Moving from ‘Diet’ to ‘Healthy Eating’

As science has proven, a healthy diet and exercise are the gateways to attaining a healthy weight. If you want to lose weight, you are going to have to work up a sweat a few times a week and cut back on food: either on the sheer amount of food you consume, or the amount of certain foods you eat. However, ‘going on a diet,’ or severely restricting / completely eliminating certain foods and food groups, is not necessarily the best strategy for cutting back.
Studies show that about 80% of dieters fail to sustain their weight loss for very long. In fact, a study by the University of California Los Angeles even found that, after four to five years, 2/3 of dieters weigh more than they had prior to starting their dieti.
There are several good reasons why ‘going on a diet’ will not help your long term weight and health goals. For example, as clinical psychologist Lavinia Rodriguez explains, while dieting, you become extremely fixated on food – what you can have, what you can’t, when you can eat, etc. With your mind constantly on food, you become more aware of what others are eating, or what’s being advertised on television, or what is on a menu, that you can’t have. Then when you are finally free to eat those tempting treats (after you go ‘off’ your diet) you will overindulge to make up for depriving yourself for so long.ii
Additionally, according to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, even the word ‘diet’ can make you hungry. Since many people link the word ‘diet’ to tiny amounts of unappetizing food, they become stressed every time they think about starting one. In response to this mental stress, the body produces the very same hormones that make you hungryiii.
The key, then, is to moderate. You know that eating a lot of bad food will make you fat. But cutting too far back won’t necessarily work either – or at least not for long. Think instead of ‘having a healthy diet’ rather than ‘going on a diet.’
Making the transition – Tips for a lifetime of healthy eating:

  • Make healthy eating your lifestyle, rather than a short period of your life. If you were lactose intolerant, you wouldn’t go dairy free for a few months and then stop. Dairy-free would be ‘the way you eat.’ Treat eating healthy as ‘the way you ’
  • Don’t think of nutritious food as ‘health food,‘ and thus bland and a chore to eat. There are plenty of foods that are both nutritious and as tasty as (or more tasty than) junk
  • If you have the occasional cookie, it’s ok. Since you don’t have the strict rules of a ‘diet’ you aren’t going to feel like a failure.
  • If you are at a healthy weight, be observant. If you see the number on the scale creeping up, or your clothes fitting a little tighter, moderate a little before your weight gets to an unhealthy

Synopsis:
Dieting has become the preferred method for many to lose weight. However, studies show that almost 80% of dieters regain any weight they have lost – even more startling, a study from UCLA shows that fully 2/3 of dieters weigh more in 4-5 years than they did before they started their diet.
Experts have found many reasons why dieting is not conducive toward reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. For example, when you restrict yourself so severely and so long, as soon as you are able (e.g. when you go ‘off’ your diet) you are more likely to binge in compensation. Even the word ‘diet,’ with its negative connotations, can make you stressed to the point that your body will release the very hormones that make you hungry.

Thus, you need to transition to ‘healthy eating’ rather than ‘dieting.’ Here are some tips for making that transition:

  • Treat eating healthy as ‘the way you eat,’ rather than a short period of your
  • Don’t think of nutritious food as ‘health food,‘ and thus bland and a chore to eat. There are plenty of foods that are both nutritious and as tasty as (or more tasty than) junk
  • If you have the occasional cookie, it’s ok. Since you don’t have the strict rules of a ‘diet’ you aren’t going to feel like a failure.
  • If you are at a healthy weight, be observant. If you see the number on the scale creeping up, or your clothes fitting a little tighter, moderate a little before your weight gets to an unhealthy

i http://magazine.ucla.edu/exclusives/dieting_no-go/
ii http://www.tampabay.com/features/fitness/why-diets-fail-and-how-weight-control-works/1079221
iii http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/11/why-diets-fail.html