Inadvertent Benefits of Flexible Dieting

Again, The Atlantic releases an incisive article called The Myth of Easy Cooking by Elizabeth G. Dunn.  Here are the main takeaways below from the article: 

"The decision to cook from scratch may have many virtues, but ease is not one of them. Despite what we’re told, cooking the way so many Americans aspire to do it today is never fast, and rarely easy compared to all the other options available for feeding ourselves.

The problem is that none of this actually easy. Not the one-minute pie dough or the quick kale chips or the idiot-proof Massaman curry, every last ounce of which is made from scratch, from ingredients that are sourced and bought and lugged home and washed, peeled, chopped, mixed, and cooked.

Meanwhile, technology has made appetizing, affordable cooking alternatives easier and easier to come by.  Food delivery services like Seamless, Munchery, and SpoonRocket carry prepared meals to your home in minutes.  The rise of fast casual restaurants from Chipotle to Sweetgreen has made counter-service takeout a dinner option that won’t make you hate yourself in the morning."

And here is the punchline and the lesson you should take away from this article:

"I love to cook, and wish I still had those wide-open Saturday mornings in which to make wholly unnecessary coffee cakes, or lazy Sunday afternoons for poring through old cookbooks, hunting for new projects. But I think we should talk more realistically about what’s involved in from-scratch cooking, the sacrifices it entails, and the fact that little of the complexity offered by today’s published recipes is really essential to cooking a delicious meal."

The cardinal feature of flexible dieting is tracking your carbohydrates, fats, and protein. While this may seem like an onerous process, I have long argued that for someone with ambitious career aspirations and many obligations in life, flexible dieting can actually save time.  When a flexible dieter is resolute on hitting their macronutrients in the most efficient manner possible while maximizing flavor, they tend to intuitively pick a handful of their favorite foods, season liberally but simply, and cook in a way to really maximize the "Return on investment" of food preparation.  They get into a routine that saves time and does not detract much from enjoyment of the food.  As a personal anecdote, I only spend 20-25 minutes in the kitchen preparing food everyday. My grocery runs each week last a whopping 10-15 minutes. 

A flexible dieter who insists on concocting complex meals will find in short order that this habit saps cognitive energy that could be allocated towards more fruitful tasks, results in a larger margin for error when tracking, makes it more cumbersome to track, and creates complications when macro adjustments need to be made.  Opponents protest that this complexity adds flavor and more satisfaction to the consumption of the meal.  However, the corollary to this rebuttal are the following questions that should be entertained: How much more satisfaction are you really deriving from adding complexity if you are already maximizing your diet with foods you inherently enjoy and utilizing seasoning and simple cooking techniques that offer a whole lot of bang for their buck? What is the opportunity cost?  What else could you be doing with that time?  Let me reiterate what Dunn states in the article:

"...and the fact that little of the complexity offered by today’s published recipes is really essential to cooking a delicious meal."

I do not want to overstep my boundaries and universally prescribe flexible dieting.  Truthfully, to maximize efficiency one should probably just consign themselves to a granola bar diet and conversely, to maximize flavor one should cook from scratch and labor away in the kitchen for hours each day.  Life requires a more analytical approach though. Be aware of your cognitive biases.  Consumers tend to conflate complexity, novelty, variety, and price directly with quality. The truth is often times more nuanced and it is wise to acknowledge at what point you are maximizing the ROI of your time, money, and energy.  You need to prioritize what is important to you in life.  If you happen to be someone who wants to excel professionally and physically while not sacrificing too much flavor or time on food preparation, flexible dieting may ideal for you.

Here is the link to the article: