Google Sheets Meal Plan Template v. Calorie tracking apps like Noom

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Whether it’s as basic as a Google spreadsheet or as sophisticated as an app like Noom, is knowing what — and more specifically, how much — you eat the difference between a diet that takes and one that doesn’t? does not?

As winter begins to fade and spring approaches, many people still hold out hope to pursue — or begin — their New Year’s resolutions, especially when it comes to eating healthier. There is, of course, as the most modern cliché says, an app for that. Specifically, meal planning software is known to be among the most effective diet aids for some people, and is often highly recommended by personal trainers of all levels.

To this end, Nick Gregoire spent several years as a personal trainer and health and fitness coach. He now works for Name as a Coaching Program Manager for the Weight Loss App and helping to expand the company’s coaching services. I recently explained to him why Noom hopes you won’t need it forever, the difference between a meal planner app and meal planner Google spreadsheet templates, and why specific calorie counts aren’t not as important as general caloric knowledge.

What are the general responsibilities of a remote physical trainer?

The goal of effective remote fitness trainers is to let the clients lead the experience. The coaches are really there for accountability, support and education. A trainer will never tell you what to eat or what exercises to do. They’re there to help you with any challenges and questions you have, and to help you use and access the app you’re using. They are there to add value; they’re not there just to be a cheerleader.

We want the end user to develop the skills by working on the skills and content with the help of the coach so that they can eventually stop using the service altogether and eventually accomplish what they are striving to accomplish without us.

Is the objective therefore to effectively wean the user off the application he is using?

We help people focus on the elements of fitness they want to focus on, and we help them understand how the decisions they make relate to more than just a number on the scale. We don’t want them to feel like they can’t succeed or maintain their progress without using our subscribed services. Yes, a company like Noom obviously needs customers and wants people to use all the services we offer, but we want to train people so they can eventually graduate from our program.

In your experience, how important is meal planning for people who want to control their weight?

If the goal is to lose weight, meal planning is a very useful tool. There are obviously different types of meal planning. You have a meal plan where you break down meals by each calorie and each macronutrient. There are benefits to this, but it might be more suited for someone who wants to achieve an elite fitness goal, or get involved in bodybuilding, or participate in some type of sport.

The type of meal planning that I’ve used the most with my clients is less detailed and less structured, but more focused on setting meal times, the type of foods they will include, and portion sizes. All of this will help develop a schedule and rhythm, and help people ensure they have healthy foods. I think this is where the real benefit of meal planning comes in. It puts these ideas in mind and prepares the person for success.

What percentage of your clients or customers are asking for meal plans, and how many do you think you really need?

I guess 60-70% of my clients used some sort of meal plan, more so on the loose basis of planning the day’s food. That’s the other thing: there are a lot of fitness companies and fitness professionals that sell meal plans and they’re templates and accessible, and they give you foods to choose from. But I’m a bit wary of these because I don’t think they take into account the individual, their medical history, background, or anything else they’ve tried to improve their health.

I always tend to work out a meal plan with them without giving them the specifics of what to do. They can track their calories, they can plug it into their app of choice to establish a baseline, and then we can go from there, but I’m not going to tell them exactly what they need.

If I’m just starting out, do I need a fancy app to track my food and calorie intake, or is a basic spreadsheet that I download from the internet okay?

It pays to track your calories, at least when you start your weight loss process. Many people don’t realize how many or how many calories are in certain foods or portions. Tracking the fact that you ate two tablespoons of peanut butter — and that was 400 calories — can be very telling. I don’t think anyone should have to follow all their life; I don’t think it’s sustainable. But as you learn these patterns, you can transition to intuitive eating. You may have your spreadsheet and your notes that you keep with what you should be eating that day, but it’s all informed by your background knowledge of calorie density and how it impacts your choices.

The only problem with just using a blank nutrition spreadsheet and plugging in what you eat without looking up calories or weighing everything is that it can be difficult for people to get accurate information. If there’s some sort of database that incorporates what’s in the two tablespoons of peanut butter they just ate, that makes it a little easier to get accurate data. Otherwise, they will be very likely to underestimate their caloric intake. In that sense, meal plans that incorporate the nutritional data for you are a bit more useful and may be worth the extra expense.


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