Are You Stuck In an Eating Rut?
Menu monotony isn't always bad, but beware of boredom
It's so easy to fall into an eating rut. Having the same breakfast, lunch,
or dinner day in and day out offers convenience and comfort: No need to think
about what to eat or where to find it. There are no surprises when you pour
yourself a bowl of the same old cereal for breakfast day after day.
The foods people get hooked on range from the ordinary -- burger and fries,
chips and soda -- to the unusual -- pepperoni slices with mayo, popcorn, and
chocolate, even processed cheese squirted from the can.
Rarely do you hear of anyone stuck on broccoli for days or months. That
doesn't mean that eating the same thing again and again has to be unhealthy.
One person who made an eating rut work to his advantage was Jared Fogel of
Subway fame. In less than a year, he says, he lost 235 pounds on a diet of
coffee for breakfast; a 6-inch low-fat turkey sub with extra veggies, baked
chips, and diet soda for lunch; and a 12-inch veggie sub for dinner.
Still, many of us would be bored stiff by such repetitive repasts. The
answer to whether you can happily stick to such a routine lies in your own
Are You Stuck in a Rut?
You're probably the best judge of whether you're in an eating rut.
Definitions vary. To one nutritionist, it's eating the same thing three days in
a row. To another, it's not a rut until you've eaten the same food for at least
"The subject hasn't been studied," says Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, the
Guthrie Chair in nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of
The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan. "I think a lot of people eat
the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. As long as they're eating
good things and getting a balance of nutrients, it works fine."
Patrick O'Neil, PhD, director of the Weight Management Center at the Medical
University of South Carolina and spokesman for the North American Association
for the Study of Obesity, agrees that eating ruts are probably very common --
and not necessarily a bad thing, as long as your diet includes items from all
the major food groups.
"If someone is satisfied eating the same breakfast every day and it's
part of an overall healthful eating plan, I don't think it's a big deal,"
he says. "Most people don't have a lot of time to spare in the morning, and
at lunchtime, people don't have much time and may not have many options. The
issue is, how healthy is your rut?"
Both Rolls and O'Neil say personality may be a factor in determining whether
someone is likely to get into an eating rut.
"People vary in their boredom threshold," says O'Neil. "I think
people need to become aware of their level of sensation seeking. Some people do
the same thing every day after work and the same thing every weekend, and
they're quite content. Others have to do something different every day or
they're very unhappy."