I Don’t Like Using the Word “Diet”

I don’t like using the word “diet.” Although I know that this is the technical term for what you eat, society has made my default reading of the word “diet” to be “restriction of food for the purpose of losing weight.” I wish I knew another short-and-sweet word that means “what you eat” without it being too technical or associating with restriction of food. Know of any good alternatives?

I also don’t believe in diets. I don’t believe that the Atkins, Celebrity, South Beach, No Carb, no eating after 6 pm, jalapeño and honey, or baby food diet is sustainable and successful over the long term (I can list only about 1 million more). That’s my opinion. There’s research to support my opinion and research to deny it. I’ll play devil’s advocate, and maybe you can decide which side you stand on.

Why diets don’t work

  • Eating behavior cannot be permanently changed in a short period of time
  • There is almost no incentive to continue the diet after you have lost weight
  • Diets are often not sustainable because they lack in major vitamins and nutrients
  • Some diets prompt feelings of starvation, which may cause overeating
  • Metabolisms function at their best when the stomach is constantly processing some food. The body goes into “starvation mode” when it isn’t getting enough food. This survival mode makes the body hold on to fat to survive longer. This was a major benefit to cavemen who went through periods of starvation and drought, but not for modern humans who have extra weight because of their diet
  • Eating less makes you burn less calories. If you lost weight and are now 150 lbs, you would burn less calories by existing than a person who was naturally 150 lbs (didn’t even know that before)
  • Weight loss results in increased insulin sensitivity. Without getting too technical, when a person loses weight, their cells become more receptive to insulin. Insulin allows the glucose to be turned into energy. Cells use glucose instead of fat reserves for energy. You are left with the unused fat. I didn’t know this at all, wow. This isn’t just associated with diets, this is just weight loss. Insulin sensitivity won’t cause weight gain alone, but when it is compounded with fatigue, slow metabolism, and overeating, it makes it worse.
  • Hormone changes during weight loss can result in increased hunger
  • Restricting your favorite foods may make you stressed or anxious, resulting in your body holding on to fat

Why diets work:

  • low carb diets lower the risk of heart disease if coupled with behavioral therapy 
  • Adhering to a diet for a long period of time even after the weight loss is achieved keeps the weight off
  • Changing diets revs up your metabolism and keeps you excited about new foods
  • People with illnesses such as diabetes need at least some sort of organized restriction as to what they should eat
  • Some people need strict rules to accomplish something

Am I biased? I think that’s obvious. Do I disagree with every part of diets? Most certainly not. I need some strict rules, or I wouldn’t get anywhere. I work towards being vegan, but I set rules on how much fried food I can have, how much sugar I can have and when, and when it’s too late in the night to eat anything. I don’t do these to lose weight, I do these because fried foods are bad, non-natural sugar is bad, and if I eat right before going to bed, I wake up with a stomach ache. It’s not like if I’m hungry at 11 pm I starve myself to follow the rule, I’ll just plan my day so that I don’t eat too late. I like guidelines, not restrictions.

Do you know of any diets that were successful? Do you have any diet horror stories? Are you beginning to believe that cupcakes have mind-control powers?

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7 Comments on “I Don’t Like Using the Word “Diet””

  1. adanelz6 says:

    I much rather prefer lifestyle than diet. It shouldn’t be a temporary drastic changes, but rather little changes that you carry throughout your life!

  2. mzelenski says:

    I agree! The little changes add up.

  3. jnkron1991 says:

    Interesting lists, learned a couple new things.

  4. Brittany W says:

    I love this post! As an advocate for positive body image, I think the way society has construed the word “diet” is one of the worst things to ever happen. Marketing geniuses have taken this word and made it into some sort of fad.

    I have a horror story. I used to be on the “lean cuisine/low fat diet.” After about a year (of starving myself), I began to get really, really sick after I would eat. It took the doctors A YEAR to figure out I had gallstones. My gallbladder was so inflamed, and one of the gallstones had grown to almost an inch (!) in diameter. The doctors think my “diet” had something to do with it.

    Also, I totally believe cupcakes have mind-controlling powers. They scream “EAT ME!!!!” in my head every time I see them!

    • mzelenski says:

      For the lean cuisine, did you have to eat the meals that lean cuisine makes? Do you think it was the restriction or the type of food that lead to you being sick?

      • Brittany W says:

        Yup, I had to eat the meals lean cuisine made. I usually had one for dinner and a very small breakfast. Sometimes I would have 2 Lean Cuisines a day. I was probably averaging under 1,000 calories per day (some of this was because I began working full-time at my first job). I was told, in 2005 when I had my gallbladder removed, that doctors were not yet sure what causes gallstones; but, they think it has something to do with drastic changes in diet, so it was probably the type of food.
        In all honesty, I’m pissed with myself that I gave up an organ. I really think it plays a part in why my digestive system doesn’t work properly.


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