the meaning of the word diet

2015-09-06

I'm fascinated by the definition of the word diet in common usage. I typically hear people say something along the lines of "I can't eat that because I'm on a diet" or "Sure I'll have another donut. I've already blown my diet for the day." In this context, I offer the following meaning that people are using:

Diet (noun): An unsustainable eating regimen where you deprive yourself for a short period of time in order to produce a short-term result.

When laid out like that, why the fuck does anyone "go on a diet"?

I understand and agree with the desire to lose weight, to get in better shape, and be healthier overall; these have been my main goals in the past couple years. I also know that most people want to see results quickly especially when depriving themselves of something they want. Push through the discomfort, drop a few pounds, then go back to "normal". Well, that's not usually how it works.

This kind of short-term thinking is dangerous but all too common. Short-term thinking gives you short-term results, if any. When you deprive yourself of food you like it becomes more precious. You only have so much willpower to prevent you from eating food you crave. You obsess over it until you give in and "go off your diet", at which point you're free to eat whatever the hell you want. This is (unsurprisingly) call the "what the hell" effect. When you think you need to be in some kind of special mode in order to diet, it taxes your willpower. As soon as some stressor enters your life, you look for ways to relax and postponing your new diet is right at the top of the list.

If you really want long-term results you have to change your habits. Changing habits requires long-term thinking and a fair bit of discomfort. I would suggest you re-think what the word "diet" means to you. I offer an alternate (and I believe more effective) definition:

Diet (noun): All the things you eat and drink.

Wow, doesn't that sound a whole lot nicer? Instead of trying for a quick fix, look at all the things you're eating and drinking. I mean really take a good hard look at everything and decide if you're happy with all the food and beverages you consume. Don't like those donuts you've been munching on at work? Or the deep dish pizza for dinner? Change it! But not just for a month or a year, become a person who doesn't like donuts. Find something healthy you like more than donuts. Little by little change your diet. A diet isn't a plan to be followed for a specified period of time; a diet is what goes in your body every day.

Focus on changing your eating habits and your diet will improve. If you make long-term habit improvements you will naturally lose weight and be healthier.