Q: How do you manage to stay on track with weight loss eating the same boring stuff day in and day out? Eating clean seems to be a serious obstacle for me. Partly because I am picky eater but mainly because I get bored with foods very quickly and the “clean” foods seem to offer little excitement. I know clean eating isn’t supposed to be exciting but gracious, it is sooooo hard to stay on track.
When I first started eating clean, I cooked the same three or four dishes back to back. A whole wheat pasta dish or two, and two dishes that were sorry excuses for stir-fry. I was afraid to venture outside of those, because I’d knew how to cook them like the back of my hand and they were bringing me consistent weight loss. Why fix what ain’t broke, right?
Except, that gets old. Mad old. And fast.
Around the time I was getting tired of stir-fry and pasta, I was also learning about processed food and the way it impacts my ability to control the amount of calories I consume. Food that has no protein, no fiber, no healthy dietary fat will always be easy to scarf down – without those things, it’s pure carbs.
So, I read. And I read, and I read, and I read. And the more I read, the more I realized I could diversify my meals if they had a few key components in abundance: fresh produce (and, yes, frozen counts), quality protein, and healthy dietary fats.
From there, I scoured the web. I read up on food as much as I could – cookbooks, magazines, food websites, all of it. I started to realize that things like brown rices, grits, pastas, and other grains were things I could add to those for filler if I wasn’t full off the vegetables and protein I’d cooked. And, I also realized, most dishes from different parts of the world reflected that. So, I realized that I’d found the key to a healthy meal—fresh produce, quality protein, healthy fats, and the occasional filler—and made sure that every meal I cooked reflected that.
Having that knowledge keeps me from falling into the drudgery of broccoli, brown rice, and chicken breast. Broccoli, brown rice, and chicken breast. Broccoli, brown rice, and chicken breast. It’s boring to even type it out.
But after learning that, I started watching cooking shows made by people of the culture they were cooking. I learned that things that grow together go together. So, when I crafted my meal plans, I bought in line with what was on sale, sure, but also in line with what tasted good together. If red peppers were on sale, I made a Spanish dish (something with Romesco sauce, maybe) and something from Latin America. If I’ve got cucumbers and salmon, I might make a salad inspired by both a Mediterranean meal and a New York Bagel.
Or, I might just go get that New York Bagel. Easy on the cream cheese, though. (What? I actually like the flavors!)
The bottom line is, eating healthy gets boring because the prevalence of fast food combined with the restaurant industry telling us that dining out isn’t the “luxury” that is actually is has taught us that food should be “fun.” In a world where repetition and drudgery drives us insane, having someone else cook the food, cater to us, and give us the excitement of having a meal without having to put forth any effort have spoiled us. There’s a reason why the Carnival of Food era that we’re in today follows directly behind the era where “Meatloaf Monday,” “Taco Tuesday,” “Lasagna Thursday,” and “Casserole Sunday.” We hated the repetition, but it served a purpose: it kept us well-fed on a budget with costs that were easily predictable, cooking recipes that our parents knew how to cook like the backs of their hands.
This, combined with a world where work eats away at us and leaves us no time to ourselves, the idea that food should be the interesting part of the day, let alone of a dinner—as opposed to, say, having interesting companions to dine with—has brought us to a place where we have much greater expectations out of our food than what’s reasonable. This, unfortunately, hinders our ability to experience the success we desire with our fitness and weight loss goals.
Is it possible to explore and enjoy the food you eat on your journey? Yes. Does it take to get to the point where this comes naturally? Yes. Should you start out with a few recipes that you can fall back on to at least help you achieve your goals? Absolutely. Should you consider letting go of the belief that food should be exciting or entertaining? Without a doubt. Trust me on this – your body will thank you for it!