The art of simplifying your diet in order to eat less and live more.
There is no question, our food culture has exploded into the extreme excess. It’s not just that there are an insane number of restaurants (660,000) and grocery stores (38,571), but we talk about food, look at recipes, plan how we’ll eat less food, shop at Costco, read food blogs, and stuff our cupboards with more food than we can even eat in a week.
Food has found it’s way into our lives beyond being fuel for our bodies. From 1970 to 2008 the available amount of food per person at the store increased by 600 calories.(2) The excessive amount of food we bring into our lives is taking over.
If you are looking to take some control back, you’re tired of the millions of decisions you have to make around food, and you have other things you’d rather be doing with your time, Marie Kondo’s advice could help. Declutter your diet, practice portion control, and make room for the non-food things you love.
Why you are overwhelmed with food and diet
- We are literally bombarded with food choices every where we go. Parties, social events, work, home, community meetings, church. You name the occasion, and I guarantee there will be food there. It’s not that I think all these occasions should be without food. Food is a part of celebration and culture that I love. But, I also realize not every gathering is worth celebrating. We don’t need a plate of cookies at a community council meeting.
“Variety has an enormous passive effect on calorie intake,” says Susan B. Roberts, professor of nutrition at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The higher the variety of items you are confronted with, the more people consume without even realizing it.” This makes sense: When you eat just one food, the pleasure of its taste and appearance decreases; eating a variety of foods does the opposite. Katherine Tallmadge (3)
- You are a short order cook. If you are a parent, you know what I mean. Are you making more than one meal for dinner? This is not only overwhelming, but you as the food provider might be eating double.
- There is too much variety at home. We can’t even escape it in our own cupboards. We have 5 different types of cereal, 3 different cheeses, crackers of all varieties, and old bags of pasta hiding behind new ones in our cupboards. Although it might feel like a good idea to have so much variety, eating shouldn’t be complicated. There is simply too much food at our fingertips.
- You have old, expired food no one will ever eat. Just looking into a cupboard that is packed with food can stimulate overwhelm. Half eaten boxes of food lining the shelves, and not knowing how much is inside isn’t effective.
- Your kitchen is a mess- you have too many dishes. Studies show, a messy kitchen leads to eating too much!
“Participants in the chaotic-kitchen condition and the out-of-control mind-set condition consumed more cookies (103 kcal) than did participants who were in the in-control mind-set condition (38 kcal). ” (4)
From the SAGE Journal Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments
Discard and Eliminate that which does not serve you.
- Use up as much food from your fridge and cupboards as possible. Delay a visit to the grocery store for as long as possible. Once you deplete all the food from your kitchen, you’ll get a better picture of what you need, without rebuying foods you don’t.
- Get rid of uneaten aging food, unused condiments, old spices, etc.
- Get rid of the junk food. This means all the food you bought for that next family party or the next time you have dinner guests. If something costs me less than $5 to replace it, I would rather toss or donate it, and rebuy it when I need to go to that party.
- Get rid of food you don’t eat...even if it’s veggies! This is so hard for people to admit, but remember, the more variety you have in your cupboards, the more you are going to eat! I know you had good intentions for buying that bag of kale.. but are you honestly going to eat it?
- Eliminate dishes and appliances that are duplicates or you aren’t using. The more dishes you have in your kitchen, the faster it will turn into chaos. You can live with one plate, one cup, and one bowl for each person in your household. When it’s dirty, they have to wash it to use it again. Having 20 plates (even if they are my portion plates) isn’t necessary and will lead to overwhelm.
Replace food into your life with order and intention
Now you’re ready for the fun stuff. Imagine a simplified life, where you aren’t thinking about diet or making decisions about food all day long? Does it free you to do more things you want to do?
- Make a short list of food you should eat and that you actually eat! Be honest with yourself. Go through a typical day in your household. Cereal, eggs, pancakes for breakfast? Sandwiches, apples, and granola bars for lunch? Make a list of what is typical, that is also considered healthy by your standards. Chances are, it isn’t very long. Most of us repeat foods almost daily.
- Decide what foods bring you joy! See, I said it! The Marie Kondo philosophy of life.. if it doesn’t bring you joy, you don’t need it. This applies to food more than ever. Does a jolly rancher hard candy really bring you joy? Doubtful! So, don’t buy it and don’t eat it. Does strawberry shortcake bring you joy? It brings me incredible joy, so I will keep it in my life, on occasion, and savor it greatly.
- Standardize and simplify your grocery list. Once you make your list, turn it into a standard grocery list. Keep it on your phone or hard drive, and make sure you always have those foods at your house. No need to buy bacon or cream of wheat ‘just in case’. Stick to the list. Stray from the list on special occasions, but not every shopping trip.
- Follow a routine. You have a morning routine, an evening routine, a weekend routine, etc. Put eating on the list. I prefer to decide what time my meals will be during the day, rather than leave it up to chance. Some argue that it doesn’t allow for intuitive eating or sensing hunger cues, but I’m more likely to intuitively eat all day long, or go without food all day long when I don’t have a routine for it. You will eat less when you can schedule in regular meals. My personal routine is breakfast at 9:30, lunch at 1:00 and a dinner at 5.
- Put your diet program on repeat. Mix and match for variety. Meal planning can be overwhelming. So many decisions to make each and every week! It’s the opposite of overwhelming if you plan once and repeat. Many people really do eat the same foods for breakfast every single day, and like Mark Zuckerberg who doesn’t have to select a new outfit to wear each day, not re-inventing mealtime each day is a massive simplification at life. There are two ways you can put your meal plan on repeat. First, use an app like Prepear Gold. Add your meal plan once, and save it to your library of meal plans. Then, pull it into your week, each and every week. The other option is to create a list of meals on paper that you use on repeat. I created one when I was at Super Healthy kids,and I still use it to this day! (print it here)
Relish the joy of a tidy diet.
We are already overwhelmed with junk in our life. Mental junk, junk food, and excessive material junk in our homes. The overwhelm is leading us to eat more and more. To sum up, there are just two vital things to remember:
- With less options, there is less temptation, less decision making, less room for error, and less mental anguish.
- Practice eating less, and savoring food more!
What advice do you have for cleaning up your diet, and simplifying your meals?