Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Journey of a lifetime: to diet or not to diet

When I first started writing and posting on this site, and honestly even before that when I first started this journey toward health I freely used a specific word.  It is a word that so many people use.  I admit that I have used it. But somewhere and somehow over the years since I first started posting the struggles and triumphs of this journey, I have come to despise the word. I avoid using it if at all possible, and usually try to find a different way to say what I want to say in order to avoid this dreaded word.  Are you ready for this bad nasty word?   The word that I hate to use is ‘diet’.

So before we get into why I hate it, why don’t we look at the word more fully?

Diet: (Noun):  the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

          (Verb):  restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight. 

Ok, so the noun version doesn’t sound too terrible does it?  I will even use it in a sentence right now (albeit grudgingly).  “My cat eats a very healthy diet of Blue Buffalo Wilderness (Amazon link)  and some random feathers.” (Yeah, don’t ask me why, but if she spies a feather that somehow wiggled free from a down jacket or a feather pillow she runs to it and gobbles it up before we can pick it up! Yeah, she licks windows also!  But hey, I love her! And as a side note, that food is fabulous, she loves it and when we switched to it we could see a change in her behavior and her coat of fur….for the better!)    As a noun the word isn’t too bad.  It’s the verb usage that is REALLY tough.  The most common sentence when used as a verb, “I am on a diet.”   

For most of us the word diet, even if used as a noun, brings up thoughts and memories of endless days of eating grapefruit, restricting our food intake to next to nothing or cutting out everything that has sugar, carbs, calories, fat and sodium.  The word diet is synonymous with the concept or plan to change food intake in order to lose weight.  It is rarer that we see or hear the word used a noun, such as the ‘diet of cat feathers and Blue Buffalo.’   When someone uses the word diet as a society, we automatically think of it as a noun and thus as a ‘negative restriction.’ 

I was on a diet way back in 2006 when I started posting here.  (First post...way back in 2006)  But somewhere and somehow over the ensuing years I figured out that a diet is only a short term fix to a long term problem and that diets usually fail.     I don’t want a short term fix to a long term problem.   The concept of dieting was a negative feeling deep within me and within so many people I talked to.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard the comment, “You’re on a diet….that means you just eat carrot sticks and lettuce right?  YUCK!”.  A diet is hard work.  A diet is bound to bring about failure if you step away from the projected diet plan.  A diet is full of ups and downs.  Invariably something in life will happen that will cause us to step away from a life of restriction (a wedding, a birthday party, Easter, Christmas or maybe vacation).  I found that when it was a rough period and something caused me to go off the diet plan that I would feel the full weight of my failure.  That failure became counter-productive in my efforts to lose weight.   I wanted to change my life, but not that way.  I didn’t want a diet.  I slowly shifted my verbiage to ‘healthy lifestyle’ and eradicated the word diet from my vocabulary and with that paradigm shift in thinking I began to hate the concept of dieting and thus the word diet.  

A diet (verb usage) that restricts oneself to small amounts of special kinds of food is not sustainable long term.  It will definitely work.  It worked for me….I reached my goal weight and was super happy with myself…..but it was all through restriction of food.  But when the diet ended, so did my lower weight as I began to regain. I hadn’t learned healthy concepts and a way to live a healthy lifestyle, I had only learned how to restrict my food enough to make the weight disappear.   It was easy to come to hate the concept of dieting because of that.  I realized that a ‘diet’ was not what I wanted or needed.  I wanted the changes I made to be a lifetime change.  So that meant I needed to change my way of thinking.  I needed to change how I viewed exercise.  I needed to shift the types of food I ate on a daily basis.  I needed to change my whole lifestyle.  Furthermore, it needed to be a change that could last a lifetime, not just some short term solution.

I am NOT on a diet.  I am consistently making changes and adjusting the food that I consume in a way that is sustainable for a lifetime. (For example: not eating as many carbs or lowering my fat intake, etc.)   I am constantly tracking my food to monitor my calories, but it is NOT a diet.  It is just monitoring my food intake in a way that allows me to find my way to a healthy lifestyle.  I avoid the word diet at all costs, even though I follow many principles of a diet (tracking my food, limiting my intake, choosing healthier options).  I don’t want the negative connotations.  I don’t need the high chance of failure.  I am not on a short term fix.  I am on the journey of a lifetime, the journey to health and there is no room for a diet on that journey.  As for using the word diet as a noun….maybe someday I’ll feel free to talk about how “I would love to move to a more vegetarian diet” or “I usually eat a well-rounded diet.”   But for now, the negativity surrounding the word diet is too great within our society.  So therefore, I will avoid it and be creative with my words to avoid the dreaded ‘D’ word.



Sarah said...

I love this post. I often use the word diet as a noun. But others only hear the verb.

Whatever word we use, we have got to get our mindset right for living a healthy lifestyle.

My biggest problem is exercise. Do you have any words of wisdom about the verb exercise?

Mrs Swan said...

Lifestyle. That is my word of choice. We all can lose weight on almost any diet. But as you mentioned once we stopped then *poof* it's back. The choices we make have to be for the long run. :)

Ophelia A. Hazelton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MaryFran said...

Give me time....on the verb exercise. But your question made me realize I avoid that word also....I do ‘activity!’

MaryFran said...

Definitely a lifestyle!!!

Tiffany said...

Its amazing to see where we have come from to where we are.