Hey guys! Welcome back to Sunkissed Lex! Today’s post is about going on a diet vs. changing your lifestyle. Diet culture has become a huge part of our society, and I wanted to make it clear that when I talk about healthy changes you can make to your diet, I’m referring to making lifestyle changes, and not going on a diet. However, with the way our society talks about dieting, it’s sometimes looked at as a healthy lifestyle choice, so I wanted to write this post to explain how they are different, and give you some more information on why I, personally, don’t believe in dieting.
According to Boston Medical Center, around 45 million Americans go on a diet per year and spend a whopping $33 billion every year on weight loss products. Despite these huge numbers, about two-thirds of Americans are still overweight or obese. This is an issue because along with self-esteem issues and difficulty with physical movements, people who are overweight have a higher risk of developing health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, and gallbladder disease. So what is the issue? Why do Americans struggle so much with obesity, and what can we do to change it?
First off, we have to get informed, and that starts off with understanding what makes a diet, and what makes them ineffective for weight loss.
What is A Diet?
According to Oxford Languages, the definition of a diet is ” a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” Diets are temporary; they have short-term goals with a target date. Think losing a certain amount of weight in a short amount of time. The thing is, this usually involves cutting out entire food groups, and looking at certain foods as temptations that you have to avoid. And when you reach your goal, you can start eating “normal” again. Of course, with eating how you did before the diet, the weight usually comes right back. And the vicious cycle of weight gain followed by a diet followed by weight loss followed by weight gain begins. It’s not good for your body, and it’s not good for your mind.
The main issue with dieting is feeling deprived. When you completely nix a certain type of food, all you can think about is when you’ll be able to eat that food again. So when you do hit your goal, you’ll overdo it on the foods you’ve deprived yourself of, which will cause all the hard work you’ve put into your diet to be for nothing.
The other issue with dieting is that they’re hard to maintain. Take the Keto Diet for example, where you completely cut out carbs. Unless you have certain medical conditions like epilepsy where carbs can make the condition worse, then your body needs carbs to function. How long will you really be able to maintain a diet that cuts out something your body is desperately craving? How long should you go? Our body has signals for a reason, and it’s not to trick us into gaining weight; we need to listen to what it has to say. Ignoring it is a surefire way to cause long-term damage.
Restrictive diets are going to be tough on your mental health as well; it marks certain foods as “good” and “bad”. And diets that have calorie restrictions are also trouble; they cause you to become fixated on a number. Both of these things can lead to disordered eating, where you focus more on the number than on what your body is telling you, or you cut out a certain food group and therefore miss out on the nutrients that food has to offer just because society has marked it as “bad”. These thoughts can take over your life, and they make it hard to focus on the things that are actually important.
What is a Lifestyle Change?
Making a change to your lifestyle is much more permanent than a diet. As the name suggests (lifestyle), these are changes that you are going to incorporate for the rest of your life. When you make a lifestyle change, you’re not doing it to hit a certain goal, you’re doing it to live a longer, healthier life. It’s not a punishment, and it’s not restrictive. It’s a choice you make. There aren’t foods or activities that are off limits, and there’s no such thing as a “good food” or “bad food”; you eat what makes you feel good. At the end of the day, the goal of your lifestyle is to grow old and healthy and be happy.
Because lifestyle changes are made without a time restriction, the changes are going to be made much more gradually, and not put nearly as much stress onto your body as dieting. It’s also going to be easier to maintain, because these changes are going to make your body and mind feel good; you also won’t feel deprived, because there aren’t any foods that are off limits. This line of thinking is going to make it easier for you to not crave a certain kind of food as much; if that food is always an option, there won’t be an unhealthy amount of thinking about the next time you get to eat it, causing you to binge on it when you’re “allowed” to eat it again.
A lifestyle change is meant to make you feel better for the entire remainder of your life. Constantly stressing about weight and calories is no way to live your life; making small changes to your life that make you feel better about your health and well-being, that’s what’s important. Because who cares what you weigh if you’re not happy? What’s the point in not eating what you want if all it’s going to do is stress you out?
Key Characteristics of Dieting
- Diets are temporary with a short-term goal in mind
- Usually involve restricting entire food groups
- Foods are categorized as “good” and “bad”
- Quick results, but usually end in the weight being gained back
Key Characteristics of a Balanced Lifestyle
- Changes made over the entire course of your life
- Changes are made with the idea of doing what makes you feel good
- Moderation, not restriction
- No such thing as a “good food” or “bad food”
- Weight loss is gradual (0.5lb to 1lb per week), but easier to keep off
I am all for eating a healthy diet, but I don’t agree with dieting. Cutting out entire food groups for short periods of time puts unneeded stress on your body and your mind. Food shouldn’t be your life, it’s just what you need to keep you alive. Eat what makes you feel good, exercise when you want to exercise. If you want to make changes, do it gradually so as not to overwhelm yourself and your body. Constantly worrying about the number on the scale or how many calories you consume is not going to make your life better. The best advice I can give is do what you need to do to take care of yourself. For me, that means most of the time I eat pretty healthy. But I also don’t stress if I want a piece of cake. It’s all about balance.
Thank you all so much for reading! I have a lot more information on dieting and lifestyle changes, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you, so if you have any questions or if something didn’t make sense, please let me know in the comment section! Don’t forget to follow the blog if you want to see more content like this in the future! Hope you all have a great day!