Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Trying for Variety

Variety eludes me. For the most part, I eat the same things at the same times every day. I hate choosing foods and creating meals because I'm afraid of eating the wrong thing. I never know how to pick foods - do I base it on calories? Taste? Size? What looks good? What sounds good? I could spend an hour standing in front of the refrigerator trying to figure out the perfect thing to eat.

I go through phases of eating the same foods multiple times a day, and phases when I am super picky about not repeating meals, but I always stick to the same relatively small array of acceptable choices. Even when I'm eating plenty of calories, I get stuck in ruts where I have peanut butter sandwiches twice a day, just to avoid having to make any real decisions.

I guess I never really think about it much beyond this is what I eat because this is what I eat. For the past week, however, I've been keeping food records to bring to my first appointment with the new dietician tomorrow. I am suddenly very aware of how limited my repertoire of meals and snacks really is. Sometimes I make vague attempts to be balanced, like adjusting a snack to include an apple because I haven't had much fruit that day, but calories are still always the first consideration in any food-related decision. Basically, I eat to fill a certain calorie quota and don't really worry too much about the ratios of proteins to carbs to fats. Definitely not the healthiest way to go. I KNOW.

My dietician from home, B, tried hard to get me to expand my list of acceptable foods over the summer. She said something in one of our last appointments that stuck with me:

"Variety is important so you get all of the nutrients in foods - the nutrients we know about and the ones we don't."

Normally I hate uncertainties - I want to know exactly what's in my food, dammit - but B's comment helped me reframe the variety issue. It's not just about checking off boxes on my meal plan. It's about exploring and experimenting. Letting my body learn and adjust. Not living in a vacuum.

Easier said than done, obviously, since I haven't really expanded my menu much. I don't consciously cut foods out of my diet, but I tend to gravitate towards the same few "safe" foods because I know that I like them, they'll fill me up, and nothing bad will happen from consuming them. If presented with a new meal option containing the same amount of calories, I would still choose my safe meal every time. I don't really know why, other than the comfort of familiarity.

But now I'm trying to think in terms of what I'm missing. Yes, I could eat sufficient calories on my limited meal rotation, but what if that meant I would never consume any trace of some unknown nutrient? What if I never gave myself a chance to benefit from it because I was too busy being safe?

Goal of the week: try something new. Anything.


  1. This is a great goal! I think that sometimes even if your energy needs are being filled, feeling beholden to a routine or standard menu really makes it difficult to shake the disordered mindset. Have you talked to your therapist about specific ways you can work in more variety? One thing that I've even noticed is that I prefer certain dishes for certain foods, and just shaking that ritual up can make it easier to break out of the cycle a bit and get you used to doing things differently.

    Great that you're thinking about this and being serious about ways to keep moving forward!

  2. I agree that this is a great goal! One thing I used to do with my therapist was to make and keep a list of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options on my refrigerator, and making sure that I referenced it when I made meals and went grocery shopping and tried to have some variety. That kept me from getting into too much of a rut. Maybe that would help you? Anyway, I think it's great you're talking about this this week!