Diet Doesn’t Have to be a 4-Letter Word

May 5, 2015

Celebrate International No Diet Day with moderation, self-love and positivity

Celebrate International No Diet Day with moderation, self-love and positivity. @JlevinsonRD

I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, but my opinions are my own.

DIET: Food and drink regularly provided or consumed; habitual nourishment.

When you hear the word diet, is the definition above what comes to mind or is it the image of a plate of salad greens with dressing on the side? Or maybe it’s standing on the sidelines at a birthday party wishing you could have a piece of cake? In our society diet has become a four-letter word with a negative connotation; a word that harkens thoughts of restriction, failure and deprivation. A diet is short-lived, lasting temporarily only until the desired goal is achieved. Just take a look at the popular fad diets that have come and gone through the years, starting as early as the 1800s.

The first of many “low-carb” diets came about in the 1860s with a book called Letter on Corpulance, which outlines a diet plan emphasizing meat and vegetables and avoiding bread, pastry, and potatoes. In the 1930s we had the grapefruit diet and in the 1950s the cabbage soup diet took off. In 1972, Dr. Atkins made his first appearance with his book Diet Revolution, which glorified the low-carb diet. The ‘80s brought about a Beverly Hills diet, a caveman diet and the Scarsdale diet. In the ‘90s, cabbage soup and low-carb diets made a comeback and new diets, like “Eat Right for Your Type,” “Sugar Busters” and others touting juicing, fasting and detoxification, emerged. The cycle even continues today with diets focused on raw foods, Paleo, gluten-free (but not out of necessity from food allergies) and more.

Despite all these fad diets, Americans still struggle with obesity, diabetes and heart disease. When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and living a healthy lifestyle, diets don’t work. Dieters are left with poor body image, low self-esteem, and an inferior quality of life. Not to mention a higher weight than when they started their diet (research shows the association between on and off dieting, also known as yo-yo dieting, and weight gain over time).

Image Source: RD4BC.com

So what can we do to stop this dieting culture? Thanks to Mary Evans Young, who in 1992 held the first No Diet Day celebration in her living room, we can begin by celebrating International No Diet Day (INDD), which takes place tomorrow, May 6, across the globe.

The goals of INDD are simple: Not only is there beauty in diversity of body shapes and sizes, but also more attention needs to be paid to the dangers associated with dieting and eating disorders.

Achieving these goals won’t happen overnight, but strides can be made by working on a diet-free lifestyle with a focus on moderation, self-love and positive behaviors.

Moderation is an important principle for all things in life, whether in exercise, staying up too late or how much coffee you drink. When it comes to food intake, moderation is about enjoying the foods you like while meeting your nutrient needs and maintaining a healthy weight. As opposed to restrictive diets, moderation involves an “all foods fit” philosophy that doesn’t separate food into “good” and “bad” categories.

A key sign of a fad diet is the elimination of specific foods and ingredients or an entire food group. For example, diets that eliminate carbohydrates (e.g., bread, pasta, or fruit) impact energy levels as carbohydrates are a primary source of fuel for our bodies and brains. Other diets eliminate sugars, like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), by claiming they are addictive, but in fact studies linking addictive behavior to sugar consumption have been inconclusive. The bottom line for a healthy, sustainable diet is to include moderate amounts of all foods you desire within your daily calorie needs and to balance calories in with calories out through activity and your natural metabolism.

Image Source: RD4BC.com

Self-love is about freeing yourself from internal criticism and having compassion and respect for yourself and for your body—for all that you are and all you can do. Turn the focus away from numbers like weight, calories, and dress size and towards your favorite activities, personal achievements and your community of friends and loved ones.

Take part in positive behaviors around food and your body. Give yourself permission to eat—and enjoy—what you crave without feelings of guilt attached. Skip a workout at the gym to enjoy soaking up the sun on a beautiful day. Use all your senses when eating to get the full experience of the food and flavors you consume. Remove the focus from what you are eating to where, when, why and how. Wear something that makes you feel beautiful no matter what size is on the label.

In celebration of International No Diet Day, remember that you are more than what you eat, how much you weigh, and how often you exercise. Choose the diet that’s best for you and don’t make it a four-letter word.

How will you celebrate No Diet Day?

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  1. Love this! I’ve never been a fan of overly restrictive diets + crash diets. It’s so much more important to enjoying life/food, being confident with who you are, and adopting healthy habits!

  2. I think the biggest thing about diets is this: there’s so many of them out there for one reason—- NONE of them work!!! Lol! Love your practical approach to eating well and NOT dieting!!

    1. Thanks so much Alanna! It’s so unfortunate that the word has the wrong connotation when it really is such a basic part of our lives!

    1. That’s great Sarah! So important to spread the word that “diet” doesn’t mean restriction. Especially to college kids!

  3. I love this movement! I was out with a friend last night and we had a celebratory glass of champagne to which she said, “I’m really cheating on my diet!” I put the kibosh on that immediately. A celebratory glass of champagne should never feel like a cheat on anything.

    1. I totally agree with you Becki! And that’s one of the problems with diets – people think they’re cheating on eating healthier!

    1. Same here Sandra. And unfortunately the research shows that the cycle of yo-yo dieting leads to more weight gain over time, so the opposite effect of what people want.