Variety is the spice of life. That might be true. But is it the best approach for weight loss? In this blog post, I make the argument that it might not be right for you, and I explain why.
Better Diet Option: The Boring Diet At-A-Glance
- Researchers use the “Cafeteria Diet Model” to fatten up animals for obesity research. The diet features a variety of tastes and textures, encouraging overeating.
- Sensory specific satiety explains how new tastes and textures renew your appetite despite feeling full.
- Taking a “Boring Diet Approach” defeats decision fatigue and promotes palate fatigue, both of which help you control eating.
- Boring Diet Solutions: (1) Prepare and Cook Food at Home, (2) Track Calories and Carbs, (3) Eat Protein and Fat with Each Meal, (4) Repeat Meals
Boring is Better! A Novel Weight Loss Approach When Nothing Else Works [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Why variety doesn’t always aid weight loss.
- Two reasons why the “Boring Diet Approach” works.
- Four Boring Diet Solutions.
The Problem with Variety
Food is the fuel that keeps your body running. So, we were designed to eat, and there are a multitude of mechanisms within us that encourage us to keep eating.
In fact, scientists have figured this out and use it to their advantage when they need to fatten up animals for research studies.
The Cafeteria Diet Model
In obesity research, you need fat mice. To speed up the process of making mice obese, scientists came up with what they call The Cafeteria Diet. It’s explained this way: “The Cafeteria (CAF) diet model for animal experiments consists of the same tasty but unhealthy food products that people eat (e.g. hot dogs and muffins), and considers variety, novelty and secondary food features, such as smell and texture” (1).
In other words, if you want animals to eat a lot and keep eating. Give them a variety of tastes and textures to choose from, just like humans enjoy at a cafeteria.
The research team noted that the Cafeteria Diet model “induces hyperphagia [an abnormally high appetite] and metabolic syndrome better than other diets.” Ugh.
Bottom Line: When you want to fatten up animals quickly, give them a smorgasbord of foods that override hunger-satisfaction cues and encourage effortless overeating.
But why does having a variety of foods in front of us make us want to keep eating? A lot of that desire can be explained by understanding Sensory Specific Satiety.
Sensory Specific Satiety
Sensory specific satiety refers to the declining satisfaction we get from eating a particular type of food and the subsequent increase in appetite that we get when we switch to a new taste or texture (2).
When you eat, you not only feed your body, you feed your senses. Foods vary in many ways. They can be savory or sweet, crunchy or smooth, visually appealing or aromatic.
The trap of sensory specific satiety is that it keeps renewing your appetite even though your body has no need for more food. This explains “The Dessert Effect.” That point you reach where you proclaim, “I’m so full I can’t eat another bite!” Until the dessert comes out, and suddenly, you find room for a piece of cake. The anticipation of the cake’s taste and texture in your mouth overrides your brain’s hunger-satiation cues.
If you’ve ever finished off a big bowl of crunchy potato chips yet felt like you’d still love some creamy ice cream, you’ve experienced this phenomenon. Your body did not need additional calories, but the promised change of taste and texture kept your desire to keep eating alive. This brings us to the benefits of boring.
The Benefits of Boring
Boring does not mean eating a diet void of flavor. Instead, think more along the lines of repeating meals one day to the next and enjoying what you eat but limiting the variety of tastes and textures within a meal. By doing this, you defeat decision fatigue.
Boring Benefit #1: Defeats Decision Fatigue
If multiple desirable foods are accessible, the desire to keep eating is enhanced. Keeping these foods off your plate and out of sight will not only allow you to move away from overeating, but it will also save you from relying on willpower.
Willpower is a fragile thing. It is easily lost through everyday things like low blood sugar, fatigue, and stress.
One of the most stressful and tiring things we do in a day is making decisions. It is estimated that an adult living in America makes 35,000 decisions a day. This constant burden leads to a phenomenon called decision fatigue (3).
