Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Makes a Diet a "DIET"?

How many times have you heard someone (maybe yourself) say "I don't diet ... I am just eating healthy, clean, organic, etc."?  I want you to consider how this can become a diet.  How does dieting evolve?  What does dieting really mean and is it harmful?  Since we can make just about anything we do with food a diet, this is worth examining.  One of my clients came in the other day worried that she was making intuitive eating another diet.  Believe me, it can happen!

Let's start by looking at the original definition of the noun "diet".  According to the Merriam - Webster dictionary the word is derived from the Middle English word diete, from Anglo French, from Latin diaeta, from the Greek root word diaita.  The word came on the scene in the 13th century and literally meant a way of life.  It was also used to describe what a plant, person, or animal eats.  Nothing about food/calorie restriction, no moral or legal pronouncements of "good" or "bad".  We have adopted a rather restrictive, obsessive and imbalanced definition of the word diet.  If a diet is truly a way of life it should give life ... not limit life.  Weight Watcher's claim to fame is that they are not another diet.  They are promoting a lifestyle.  Really?  Is that why Weight Watcher members weigh their clothing before attending a weigh-in to ensure that they are wearing their lightest apparel?  How about saving all of your WW points up for a binge in the evening of Oreos and ice cream?  That does not sound like a way of living that would enhance any one's well being.  I am sure that Dr. Oz would tell you that he does not diet.  Yet, he promotes rigid dietary rules and has been quoted as saying "eating should be automated and joyless".

So, what makes a diet a DIET?  A diet in our current societal terms sucks the life out of you.  You have to micromanage your food intake to completely eliminate foods you genuinely enjoy, it limits your relationships and social interactions, and it robs you of peace of mind.  If you are bound to rules about exercise and/or food choices .... you are on a diet.  A way of life, a healthful lifestyle is not black or white.  It allows you to go for a good average nutritional intake and activity level.  There is no guilt or shame.  No perfectionism in how you pursue taking care of your body and health.  When my client voiced concerns that she was making intuitive eating a diet, she meant that somehow she had bought into the belief that she could go the rest of her life without ever eating unless she was hungry.  No sampling of foods at Costco, no eating a bit of a friend's birthday cake because she had just eaten lunch, and certainly never eating some chocolate when sad.  In other words, she would fulfill Dr. Oz's goal of making eating joyless and automated.  This is the total antithesis of intuitive eating.  A healthful way of living involves balance, not ultimatums.

Taking all of this into consideration, are you on a DIET or a diet?
Wishing a wonderful life in the middle ground,