Diet: A Four Letter Word

Hands up if you hate the word “diet”?

I know, I know!

It’s become synonymous with restriction, struggle, pain, deprivation, failure, futility. A four-letter word!

Why is that?

Because we’ve been presented with a myriad of opportunities to follow a certain diet to solve our weight problem and for whatever reason it hasn’t worked long term.

  • Pritikin
  • South Beach
  • Israeli Army
  • The Clothesline
  • Low Carb
  • Low Fat
  • Jenny Craig
  • Lite and Easy
  • … you name it!

Each of these involves denying ourselves the foods we crave – and we hate that!

Each of these works for some people some of the time, but not for ‘us’.

The more extreme diets may actually be doing damage which we are oblivious to until it’s too late.

So no wonder ‘diet’ automatically is associated with negative connotations for many people who are trying to reduce their weight.

If you have a negative interpretation of a word, how successful do you think you’re going to be living with it day after day when you are on a program to lose weight?

It’s kind of self-sabotaging yourself at the first plate. Want a home-run instead?

What if we changed our view of the word?

A long time ago I learned that the more people called me names or defined me by a word, it hurt more because of the emotional impact of the word. When I stopped focusing on the emotional impact and accepted the word as a fact eg “yes, I am fat by modern standards” it hurt less. It just was. No more hurt. Certainly some self-reflection on whether to do anything about it but the sting of the barbs was gone. When you take back ownership of a word it has less power over you. Let me say that again,

When you take back ownership of a word it has less power over you

After all, the word ‘diet’ is simply the kind of food and drink a person habitually consumes.  That definition has extended over time but lets stick with it’s prime purpose- to describe the kind of food or drink habitually consumed. So ‘diet’ no longer means deprivation or failure or anything negative: it simply means “here is what I habitually consume.” I can either accept that, or change it.

In that context you can unemotionally look at your usual intake and recognize where it is working for you and where it is not.

In that context you can look at what the impact of changing what you habitually eat or drink may be.

‘Diet’, therefore, is just what you eat.

Nothing has meaning other than that which you prescribe to it.

There’s no need to ever say “I’m going on a diet” because you are already on a diet – unless you are a breatharian! 🙂

All you need to say is, “I’m going to modify/alter/change my diet so what I habitually consume serves me better”.

Does that seem more empowering for you?

Does that take the sting out of the word?

Does that cause you less emotional grief around losing weight.

It’s quite freeing – like running on the beach. Ok. Walking 🙂

Oh, while I’m on it, we should change that too – lose weight. Well, we never want to lose anything do we? When you lose your keys you’re in a panic to find them. If you lose your purse or wallet, you can’t rest until you know it’s safe. If you lose your car, you want it back. Psychologically, that’s how our brain is wired.

Do you want your lost weight back?

I didn’t think so.

Find another phrase.

  • Drop the weight.
  • Release the weight.
  • Regain your shape.
  • Return to fitness.

Whatever works for you. Just make it empowering. Those phrases have a far more active and future focused element to them don’t they?

When you tell people you’re ‘trying to lose weight’ do you get support or sympathy (or, ‘here we go again’!). What might people think if you said you were focused on getting healthier by changing what you eat and drink long term? You train others how to respond to you by what you say to them. Make sure it’s positive!

When you tell yourself you’ve ‘got to go on a diet’ or ‘got to lose weight’, how much energy juice does that give you?  Not much. “Got” implies no choice for a start. You can feel your feet dragging all the way! Swap ‘got’ for ‘choose’ or ‘commit’ and you’ll be better off.

By the way, I hadn’t let it slip by. That word. “Trying”. Nah.

“Try or try not: it’s no matter” Yoda.

How much commitment and resolve surrounds ‘trying’. Not a lot. If you’re not committed to better health then don’t set yourself up for failure. Wait until you’re emotionally ready then go with all you have!

How we talk to ourselves and others is far more powerful than we realize!

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14 Replies to “Diet: A Four Letter Word”

  1. I’m literally the exact opposite, I never struggle to lose weight, I struggle to gain weight, and it’s always a challenge for me to remember to eat as much as possible each day. It’s a bit different for people like me who want to bulk up and who are training regularly in the gym. Ideally I should be eating around 5,000 calories a day to gain weight but I rarely get in that much. That’s like 6 meals a day!

    I think exercise is more important than diet, I mean, obviously the junk food needs to be gone, but you don’t really need such an incredible, strict, specific diet to lose weight. I think it has more to do with exercise, proper exercise, exercise that burns fat and builds muscle.

    Anyways, love the article!

    1. Thanks, and an interesting point, Timothy. I agree, gaining weight is a whole other issue. The research certainly supports exercise as a critical element of a healthy lifestyle though it accounts for around 20% of the weight loss equation. Appreciate you weighing in with your view 🙂

  2. I totally agree! Putting the word diet in perspective can make a big difference. I always get annoyed if someone asks me if I’m on a diet just because I eat certain foods or portions. I say not I’m not on a diet because of that negative connotation.

    1. That’s frustrating isn’t it. Time to claim back the meaning of “diet”. 🙂 Other people’s standards don’t need to be ours. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Great ways to look at this subject. Everyone it seems has issues about weight, food, and even loss. In loss there is a grieving that takes place so in essence when you lose weight you need to go through a grieving period.

    Rewording something into a more empowering and positive way is one way to start.

  4. I agree, changing out perspective is so important! I’m thankful that I grew up in a family with a healthy perspective, but my in-laws aren’t the same…

    I’ve never heard of the Israeli Army diet! Googling it now 🙂

    1. If you find it, all I can say is – don’t follow it! Being brought up with a healthy attitude to food and diet is so helpful, Thanks for popping by!

  5. One of the low-carb groups I’m in uses the phrase “way of eating” or woe in stead of diet.
    diet has always just meant to me a way of eating, anyway. Maybe because I was in the medical care field for many years and as a medical term it just means “what you eat” no matter what that looks like.

  6. this is so true. I’ve only every tried to diet a few times, because I’ve always failed miserably. As soon as I chose to diet, I would panic and overeat. Dieting for me equals earrings worse due to the weird physiological mess the word brings me,

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