Defining “Diet”

            The word diet, by definition, simply means “the kinds of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” However, in our society, when we hear the word “diet” many of us immediately think “weight loss”! Why has diet come to mean this? Why has the definition of diet changed and why does this word carry so much weight (no pun intended) in our society? More importantly why do we feel the need to label ourselves and judge others based on their “diet”?

           Dieting dates way back to the 3rd century BC and has increased in popularity with each new decade. In 2017, we see diet ads on every magazine, book, TV show, Facebook post, etc. There is no escaping the influx of various diet beliefs! How are we supposed to know which diet is best-gluten free, low fat, high protein? They all promote weight loss and overall health. They all have happy, skinny models portraying their success! They all seem to be great ideas, backed by science with real people showing that they are reliable. But let me tell you a secret, its all false, none of them work! At least not long term. Fad diets may produce results at first but those weight loss results are typically from loss of water or muscle mass, not fat. As people progress on extreme diets, weight loss stalls and they become discouraged and give up, restrict more or try another diet! Research shows that at least 45 million American’s are on or plan to go on diets each year, yet only 5% are successful with their weight loss goals. The other 95% end up losing weight then regaining the weight plus some!

           Despite this statistic, it seems that we are all still obsessed with finding the right diet. If one doesn’t work, most will move on to try another, then another, and on and on. This constant dieting cycle leads to rapid weight changes which are harmful for the body in the long run. It is proven that diets negatively impact the body and mind by:

  • Putting the body into “starvation mode” where the body lowers it’s metabolic rate to preserve calories and decreases calories burned per day
  • Harming bodily functions due to low intake of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals
  • Decreasing muscle mass rather than fat mass when “crash dieting”
  • Decreasing joy in life due to obsessive food thoughts, restrictive food choices and anxiety regarding what to or not to eat
  • Limiting social life as one may choose not to go out due to dietary restrictions
  • Increased depression, guilt, anxiety, hunger, moodiness, weakness or fatigue
  • Decreased self worth, self trust and overall happiness or satisfaction with life and self
  • Impaired hormone function which impacts sleep, acne, fertility and body fat composition
  • Increased weight gained when the body adapts to the diet or the diet ends 

            Many people disregard these negative consequences or are unaware of them and go on to pursue another diet in hopes that this next one will finally “fix” their weight issue. What if we stopped for a second and reconsidered that the weight may not be the issue and the diet and dieting cycle is? What if instead of focusing on losing the weight we focused on losing the diet?

             Giving up dieting is hard! How do you know what to or what not to eat if you aren’t following some media promoted fad meal plan? By giving up dieting would you feel like a failure in regard to your weight loss goals? If so, I think its time you reassess the importance the diet has put over you and your self worth and identity! Society has morphed “dieting” into a type of social stigma. The way I see dieting promoted in society is as a mark of acceptance, pride or willpower. Its like society is telling us that if you aren’t on some kind of special diet, then you aren’t trying hard enough to be skinny or healthy or “your best self”. Maybe its just me, but I get the vibe from people who claim they are on “X” diet that they feel superior to me as I am on no specific diet at all! If you don’t wear the label of being “paleo”, “gluten free”, “vegetarian”, etc., then you are not worthy. Isn’t it crazy that many people base their sense of worth on their dietary labels and their ability to maintain them? 

            Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the fad diets out there promote valuable ideas such as eating whole foods, minimally processed, more from nature, including colorful fruits and vegetables and decreasing the amount of refined food choices. But I do not think one’s identity or worth should rest on their success in following one diet or another. If you want to follow “X” diet then give it a try, but please, don’t let the dietary label rule over your life! However, if you are ready to lose the dieting mentality and stop diet cycle, then check in next time as we explore how to eat when NOT on a fad diet. 

-Happy Eating! Kristin-




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