Why you need to remove the word “diet” from your vocabulary.
Spring is almost here.
Summer is approaching fast and swimsuit season will be here before we know it. Visions of a not-so-distant past with ourselves overindulging at holiday tables start haunting us and we cringe at the sight of clothes in our closet that are too tight or don’t fit.
The word diet suddenly pops into our head.
A big majority of people – especially women – have been through the same situation and for almost all of them weight loss equals diet.
But wait… Before we go on, what do we mean with the word “diet”?
Let’s make a quick clarification.
The Oxford online dictionary gives these two definitions to the word as a noun:
1. the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats, eg. a vegetarian diet
2. a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons, eg. I’m going on a diet
So, each and every one of us follows a diet, in other words, a specific way of eating. But not all of us have been on a restrictive plan for medical or weight loss reasons. And this second definition of diet is the one we’ll talk about.
When the reasons are directly associated with health issues, like a high cholesterol for example, then a low lipid diet is essential. But when there are no medical instructions involved and we just want to lose weight for our own reasons or for the generalized idea of health, is diet the only road we can take?
No, it isn’t. Diets have characteristics that can’t be considered ideal for successful weight loss and weight maintenance.
Here are the ten most important reasons never to go on a diet again.
1. They are temporary.
Probably the most important of the reasons. Temporary solutions bring temporary results. If you change the way you eat for a limited amount of time, you’ll lose weight and keep it off for a limited amount of time.
It’s that simple.
2. They are restrictive.
It is true that in order to lose weight, you have to make some changes. But when you go on a diet, you have to say no to many of your favorite foods that you’ve been used to eating for a long time. Completely forbidding these foods to yourself will definitely lead to overeating at some point.
3. They can be dangerous.
Especially all those fad diets and miracle-promising ones. They are usually based on food combinations or carb-protein-fat ratios with supposedly miraculous effects but with little to no scientific evidence that proves them. And we usually fall for them because they promise fast results. And usually the results disappear as fast as they came leaving our health damaged.
4. They are shocking for the body.
One day you consume your weight in food portions! The next day you realize how much you overdid it and you start a diet and starve yourself. Your body is a machine and it doesn’t understand your need to fit into your summer clothes! It gets shocked by the sudden shortage of fuel. And a certain number of side effects start making your life difficult, like headaches and fatigue.
5. They can be misleading.
When you start a diet, the weight is shed off quickly at the beginning. Which can give you a mistaken sense of full control.
If I don’t eat, I lose weight. – If I eat, I don’t.
If only it were that simple! The way the human body works is far more complicated than that. The body has strong survival mechanisms that are ready to fight back when starvation is detected. That’s why very low-calorie diets have an impressive initial effect that is soon stalled significantly.
6. They are counter-productive for your exercise needs.
Most low-calorie diets limit the daily intake to 1200 calories. This is not even close to enough for a person who exercises. And I take it for granted – or at least I hope so – that people who wish to lose weight are also considering taking up exercise. When our bodies exercise they have certain needs, not only in terms of energy but also of macro-nutrients like carbs, proteins and even fats. Diets are rarely balanced and energy-efficient for a habitual exerciser.
7. They establish an on-and-off mentality.
I’m on a diet, I can’t eat that. – I’m not on a diet, I can eat whatever I want. – Oh, I’m on a diet again.
This kind of thinking is the worst thing you can do to your body and to your brain. The yo-yo effect is a real thing that happens to many seasonal dieters and it can have negative effects on both your body health and your psychology.
8. They can limit your social life.
You have probably experienced this if you’ve been a usual dieter. How many times have you, consciously or subconsciously, denied attending an event just because it involved lots of fattening foods that would spoil your diet? And if you did attend, were you the same person you would have been without all the stressful restrictions? Doubtful.
9. They can lead to weight gain.
Eventually, yes, they can. Several studies have shown that after a two-year period of weight cycling through dieting, people usually weigh more that they initially did. Which is highly likely if you consider all the other characteristics of a diet mentioned above.
10. They make you unhappy.
Last but not least. When you go on a diet, you experience lots of negative feelings. You feel deprived, with limited choices, some people even feel that they are being punished for enjoying food. In short, they make you miserable. And that’s not how changing your body should make you feel. It’s the exact opposite.
So, what do you do? Do you quit the idea of weight loss once and for all?
Of course not.
First, you have to realize that weight loss and diet are not the one and the same. Weight loss can be the outcome of a diet – which is debatable as you have probably reckoned already – and the diet is the tool. A tool that promises “fast” results. But your focus should be “long-lasting”. And there are simple words that can make that happen.
Words that, if you let them replace the diet mentality in your mind, can change the way you think and feel about food.
And they can help you create a healthier version of yourself.
And before any dietitians that happen to read this think I have declared a war against them, I have to give the proper credit to their work. Dietitians are the best people to offer you something that is crucial to your weight loss success: nutritional education. Every day we are literally bombarded with contradicting information about the foods we eat. A conscientious, professional dietitian will help you figure out what is true and what isn’t.
Remember the first definition of the word diet? That’s what dietitian should be derived from.Their job should not be to give you a diet that will make the scale move and that’s not what you should expect from them. They should pave the way to a balanced, healthy way of eating that will help you lose weight and keep it lost.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to kick the word “diet” out of your vocabulary?