Dieting and eating heathy are two distinct and sometimes very different things.
Dieting is a short-term approach to achieve a specific goal, such as weight loss, managing a medical condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, building muscle, improving health, and more. It can involve making significant changes to your eating routine, such as counting calories, reducing the amount of food you eat, restricting or even eliminating certain food groups, or inflexibly following a pre-determined meal plan. It may also impact significantly your lifestyle, for example if you need to weight your food, or have to avoid certain social events because you can not eat according to your diet.
In general, dieting does not always mean eating healthy.
Adopting sustainable healthy eating habits, on the other hand, is a long-term approach to eating that focuses on making gradual but permanent changes to your default eating routine. The reasons why you may want to develop healthy eating habits may be similar to the reasons for dieting; the big difference is that when developing healthy eating habits you don’t have a due date when you will reverse back to your old way of eating. So, when eating healthy you have nothing to look forward to, a part to your next meal. You implement permanent changes. It means changing your normal eating habits to make them healthier and enjoyable so that you will adhere to this new way of eating without the need to put a conscious effort in it.
Key Differences Between Dieting and Adopting Sustainable Healthy Eating Habits
The table below summarizes the key differences between dieting and eating healthy:
|Characteristic||Dieting||Adopting Sustainable Healthy Eating Habits|
|Sustainability||Difficult or impossible to sustain for a long period of time||Designed to be a lifelong approach to eating|
|Focus||Weight loss or other specific body or health related goal||Overall health and well-being|
|Flexibility||Restrictive and inflexible||Flexible and enjoyable|
|Mindset||Often has a negative mindset focused on restriction||Has a positive mindset focused on nourishment and enjoyment|
|Relationship with food||Can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food||Promotes a healthy relationship with food|
|Health effects||Can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems||Promotes good health and well-being|
|Social impact||Can be isolating||Allows for social interaction and enjoyment of food|
Why Dieting is Almost Always Not a Good Idea
Dieting is a restrictive and unsustainable approach to eating. When you diet, you are typically controlling your food intake in order to achieve a specific goal. However, dieting can be difficult to maintain over time, and most people return to their old eating habits once they stop dieting. Here are some examples:
- A person diets to improve their health markers, such as cholesterol levels or blood sugar levels. They see an improvement in their health markers, but then go back to their old eating habits and their health markers worsen again.
- A person diets to lose weight for a wedding or other special event. They reach their goal weight, but then go back to their old eating habits and regain the weight quickly.
- An athlete diets to get into shape for a competition. They perform well at the competition, but then go back to their old eating habits and lose their fitness quickly.
If you’re tired of the yo-yo dieting cycle, know that you’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with this issue. But the good news is that there is a better way. Changing your eating habits can be challenging at first, but it is worth it in the long run.
Instead of dieting, focus on developing healthy eating habits that you can stick to for life. Developing healthy eating habits can help you achieve a variety of goals, and most importantly it helps you maintain your achievements for a long period of time. These may include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Reducing your risk of chronic diseases
- Managing a medical condition you have
- Improving your overall health and well-being
- Increasing your energy levels
- Boosting your mood and mental health
- Improving your athletic performance
Key Tips And Resources For Developing Healthy Eating Habits
It takes time and effort to change your eating habits. Here are some tips that can help you succeed in this mission:
- Clarify your motivation: Be clear on what your motivation is for changing. Only when you have a strong motivation you can succeed in changing your habits for the long run.
> How to Eat Healthy for Life: Find Your Motivation
> Empower Yourself: Take Control of Your Health and Well-being
> The 9 Hidden Factors That Influence Your Food Choices
- Keep learning: Be curious to learn about nutrition and how it impacts your health. The first step is to understand what eating healthy actually means.
> The Ultimate Guide to Different Diets: Which One Is Best For Health?
- Don’t count calories or weight food: having an idea of your daily calorie needs could be useful, just as it could be useful to have a rough idea of the calorie content of what you eat. However, while counting calories or weighting food may be useful occasionally, it is certainly not sustainable in the long term. Learn how to regulate the amount of food you eat without the need to weight food or count calories.
- Understand that eating healthy means eating tasty: Find healthy foods that you enjoy eating. Don’t look forward to a gratification meal. Every meal you eat should be enjoyable, don’t use food as a reward or punishment.
> How to Eat Healthy and Enjoy Your Food Every Day: 10 tips
- Have a eating plan but don’t fixate on the details: Having a weekly meal planner is a great way to steer your nutrition into the right direction.
> Free weekly meal planner for healthy eating
- Eat mindfully: Learn to observe yourself when eating and remain aware of your satiety level. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly and savor your food. Avoid eating while distracted, such as watching TV, your smartphone or tablet, or working on your computer. Or if you like to engage in these activities, make a conscious effort to remain present and aware of what and how much you are eating.
- Make small, gradual changes: Set realistic goals and don’t try to change everything at once. Even small changes to your eating routine can make a big difference over time. For example, if you switch from sugary drinks to water, you could save hundreds of calories per day. And if you add just one extra serving of vegetables to your meals, you will be quickly well on your way to meeting your recommended intake. As you become more comfortable with these changes, you can gradually make more.
- Cook more meals at home: Cooking at home is a great way to control the ingredients in your food. When you cook at home, you can choose fresh, healthy ingredients and avoid unhealthy additives.
- Remain flexible: If your default way of eating is healthy, then there is not such unhealthy meal. Ultimately what’s healthy or unhealthy is not a certain food, or a certain meal, it is rather your regular eating routine. Don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally slip up. If you occasionally have an unhealthy meal or snack, just pick yourself up and start again the next day.
- Be patient. It takes time to develop new habits. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Just keep at it and eventually you’ll reach your goals.
Remember, healthy eating is a journey, not a destination. It takes time and effort to change your eating habits, but it is worth it in the long run.