The Monotrophic Diet

If someone voluntarily eats the same food all the time, they’re on a monotrophic diet. According to some people, this is a category of fad diet and ought to be shunned. According to others, it is the ultimate in self-care wisdom. A person might do this for several days, several weeks, or possibly forever. Supposedly, in parts of the world, religious devotees subsist for decades on daily bowls of rice.

In the largest philosophical sense, what a person eats, or declines to eat, should represent the ultimate expression of freedom. “My body, my choice,” indeed! Yet somehow, people’s eating habits have become public property. The concept of intentionally eating only one food is, at the very least, a played-out caricature of eccentric and/or genius humans, a trope that belongs in a cartoon or a funny movie.

But seriously

More dangerously, limiting oneself to a lone food can be deemed pathological. It can constitute evidence of the intent to self-harm, and next thing you know, everybody winds up in a courtroom. Additionally, the preference for a monotrophic diet may be characterized as detrimental to society as a whole. Things happen that make authorities feel comfortable about claiming the right to control people’s eating habits.

Is monotrophism, in and of itself, harmful? Well, yes. Whether the favorite is salty chips or conscientious energy bars, sticking to one food is pretty much considered intrinsically problematic. There is another angle to argue about. Is someone who elects to choose from an entire food group, a legit monotroph? Meat, veggies, fruits, or legumes — each group offers a pretty wide spectrum of eating choices. In the mono sweepstakes, should they even count?

Another school of thought holds that it all depends on what the single chosen substance is. Potatoes, for instance, are a very popular solo menu item. Other faves include apples, bananas, milk, watermelon, cabbage, and grapefruits.

Why go monotrophic?

Some people adopt a mindset that prefers a less complicated life. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs shared the habit of owning multiple sets of identical clothes, so they would not waste a second of precious brainpower in thinking about what to wear. A similar philosophy can apply to eating. Usually, the monotrophic dieter seeks to lose weight, so the whole idea is to reduce the total caloric intake, and boredom can help with that.

The proponents of radically uncomplicated eating always mention the “no fuss, no muss” aspect. If you are eating two boiled potatoes, three times a day, routine settles in quickly. There is no need to compute nutrients, keep track of calories, or measure portion sizes. You know what you’re getting.

Just because a diet is simple, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. — Rachel Link

Journalist Makayla Meixner says the restrictive mono plan is a form of disordered eating that promotes unhealthy, unsustainable habits, like meal-skipping. binge eating, and fasting. Consuming insufficient calories can also slow the whole metabolism, and that means burning fewer calories, which defeats the purpose. Studies suggest the slowdown may persist for years, even when the person returns to normal eating patterns.

Journalist Rachel Link notes that the mono diet may lead to feelings of tiredness, hunger, and weakness. In women, it might even cause bone loss and negatively affect fertility. Social situations can be as awkward for a mono eater as for a recovering alcoholic. “What, you’re not drinking?” and so on. Two plain boiled potatoes simply might not be on the menu. Link adds these words:

Although there are no specific guidelines regarding how long you should follow the diet, most use it to ramp up weight loss by following it for just 1 or 2 weeks at a time.

… not based on any evidence and can be overly restrictive…

… not backed by research and unhealthy, unsustainable, and likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies in the long term.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Potato Diet Review: Does It Work for Weight Loss?,”, 03/05/19
Source: “Mono Diet Review: Purpose, Benefits, and Side Effects,”, 10/01/20
Image by ruocaled/CC BY 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources