It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Diet — Don’t Get Them Confused

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

I want to start off by defining a few terms for you, as I think people get things twisted quite often. A Google search for the term “nutrition” comes up with the following definition — “Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” When you Google the term “diet,” you get the following definition — “A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”

It’s extremely important that we define those terms above because today, everyone says things like “What does your diet look like?” or “I’m going on a diet.” In the first instance, the term diet should really be “nutrition.” A diet is something that is forced upon you by yourself or others. Nutrition is simply the food you consume.

Now, what I want you to do is remove the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Ok, stop laughing — I’m being serious. Diet is one of the worst four-letter words that can come out of your mouth. I’d rank it up there with another four-letter word (use your imagination).

If you follow a diet, you will fail

It’s very simple, diets fail. You’ve tried them. I’ve tried them. How many of us are still “following a diet?” None, right? Why is that? Because they are all too hard to manage and follow in the long term. They have you removing carbohydrates or removing fat from your diet. Who the heck can actually do that for the rest of their life?

If you follow any type of diet out there, your success rate is extremely low. Sure, you may drop some weight, but as soon as you get off the diet and settle back into a normal routine of eating again, you will gain the weight right back. Diets are gimmicks. The only thing that diets force you to do is eat less and, at the end of each day, be in a caloric deficit. Know what’s funny? Changing your lifestyle and eating habits can do the same thing, and you don’t even need to deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy. It’s about balance and making it a lifestyle.

Your lifestyle will determine your results

As I mentioned above, diets fail because you can’t adhere to them and make them fit your lifestyle. And why should you? When you take your overall nutrition, clean it up a little, and make it part of your lifestyle, you will win. Now, I’m not saying it’s as simple as I’m explaining. Removing and limiting certain foods WILL need to take place. But, in the long run, if you are following a sound nutrition plan where you are consuming whole foods that are nutrient-dense, you have the ability to add in some (what many would consider) unhealthy options such as treats. However, at the end of the day, your lifestyle is based on healthy eating habits.

The things you consume on a regular basis, such as lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, need to be the bulk of your nutrition. It’s much easier to “treat yourself” when it’s in moderation and doesn’t deprive you, that will cause intense cravings — which, in the end, most people will give into and ultimately fall off the wagon.

So, if you tell yourself you aren’t eating pizza ever again, how many weeks do you think you’ll go before you buy a large pizza and kick it yourself? Whereas, if your healthy lifestyle allows you to consume a couple of slices every once in a while, you’re less likely to have a bad relationship with food which can cause you to binge.

The same can be said about the snack items in your house. If you have “off-limit” foods that are to be consumed by others in your household, but you tell yourself to stay away, how many days are you going to stare at that exact item being consumed by everyone else before you give in? See where I’m going with this?

Your nutrition needs to be a lifestyle. If you can’t follow something and make it fit into your lifestyle, it’s not going to stick. For that reason, I personally love flexible dieting, which helps you have a great relationship with foods where you don’t need to deprive yourself or completely eliminate food groups from your nutrition. But flexible dieting is a whole subject we can cover in another article.

If you have problems managing your calories and macronutrients on a daily basis, try using an app like MyFitnessPal. It’s extremely easy to use and can quickly and conveniently log the food you eat throughout the day to provide you with the data you need to understand if you’re in a deficit or not. Did I mention it’s free to use? It also has the ability to track your weight loss results as well if you have a “smart scale” or manually enter in the weight shown on your scale.

In the end, I want to reinforce the fact that you need to remove “diet” from your vocabulary. Change your lifestyle, and you will find your way toward achieving your health and fitness goals.