What do you think of when you hear the word “diet”?

If you have a few pounds to shed and are contemplating going on a diet, do you rejoice with glee, or dread it with all your might?

When I think of the word “diet”, two definitions come to mind:

1. It is something you do to get the weight off as quickly as possible, while all along thinking about how soon it will be until you will be able to eat all of the food that you are missing now.

2. A diet is whatever you eat consistently each day. Therefore, you may “be on” or have a diet of fast foods or frozen foods, convenience foods, vegetarian, home-cooked, or organic foods. You could have a diet that combines any of these, or others that I haven’t listed.

When adopting definition number two, we are all on a diet. We may be overeating and eating foods that aren’t giving our body much energy or nutrients, but it is still a diet. When I use the term diet on this site, this is more often the definition that I am referring to.

Definition number one though, is the one that I think most people use to define a “diet”. It is restrictive, painful, no one really wants to do it, or at least speaking for myself, I didn’t want to. A diet tends to consist of foods that you probably don’t like to eat, but that you will eat in order to lose weight.

I had to give up dieting because whenever I dieted it made me crazy. I constantly felt like I was depriving myself and I became obsessed with food. I would lose a little weight and then end up gaining it all back. I remember one of the first diets that I was fascinated with was a book that my mom had called (something like) “The Oriental Diet”. I remember reading this book and thinking that this diet was magical, that it would solve all of my problems if I could just do it.

I honestly don’t remember what was involved with it now except that you were to eat a lot of rice (something that I didn’t eat then, but I love now). The sad thing is that I don’t even think I was in my teens yet, and I wasn’t overweight. Already, I was beginning to have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Today, I won’t diet. I do follow a healthy eating plan (a subject of future posts), however I do not consider it to be a diet because I am eating regular, whole foods that I cook myself. I can continue to eat like this forever, and most importantly, I only eat foods that I like. This leads us to the topic of the difference between a diet and a lifestyle.

When you choose to diet, it is a short-term solution, expected to last only until the weight is off. Almost any diet you follow can work and you will lose weight, but where they fall short is when you have accomplished your goal. What do you do now? Unfortunately, most go back to eating as they did before they began the diet. This is one factor that contributes to the yo-yo syndrome of losing weight, only to regain it again, and often more than you lost.

In my opinion, I think that it is better to not even start a diet. Instead, what about beginning to make lifestyle changes now, changes that you can live with for the rest of your life? These changes will not only benefit your health, but can also help take excess pounds off of your frame. You don’t need to commit to changing everything all at once, since even a small change can make a difference. If you continue to add more small changes in, they will add up and create a brand-new, healthy lifestyle for you, step by step.

Here are 9 changes you could make right now instead of dieting (start with just one):

  1. Replace all soda with water. – Do this and you will be amazed at how getting rid of that carbonation will help you feel less bloated, not to mention the sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and other chemicals that you will be dropping from your daily diet.
  2. Eliminate fast food. – Swear off any and all fast food joints. You could still go to restaurants where they cook their food rather than reheating it from a box. You would be stunned to know just what is in fast food, how much sugar, fat, HFCS, and salt that it is loaded with (just to mention the main ingredients).
  3. Eliminate frozen, processed food. – Check out the ingredients of those ready made meals. Note how much sodium, sugar, fat, HFCS, and chemicals they contain. Sure, they taste good (I used to eat them every day!), but healthy, “good for you food” can taste wonderful, too.
  4. Eliminate any food that contains HFCS. See my previous posts one and two for more details on why this is such an unhealthy ingredient for your body. By the way, you will automatically be completing suggestions 2 and 3 if you do this.
  5. One day a week, try a new recipe with whole ingredients. – Find a recipe online that you can cook at home yourself, something that you would have ordered previously from a fast food restaurant. Make your own burger, peel and cut your own potatoes and make french fries, or make your own chicken fried rice. Even though these may not be the healthiest of choices, you are cooking it yourself and are in control of the ingredients you put into your food.
  6. Once a week, try a new recipe with whole ingredients (haven’t I heard this before? 😉 ) – This time, prepare a healthy version of a dish that you like. Check out the advanced recipe search on Epicurious.com. You can select the type of recipe that you are searching for, i.e.: low sodium, low or no sugar, and what type of dish you are seeking (beef, tomatoes, etc.). You’re bound to find something that you like.
  7. Commit to reading labels. – Become conscious of what you are eating by reading all food labels. Read the ingredients, remembering that the top four are what the product mainly consists of. Read the nutrient information. When you find ingredients you haven’t heard of before, look them up online, find out what they are. This one change will help you immensely in educating yourself on what you are eating each day.
  8. Go for a 15-30 minute walk each day. – Walking is an excellent form of exercise, it is much easier on the knees than running is, and it’s free! If you have a treadmill (I love mine), walk on that. Listen to a book on tape, music, or watch t.v., just as long as you are walking.
  9. Stretch for 10 minutes each day. – Learn how to safely stretch your body to bring flexibility back into your life. Go to HowToStretch.com and start out with their beginning stretches if this is something new for you. By keeping your body flexible, your muscles are less prone to injury. Stretching is also great for relaxation, and in my experience, it is essential if you have a job that requires you to sit all day.

Choose just one of these nine changes, one that you can see yourself implementing and living with for years to come. Do it whole-heartedly for a week, two weeks, or a month before you add in another change.

Find the motivation for making the change so that you are truly committed to it, then follow through and add in another positive change later. You don’t need to change everything all at once, and by going this route instead of that of a short-term diet, you will be creating a healthy lifestyle that you can live with, rather than a diet that you are fighting against.