In a fun contrast from last week’s post, I wanted to explore the word “diet”…. And why I’m not a fan.
The word diet has quite a negative connotation. And why shouldn’t it? For years it has been associated with restriction, weight shaming, punishment, and “the opposite of fun”.
Diet, however, simply means a way of eating. All of us have a diet, or a type of eating pattern. But in our society we’ve curated certain eating patterns and given them labels so that people can following along (Atkins Diet, Paleo Diet, Military Diet, etc.) This type of ideology also suggests that one very specific eating pattern will work for many people. That many people could follow, for example, the South Beach Diet, and see the same “results”. I use quotations around results because this brings up the reason behind embarking on the Diet Quest: seeing results. While the goals of a diet could vary between individuals, for most it is something done to lose weight. We are a weight driven culture and the consumption of food is the most easily associated influencer of weight (others factors include, but are not limited to, stress, physical activity, genetics). So, upon following a predetermined diet, an individual is set up to believe they will achieve the results claimed by this diet (i.e. weight loss). I completely recognize diets that are necessary for those with allergies or diets like the Anti-inflammatory Diet for those suffering from a specific disease. In this post I am concerned with the average person who adopts an arbitrary diet, whatever is trendy at the time, and applies it to their life in pursuit of weight loss.
In weight loss-focused diets, individuals often tie their self-worth to the diet and their weight. Thoughts like “How closely am I following the diet? Today was ‘good’ because I followed the diet. Today was ‘bad’ because I didn’t stick to my diet. I need to do exactly what the diet says or else I am a failure. I’m not losing weight, so I must be a failure. I need to stick to this diet because I am not good enough as I am.” All of these negative thoughts become attached to a person’s eating habits and image, and they cultivate a life of disordered eating, low self-esteem, and poor body image. So, when one diet doesn’t provide the desired weight loss or improve a person’s overall self-image, it’s on to the next one! This is the unfortunate cycle of dieting.
Before embarking on your next “diet”, consider some of the following:
- Why are you going on a diet? Is it for weight loss? Or, if you dug a little deeper, is your weight simply a mask for some inner emotional issues that would benefit more from counseling or from better self-love practices? Maybe investing in these areas instead of beginning a restrictive diet would serve you better. Instead of less food, maybe your body needs more love.
- Your friend tried it and she saw amazing results. She’s proof that it works! Right? Maybe not. Remember, most diets are made as a one-size-fits-all approach. No two humans are the same and there is such beauty in that! You may see “results” and you may not, but you’re going to compare yourself to someone else the entire time and this just isn’t fair to you. Be gentle with yourself and remember to do things that serve you, not someone else.
- You’ve tried diet after diet and none of them work! Again, if this is in regards to weight loss as an end goal, there’s more to consider than diet alone. Do you have a stressful job? Have you had any recent major life shifts? Do you take on the worries of those around you? Do you have poor self-image? These are all areas of your life that can impact how you hold weight. (Science-y speak: during periods of stress, cortisol, a hormone, is released in the body. If tissues have prolonged exposure to cortisol, such as during prolonged periods of stress, there is an increase in abdominal fat storage, along with other negative physiologic effects). A healthy “diet” can help for sure (yay fresh fruits and veggies!), but unless all these things are in balance, you may find that your weight isn’t responding to the diet changes you’ve made.
Why You Should Ditch “Diet” and Instead Create a Lifestyle
By now you’ve learned how diets can wreak havoc mentally, physically, and emotionally. But the good news is that there is a better way, and it’s called creating a lifestyle. I love this phrase because “create” means you have a chance for creativity, a way to personalize the way you live that fits you as a unique person. And unlike the word diet, lifestyle encompasses all areas of your life, not just the food you eat. This is so important because we know that all areas of our life need to be in balance, not just our eating habits. When you let go of the diet mentality and instead chose to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle, you will see success like you’ve never experienced before. Instead of placing your self-worth on the number you see on a scale, you will find joy and peace in your day to day life, and eating in a way that nourishes and heals your body will come naturally. I implore you to check-in with yourself and take stock of the lifestyle you currently have. Is it balanced, supportive, health-promoting, and loving? Take the steps to make changes in all areas of your life that need some help and you will never diet again.
If you’re struggling to get your eating back on track, consider an individualized approach by seeing a Registered Dietitian or by choosing a company like Katie’s Plates that will make eating healthy easy for you!
Look out for future posts on self-care and creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle!