Why Diets Fail — Boredom! NYT Writer Test-Drives Pre-Made Meals

Here’s one male writer’s frank assessment of what he was buying when he signed up for pre-made meals to help him lose 30 of his 230 pounds:

After online searches and conversations with friends, I decided to compare the offerings of four companies: Zone Manhattan, Chefs Diet, Nu-Kitchen and eDiets. All four would deliver the meals to my door in Brooklyn. Three deliver daily, while the fourth, eDiets, sends a large package once a week. None of the companies knew I was a reporter.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts being made at the Krisp...
Image via Wikipedia

There were dozens of companies I could have chosen, though it is hard to say how many are in the business at any one time. Research from Mintel International, which studies consumer behavior, suggests that the recession has made all-in-one diet programs less appealing.

“Consumers are trading down to do-it-yourself diets with foods or supplements from the supermarket,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, a global food and drink analyst for Mintel, a Chicago company.

Nu-Kitchen bills itself as the “ultimate personal chef and meal delivery company.” I ordered the five-day plan ($230.53) and was told that I would be sent 1,800 calories a day.

$230! That’s a really good pair of shoes, maybe three on sale.That’s what two of us spend on two weeks‘ groceries, and I eat 2-3 meals at home every day out of that.

What he’s getting for all that cash are three things, all of them helpful although each of them is actually a crutch. He will have to learn to walk differently. And alone. That’s the hardest part:

1) Portion control. My, that’s no food! Look at all that….empty plate. Eating out will never, ever look the same to you again.

2) They build in their idea of variety. Not what you like.

3) They free you from the tedious torture of grocery shopping for only healthy foods, let alone the endless measuring spoons/weigh scale/measuring cup drama that makes you start to feel like every meal should simply be served in an IV tube or maybe a beaker with graduated white lines so you know exactly when to stop.

I’ve been on what I like to call my doctor-ordered LD — Loathed Diet — for almost a month. I can’t tell you how much weight I’ve lost because (yup) I don’t own a scale and don’t want to. I know my own body quite well, thanks, having inhabited it for a few decades and — having been an athlete and dancer for as long — know intimately how it looks and feels. Yes, I look in a full-length mirror every day in very bright light. My body is noticeably smaller, all over, mostly on top. (I’m OK with that).

Once I start cycling and swimming, I hope to shave off even more, faster.

But, you know, when even the doctor who sent me to the dietitian says: “Most people never lose the weight”, honey, where’s my motivation? A little back-patting goes a long, long way to keeping your shaking, quivering hand away from the chips/candies/Scotch/whatever filthy bad thing you love most.

I wish Fred lots of luck but he quickly learned what any miserable fatty learns — 1700 or even 1800 calories a day is nothing! No sweets, very, very few carbs. That does not include — hmmm — doughuts or cookies or cake or pancakes or a margarita. (I get 1 oz. of dark chocolate starting Friday [woo hoo] but only if I sacrifice one of my two daily servings of fruit (1 cup, 8 ounces) or starch (4 ounces, 1/2 cup) in its stead.

Welcome to the nursery!

The sheer boredom of eating the same damn legitimate foods over and over  and over and over — plain yogurt, a small handful of nuts, a small serving of popcorn (but you better make it because it’s drenched in oil) will kill you.

I am only able, I know, to hang in this far because I work about a 2-second walk away from my kitchen and a fridge filled with so much lettuce it now looks like a rabbit’s hutch. The issue with weight loss isn’t just self-control, it’s control in general — over what, where, when and how you put food and drink in your mouth.

Very few of us have $1,000+ a month to spare for someone else feeding us pre-made small portions.

And, yes I can hear all your potato chip bags rustling! Sigh.

5 thoughts on “Why Diets Fail — Boredom! NYT Writer Test-Drives Pre-Made Meals

  1. Oh too funny. I just read his article myself, and thought the whole time that good grief, that was one expensive experiment! I also read something that links dieting with increased stress and cortisol levels, which is the opposite of help! Counting calories is so unpleasant that it makes me miserable, so I can absolutely see how a controlled diet doesn’t work so well for me. I’ve started exercising a lot more, and that seems to be making me happier at least. I haven’t seen too many pounds drop off yet, but my jeans are looser, for sure! Weight is just a number, so long as I carry it well, I could care less what that number says.

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Normally, I’d be walking or biking 2-3 wk and playing softball each Saturday and taking a jazz dance class. Now because of my damned arthritic hip I essentially forbidden almost anything both aerobic, outdoors or fun! The elliptical or pool aerobics are as unpleasant to me as the diet; the total loss of control over my body and how I choose to use it is nuts.

    I am trying to stave off hip replacement and weighing less means easier surgery, smaller scar and hopefully a faster recovery.

    I am happy exercising for a sweaty hour; my body is preventing most the enjoyable ways to burn off calories.

    I sure have a lot more compassion for people who are overweight due to physical restrictions. It’s nasty.

  3. john

    Food is fuel 🙂

    And to Paul’s point the closer food comes from the hoof or the earth get to the table without processing, the better off you are. It takes time, but your body really does like these natural foods better. They taste better and feel better inside you. For this reason these diet companies that sell prepared meals are just a racket and should be avoided.

    I must admit I smile every time I read one of these diets posts because I’ve been there. Assuming you stop fighting it, one day, believe it or not, you will look at a glazed donut and go,”Disgusting!” And mean it. When you eat well, such foods actually make you feel kind of gross even if they do rarely go down well. Then one day you will see someone guzzling down a diet pepsi and think to yourself that you might rather eat the can than drink that crap. When that happens, I’ll still be smiling.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Paul and John, thanks.

    Point of important clarification: I hate artificial or processed foods! I talk about cheesecake (because it’s great) martinis (ditto) but I am only drinking one diet soda a day now (as opposed to none before this) only because I’m so sick of water/tea/coffee. I think if you saw how I’d eaten before you would not see a radical change — just a lot less of it and less of my two weaknesses, sweets and alcohol. I knew that going in and nothing has changed. But that sweet can be a dollop of maple syrup, not a Krispy Kreme. That, normally, would be a 2-4 times a year treat.

    I can’t imagine buying any of these costly meal plans. I have eaten (and liked) Lean Cuisine because they have small portions of real food with real flavor. When you work at home, as you know, the default soup/sandwich/salad thing for lunch gets old.

    Nor do we own (or plan to) a microwave, which forces me (which is good) to cook real food.

    I am also prey to a few lifestyle issues: suburban life (all driving) and a sedentary job.

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