Willpower is no match for decision fatigue. When it is reached, it is difficult to control behaviors like eating.
Boring Benefit #2: Promotes Palate Fatigue
Keeping things boring also directly counters sensory specific satiety by promoting Palate Fatigue. In his book Wired to Eat, Robb Wolf does a great job of illustrating palate fatigue by discussing an episode of Man vs. Food.
The premise of the show is that the host travels to different American restaurants, taking on their eating challenges, hence the name Man vs. Food. In the episode that Wolf described, the host at the time, Adam Richman, traveled to a creamery in San Francisco to take on their Kitchen Sink Challenge.
To succeed, he had to eat an enormous sundae consisting of eight scoops of ice cream, tons of toppings, and mounds of whipped cream in under an hour.
This is entertainment, and we wonder how we got here?!
Anyway, I am giving a spoiler alert – he did it. How? By – get this – asking for an order of crunchy, salty french fries halfway through the sundae.
Halfway through the sundae, he started to struggle, so what did he do? He ordered more food!
This is a sundae so big that only four people before him met the challenge, and he orders more food. Why did he do that?
Because he understood palate fatigue. He knew that the sameness of the ice cream’s taste and texture was shutting down his appetite. He purposely shut down palate fatigue by temporarily switching to a food that had a different taste, texture, and temperature. This restimulated his appetite, and he was able to keep eating the creamy ice cream.
The Boring Diet Solution
How do you bring a bit of boredom into your diet? Here are four ways:
Boring Diet Solution #1: Prepare and Cook Food at Home
Restaurants are filled with cues to keep you eating and offer a variety of tastes and textures that restimulate your appetite from the breadbasket to the dessert tray. If you don’t know what to cook at home, I have cookbooks on my website filled with low-carb recipes.
Boring Diet Solution #2: Track Calories and Carbs (at least)
One of the most boring and most important things you can do to make weight loss progress is to track your food intake. If you are not losing weight as you’d like and you’re not tracking, then you’re guessing. Tracking, even if it is just your calorie and carbohydrate intake, gives you the understanding you need to make meaningful changes to your diet.
Boring Diet Solution #3: Eat Protein and Fat with Each Meal
Protein and fat take time to digest and keep hunger away for hours. Whole foods with these nutrients tend to require a lot of chewing. In a Time Magazine article on foods that make you hungrier, they share that “Multiple studies have found the amount of time and the number of chews it takes you to eat something affects how full you feel afterward.”
They speculated that lots of chewing knocks down an eater’s levels of ghrelin, the hormone commonly referred to as the “hunger hormone.”
Boring Diet Solution #4: Repeat Meals
Another great way to keep your diet boring is to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day this week and keep dinner simple.
Here’s a Boring Diet Menu:
Breakfast: Eggs any way you like them: scrambled, poached, or made into an omelet
Lunch: Salad topped with protein and fat choices like chicken, salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds
Dinner: Meat, Fish, or Poultry with a side of cooked, non-starchy vegetables
If you want to skip breakfast to practice intermittent fasting. That’s fine. Make your morning eggs hard-boiled eggs and have them as a snack in the afternoon.
A simple, repetitive menu is easy to follow, saves you time and food prep, and keeps you in control of your eating.
If variety is working for you, by all means, keep it up! But if you feel like you keep spinning your wheels, losing the same pounds over and over again, give boring a try.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Lalanza, Jaume F., and Eelke MS Snoeren. “The cafeteria diet: A standardized protocol and its effects on behavior.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 122 (2021): 92-119.
(2) Wilkinson, Laura L., and Jeffrey M. Brunstrom. “Sensory specific satiety: More than ‘just’habituation?.” Appetite 103 (2016): 221-228.
(3) Pignatiello, Grant A., Richard J. Martin, and Ronald L. Hickman Jr. “Decision fatigue: A conceptual analysis.” Journal of health psychology 25.1 (2020): 123-135.