What the longest you’ve stuck with a diet? If you’re like most dieters, it hasn’t been very long. Changing the way you eat takes considerable willpower, and willpower is a finite resource. If a diet calls for calorie restriction, it’s even tough to stick with. Food, particularly glucose, can help replenish our willpower capacity, so depriving ourselves of that will only make the situation worse. It’s no wonder that so many diets fail — and fail quickly.

Maybe you’ve tried multiple diet strategies, and all of them have failed. Again, this is fairly natural. The good news is that you’re on the right path. One key to dieting success is experimenting and finding what works for you. If you’ve tried different diets, you have a good idea of why they’ve failed. Go back and pick out all the aspects that have worked, and you have a good start for a long-term dieting plan.

Oddly enough, when working on a grand dieting strategy, we can learn a lot from the electric company. No joke. They employ a technology that provides the prefect analogy.

Smart grid dieting

Electric companies employ smart grid to efficiently power their networks. Instead of evenly distributing power to all points on the grid, the smart grid can recognize which areas need more power and which areas aren’t consuming as much. It can then redirect energy to the areas that need it, temporarily depriving other ares. But, since those areas aren’t using power, they hardly notice. And so the entire grid gets powered seamlessly.

You can apply this idea directly to you dieting efforts. Think of all the foods you consider worthy of a proper diet. Those are the points on the grid. You can then maneuver among them at different times, eating more of some foods at some times, while backing off others. Then, when that gets tiresome, you can switch things up. The result is a diet that you don’t get sick of, because it’s always changing.

Why it works

One reason diets fail is because people find the food choices too repetitive. Yet repetition is a huge key in dieting success. It takes the guesswork out of choosing which foods to eat. If you eat the same thing every day, it’s simple. Yet when we get sick of that same food every day, we tend to jump overboard and abandon our diets. With the smart grid analogy, we can stick with the idea of repetition without getting to the point of abandonment.

That is to say, we can create repetitive meal plans that last for a short period of time — 2 to 4 weeks seems to work best. Then, before we get sick of that meal plan, we can switch to something else from our big list of dieting foods. The cycle goes on and on. Not only that, but because we’re choosing from a large list of foods, either raw or prepared, we can create different combinations. That means we can keep the diet fresh all the time.

Smart grid dieting in action

About a year ago I was trying different diets. First it was Tim Ferriss’s Slow Carb. Then it was Paleo. The problem was, I found the food choices way too restrictive. There wasn’t much, if any, room for breads. While I recognize that bread is generally a hindering factor for diets, I also believe that we can enjoy it in moderation. That’s when the idea of the smart grid came into play.

I started by making that list of all the foods I enjoy. I also took it a step further by listing the different ways I could prepare those foods. Then I put some of them into a meal plan. It went something like this.

  1. Breakfast: 2 eggs with lentils and spinach (from Slow Carb)
  2. Lunch 1: Protein bar
  3. Lunch 2: Salad with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli
  4. Dinner: Chicken, pork, or beef with broccoli or asparagus

After a month I started to get a bit sick of the 2 eggs with lentils and spinach breakfast, so I changed things up. That gave me an opportunity to change up the entire plan.

  1. Breakfast: 3-egg omelette with asparagus and broccoli
  2. Lunch 1: beef jerky and whole-wheat toast
  3. Lunch 2: Salad with shredded carrots, almonds, and dried cranberries
  4. Dinner: Chicken, pork, or beef with zucchini and green beans

When that got boring, I again switched things up.

  1. Breakfast: 3-egg omelette with 1/2 an avocado and salsa
  2. Lunch 1: oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder
  3. Lunch 2: 3-bean salad
  4. Dinner: Chicken, pork, or beef with peas and carrots

This gave me the best of all worlds. Each day I’d be eating a relatively low-calorie diet of predictable foods. There was little work that went into this, because I knew what was on the menu in advance. That means no guesswork, and it leaves me little to no room for cheating on the diet. Then, every few weeks I’d change things up, eating foods I hadn’t previously while giving others some rest.

Yet, like the smart grid, I’d go back to the broccoli for dinner when I felt the urge. Similarly, I’d go back to my original lunch salad when I wanted to get some bell peppers in my diet. Nothing stays out of my diet for too long, because I have a huge list of foods from which to choose. It’s all about eating them at some points and backing off at others.

It might seem odd that the way electric companies deliver us power can teach us a lesson about dieting. But given how frequently diets fail, we should be looking wherever we can for guidance. By following this analogy and rotating our diets, we can get the power of repetition without burning out. It’s one way to beat diet fatigue and continue with our weight loss goals.