Don’t Call It A Diet

October 1, 2011

As I’ve written before, dieting is 100% mental.  Or at least 99%.  There just aren’t that many people who gained weight because they have zero control over what they eat or how they exercise.  And thus, I don’t think the word “diet” and all its connotations are benenficial to your mental effort to lose weight.

To me, a diet is something temporary, a short term plan to fix a minor issue.  Oh, I ate too much at Thanksgiving, I better go on a diet to get back to my ideal weight.  Sure, this scenario happens, but is that a realistic response for most people who need to lose weight?  Or, like me, are you somebody who maintained bad eating habits for 10, 15 or 20 years and now decided you want to be skinny?

If that’s you, then a “diet” won’t work.  You’ll make some minor changes to your lifestyle — like eating Lean Cuisine at lunch and skipping desserts — and lose a couple of pounds, but after a few weeks you’ll go back to your old lifestyle of eating McDonalds twice a week.  Yo-yo dieting isn’t one type of dieting, it’s the only type of dieting.

So what’s the alternative to dieting for people who want to lose weight?  It’s the adoption of permanent lifestyle changes that will lead to you reaching a healthier body weight in the normal, natural course of things.

For me, that meant forcing myself to eat breakfast, cutting back on the calories I ate at lunch, and giving up on fastfood all together.  But that sounds like a diet.  No, when I would talk to other people about it, I described it as me trying to get healthy.  That is 100% what I was trying to do.

And that’s not just semantics.  Leading a healthy lifestyle is not something you do to get ready for swimsuit season, it’s something you do forever.  And it’s not something you could ever fail at doing.  Have you ever heard of somebody failing at a lifestyle, or cheating on your lifestyle?

If you legitimately learn what’s good for your body, and what type of foods best satisfy those needs, you won’t be worrying about Biggest Loser type weigh-ins and trying to figure out what to do at the next office birthday party.  And losing weight will be second nature.

About six months into my so-called diet, I ran into a work acquaintance who remarked that I was successfully “keeping off the weight.”  My honest (internal) response was, of course I was keeping off the weight, because it had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be keeping off the weight. Once you recognize what habits got you into your situation, and you’re enjoying the alternative, you’ll never want to go back.

So don’t start a diet, start changing your lifestyle.

Start small, like I did.  Start eating those 400 calorie frozen meals for lunch and give up the drive-thru.  After a few weeks, as you start to see the weight loss, and get used to having an emptier stomach, you’ll be willing to make more drastic changes and be on your way.

It will take time — after all you didn’t gain the weight overnight — but it’s something we’re all capable of doing.  And if there’s no diet to cheat on, you won’t be torn up by the mental process of being loyal to some diet guru that you secretly hate.  If you enjoy something unhealthy one day, you’ll be back to your healthy lifestyle the next day.  That’s not cheating.  That’s just living your new lifestyle day-to-day.  You’ve done nothing wrong.

And, best of all, you’ll never have to use those horrible words “I’m on a diet.”