"Saying you're on a diet gives the impression that you're looking for short term results. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, means you're planning on making this permanent."
~ Dr. Richard Snellgrove
We live in a "diet culture". Everywhere we look there is a new method for losing weight and feeling great. And, over and over, we sign up hoping and praying that this one will "work" - that it will lead not only to weight loss and greater health, but will be the key to happiness and solving our other problems as well. However, research shows that only 1% are successful at losing the weight they set out to, and only 1% of those people are able to maintain that weight loss long term. Thus, the saying, "Diets don't work!"
Dieting focuses on restriction. It usually consists of temporarily changing your eating habits to promote a certain outcome - commonly weight loss. It forces you to give up most or all the foods you love which leads to feeling deprived. And it makes you feel like a failure if you make poor choices - we even refer to it as "cheating". Additionally, restrictive diets can make us cranky, lead to depression, and feeling deeply frustrated and ashamed when we return to our previous eating habits and the weight and healthy challenges return.
On the other hand, research also shows that making lifestyle changes are key to long term weight control and overall health. It's about lining up your eating and physical exercise with your real goals and desires. Be it cancer, weight loss, or just feeling better about one's self, a lifestyle change provides the most effective and sustainable result.
"Dieters have a mindset of "giving up foods" and feeling deprived. But when you view it as making a lifestyle change - when becoming healthy is your end goal (and losing weight is often part of that goal) then your end goal has no end. It is the life you are now choosing to live. You have to keep exercising and watching what you eat because that's what a healthy person does."
A lifestyle includes what you eat, how you manage stress, how much you exercise, and more. A lifestyle change provides long term solutions to becoming and remaining healthy. It encourages inclusion of new, healthy foods, encourages moderation, improves your ability to maintain a healthy weight for your body type and life stage, focuses on improved overall health, and helps you realize a bad eating meal or day isn't the end of the world. When you are eating a healthy diet and are living a relaxed, enjoyable life, your whole being is in balance.
One of the best ways to transition from a diet to lifestyle mentality is by taking on the responsibility to identify the problems you need to work on and gather the information and tools you need to heal them.
Nutritionist, Dr. Lisa Young, suggests 6 simple lifestyle changes to get you started:
- Portion control - eat less
- Think positive - focus on what you CAN have
- Keep food records - reveals food patterns
- Eat structured meals and snacks - plan ahead!
- Move more - find something you LOVE and stick with it!
- Cut yourself some slack - progress not perfection
"A healthy eating plan focuses on improving your health by improving the quality of the foods you eat. Rather than focusing on the restriction or elimination of foods, it educates you about how foods impact your body so you can make better choices. If foods are restricted or eliminated, its because they are of inferior nutrition. The focus is always on eating well so that you can be well."
So, let's replace the word "diet" with "nutrition". Instead of thinking and saying "I am on a diet" or "I am being good", replace that with "I am eating for nutrition" or "I am eating for health". Create your own mantra to sustain yourself when tempted and to say to the countless others that WILL ask you "are you on a diet?" I am choosing to eat nutritious foods as part of my healthy lifestyle! And for goodness sake, don't "cheat" - allow yourself an occasional good quality "treat"!
Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Holistic Nutrition Educator and Master Massage Therapist with a private practice in Graton, CA.
Passionate about helping people transform their health through holistic nutrition, she facilitates the 23 day online Nutritional E-Cleanse Program with coaching, compassion, and humor.