a cookie-cutter solution to an individual problem, and as we know, just won’t work. For example, these meals don’t take into consideration an individual’s nutritional needs, dietary requirements, current health challenges, or personal preferences. Optimal nutrition is important if you want to build a body that functions correctly and burns fat. But if you eat ready-made meals that are designed for the masses, you’ll never be able to get the right nutrition for you.
Potential for compromised nutrition
Ready-made meals are usually highly processed, which means you could be missing out on vital nutrition. For optimal health, and to build a metabolism that burns fat, and keeps you feeling energised, you need to eat a wide range of foods, rich in colour, texture and flavour. Eating a wide range of different foods ensures you’ll never be bored with your meals, which will mean you’re more consistent with healthy eating. When it comes to weight loss, consistency is what gets results.
Unfortunately, pre-made diet meals often lack variety and excitement, due to the fact that some ingredients aren’t their best when prepared in advance (e.g. nuts, fresh herbs, and even crunchy vegetables). That, combined with the fact that these meals are usually highly processed, means that there is the potential for you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals which will compromise your results. To find out which foods are the best for weight loss, be sure to read our blog The 14 best foods to lose weight.
Portion sizes are too small
Because the idea of ready-made meals is to control your calories, most of them will be too small and leave you feeling hungry. When you don’t eat enough food, your body increases its hunger levels and cravings (usually for high-calorie foods) in order to ensure you feed it the food it needs. This leads to episodes of binge eating, which will see you consume more calories than you need, which will cause weight gain.
In addition, pre-packaged diet foods are not likely to contain adequate amounts of protein. Protein is an important food to include in your diet if you’re aiming to lose weight, as it’s the foundation to building muscle mass, which has the biggest influence on your metabolism. Fail to eat enough protein, and you won’t be able to increase your muscle mass and improve your metabolism. To fully understand the role that muscle plays in your ability to lose weight and change your body shape, read our blog “I don’t want to get bulky!”: 8 reasons why muscle is your friend.
You’ll feel like you’re on a diet
Eating ready-made diet meals is the same as being on a diet, no matter how the program is packaged up. Research shows that food restriction, and food rules don’t work to help you lose weight. This is because feeling deprived creates a cycle of starving and bingeing and emotional eating, which only increase your weight. To fully understand how restricting food impacts you, read our blog Why food restriction, food rules, and diets are making your overweight.
Following any kind of diet, including a program based on ready-made meals encourages perfectionism which is something you should avoid if you’re trying to lose weight. Aiming to be perfect is impossible and only causes loads of stress, which is one of the biggest metabolic blockers that will make losing weight even harder.
It’s not family-friendly
If you’re on a diet that relies on ready-made meals, you’re not likely to buy them for the rest of the family. Instead you’ll probably eat them on your own while your family enjoys other food. Diets often isolate you from family and friends because they tell you to eat different food to everyone else. This can cause you to feel miserable and lead to binges, as you try to make up for the more appealing food you missed out on earlier. The best approach to weight loss is one that involves the whole family. You can find out why in our blog How to involve the whole family in your weight loss journey.
It’s expensive and not sustainable
Buying ready-made meals is really expensive and will put a big hole in your family budget. Because of the expense involved, it’s not a solution that you can stick to long-term. And because you haven’t learned the skills around shopping, meal prep and cooking nutritious food, when you stop buying ready-made meals, you’ll have no idea on what to eat. Instead, you’ll be more likely turn to the next fad diet or quick-fix which will only see you go around in circles.
How to eat to lose weight
The best approach to long-term weight loss is learning how to buy fresh, healthy food and prepare meals yourself, instead of relying on diet companies and other people to do it for you. Learning this skill will not only equip you for life, but it’s a skill you can pass onto your children so they may live a healthy lifestyle, without having to worry about weight gain.
Long-term weight loss isn’t achieved by following rules and rigid diet plans. It’s about learning how to eat for your goals (i.e. what foods work for you and what foods don’t), how to create meals that will excite and nourish you, and how to enjoy your favourite foods and ‘treat foods’ along the way.
It’s important to understand that not all food choices must be based on your nutritional (or weight loss) needs. Sometimes we eat food because it’s delicious and helps us celebrate special occasions. That’s okay and doing this will help you get better weight loss results anyway. For tips on how to manage eating out, be sure to read our blog How to stay on track when eating out.
We strongly believe that the best way of eating is one where you never feel deprived. It’s important to feel excited about food and get pleasure from eating. There is no need to eat the same boring food again and again. In fact, eating a wide range of foods will improve your nutrition and get you the best weight loss results.
Let us help
For people who have always dieted and relied on diet foods or meal plans, letting go of tight control around food and learning to enjoy all kinds of food can be hard.
But that’s where we can help.
We’ve developed the Diet Antidote Transformation System (DATS™️) — the Not-diet diet for people who are sick of diets and want more than a good body. We can help you overcome your confusion and fear around food, so you can stop relying on expensive, bland and boring diet food, and start enjoying real, nourishing, tasty food.
Through our program we will give you specific, personalised action steps and provide you with the right amount of structure and accountability, to teach you how to prepare and enjoy food that will help you get results and save you money!
DATSTM will give you the knowledge, systems, tools and skills to help you deal with any situation, so you can keep moving forward and making progress, even on your worst days.
Our online and face-to-face Diet Antidote Transformation System is for those people who are ready to change. However, if you’re not ready to commit to our DATS program, get a head start with our entry-level myPersonalised eCoaching program, our state-of-the-art 6-week program designed to help you bridge the gap between diets, exercise and long-term results. Customised for you to reach your personal goals, build healthy habits around mindset, discipline, nutrition and exercise that stick, and transform your life. You get 12-months’ worth of content compressed into 6 weeks, complete with worksheets, personalised action steps and resources. You also have lifetime access so you can learn at your own pace, and revisit any lessons you need to.
What kinds of ready-made meals have you tried? Please tell us in the comments below.