How to Beat Diet Boredom in the “New Normal”
By Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND, Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition
If you’re bored with your diet, you probably won’t stick with it. Here are some tips to help you beat diet boredom.
Many of us are still spending more time at home during these uncertain times which can lead to boredom – tired of our same routines, limits on autonomy and for some, bored with our diet. While being bored with your diet could be good news it might also be bad news.
The good news is this: if you’re bored with your diet, it probably means that you’ve been sticking pretty solidly to your meal plan – at least for the moment – and it’s likely you’re seeing some results. When you eat the same foods day in and day out, you do tend to eat less overall. But the bad news is that the reason you’re eating less is because you’re simply bored with your diet – and that can spell trouble. When your diet gets boring, you’re more easily tempted – and you’re more likely to stray off your plan.
Why You Get Bored on A Diet
I think there are a couple of reasons people get into ruts with dieting – and they’re legitimate reasons. For one thing, if you stick to a plan and you’re getting results, you might be worried that if you eat anything else your progress will slow down. And, if you eat the same thing every day – as boring as it may be – it just makes it easier; you don’t have to do much planning since you know exactly what you’re going to eat at every meal and snack.
But here’s something to keep in mind. When you say you’re ‘bored on your diet’ it suggests that at some time you’ll be ‘off your diet’…(and, therefore, ‘not bored’). I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – weight loss is simply practice for weight maintenance. In general, the foods and meals you eat while you’re losing are pretty much the same as the ones you’ll be eating when you shift into maintenance mode. If you’re bored with your diet now, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be able to keep eating this way indefinitely. And before you know it, you’ll be slipping back into old habits and watching your weight creep back up.
Routine is good – but sometimes you can take things too far. Just because your diet plan suggests grilled chicken and steamed spinach for dinner doesn’t mean you have to eat exactly those foods every single night. There are plenty of things you can do that can keep things interesting and help keep you on your plan.
How to Avoid Diet Boredom
Try new fruits and vegetables. Bite for bite, fruits and vegetables are have fewer calories than protein foods or grains – and they’re loaded with nutrients. Learning to love a variety of fruits and vegetables helps to keep things interesting, and you’ll be offering your body a whole host of nutrients, too. If you just can’t face a plate of spinach one more day, try spicy mustard greens, kale or Swiss chard instead. Just because your meal plan calls for strawberries doesn’t mean you can’t swap in something more exotic like kiwi for a change.
Move meals and meal items around. In general, meal plans are designed to distribute your foods over several meals and snacks throughout the day – partly to help you control hunger, but also to help you maintain your physical and mental energy. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t move things around a little bit. Maybe your plan calls for a mid-morning protein snack, but you don’t feel the need to eat it – by all means, move that snack to later in the day if it works better for you. If you prefer your larger meal midday, rather than the larger dinner meal that your plan calls for, go ahead and swap. The time of day that you eat your calories makes little difference as long as you don’t exceed your daily totals. And, there’s no reason you can’t eat ‘breakfast food’ for dinner and have leftovers in the morning.
Add more seasonings to your food. It seems to me that some people don’t even try to make their food interesting when they’re dieting. It’s almost as if they’re trying to punish themselves – and that it would be ‘bad’ to actually enjoy a tasty plate of food. Eating should bring pleasure, not punishment and you can add loads of flavor to foods with seasonings like herbs, spices, citrus juice and zest, garlic, onion or a splash of wine or vinegar. And don’t forget condiments like mustard, salsa, steak sauce or soy sauce. Fresh steamed spinach tastes just fine but it’s a whole lot better with a little red onion and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar.
Give your favorite recipes a makeover. Diet boredom can also set in when you aren’t eating your usual favorite meals because they’re not very diet-friendly. But with so many tips and tricks for revamping recipes, you might be able to satisfy your craving for your favorite foods without breaking your diet. Once you’ve mastered a recipe, share and swap with your friends; it’s amazing how quickly you can build a healthy recipe collection that way.
Find restaurant meals that work with your meal plan. Dieting can be really boring if you’re convinced you can never enjoy a meal out. But there’s no reason to avoid restaurants (including curbside pickup) altogether when you’re in dieting mode – the trick is finding items that work with your diet, not against it. Asian and Mediterranean fare, for example, tend to offer diet-friendly vegetables and lean proteins, so that might be a good place to start. And take advantage of online nutrition information which can be a big help in pre-planning what you’ll order.