Is Variety the Spice of Life or the Secret Ingredient to Overeating?
Weight Loss is a David and Goliath Situation.
If you struggle with managing your weight, dieting, and long for a healthy lifestyle, then you are not alone. Most of us are in a similar situation, and we are all looking for ways to curb the habits that contribute to unhealthy behaviors.
In past articles, I discuss many reasons we struggle in modern times because of our environment. I reviewed the hormonal influences that keep us in the cycle of hunger and overeating. I have also scrutinized sugar and salt, their effects on our hormones, their addictive nature, and how we build a tolerance to higher and higher levels.
All these factors lead to us eating more and overindulging in processed foods; then, we are stuck with the resulting weight gain.
Let’s talk about yet another factor that contributes to overeating. This additional element is variety.
We all crave variety in our diets. We have been taught that variety is good for us and is at the heart of a healthy diet. A well-diversified plate will give us a range of nutrients to feed all the processes of our bodies.
Much of this is true. You do need a variety of nutrients to provide all the necessary components for a well-functioning whole being.
We live in a time of wonder when we have just about anything we crave to eat at any given moment.
If you do not have it readily available in your home, you can easily walk around the corner or get in a car, drive a short distance, and acquire the very object you desire. As little as 75–100 years ago, you could only get the fruits and vegetables that were in season and if you lived near where they were grown. Now, we can have just about any fruit or vegetable anywhere in the world, any day of the week.
Not to mention, if you live in the city, you can have a variety of dishes from any culture. Most have a local restaurant that will fix it and serve you in under an hour.
This type of variety leads to poor eating habits contributing to weight management issues.
Our brain desires variety. Eating something new, something you haven’t eaten in a while, or something delicious will trigger the “feel good” hormones. These hormones will then cause you to eat more at that sitting.
A variety of foods feed our addiction to a hormone high from eating these foods. This is why we like to try new foods, desire to “change it up,” or crave something we haven’t had in a while.
If you eat the same foods regularly and limit their diversity, you will want less quantity of those foods at each sitting because your brain is not excited about them.(1)
Eating the same foods routinely makes your brain bored with them, and you will feel satisfied or even full earlier than if you eat new and exciting foods.
Our house has a “rotation” of about one month of healthy, nutritious meals that we eat routinely. I focus on two weeks’ worth of meals and rotate those for as long as we can tolerate them. When we truly get bored of those foods, I will rotate out three to four meals and rotate in the same number to freshen up our selection.
This works well, considering that life is ever-changing, and we certainly don’t eat every meal at home.
Eating the same “boring” foods on a regular rotation is a great strategy when working to decrease the amount of food you are eating for both weight loss and weight maintenance.
Give it a try, and let me know if it helps you.
Wolf, R. (2019). Wired to eat. Random House US.