Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It’s a lifestyle choice . . . not a diet

Just the word “diet” conjures up some pretty distasteful emotions. Deprivation, doing without, giving up, cutting down, and cutting back. It also brings memories of past failures and mostly unpleasant experiences. There’s a reason “diet” is a four-letter word. And, there’s an even better reason why diets don’t work. A diet is usually, by definition, a temporary condition, until the weight is lost.  But if it isn’t part of true lifestyle change, that weight comes running right back home.

To help us come to terms with our overall condition,  the weight loss industry will see close to an estimated $ 65 billion in revenue this year. (That’s 13 percent of the almost $500 billion a year we spend on groceries.) It includes diet soft drinks ($21.15 billion), health clubs ($19.5 billion), diet books and exercise videos ($1.21 billion), artificial sweeteners ($2.52 billion), and the list goes on.

Now, what happens if we shift the focus from “diet” to, hmmm, say “lifestyle change?” When this happens, we’re also shifting our focus from a pretty negative relationship to a positive one.

So, back to that “diet” word. Consider that today about 72 million of us in the United States are on some kind of diet, spending that $65 billion we mentioned earlier. That’s a little more than $1000 spent per person “dieting” on average. What would happen if instead each of these 72 million people used that $1000 plus to make healthier and more nutritious food choices?  That averages out to about $20 per week. Now, leave out the soda, fast food, pre-packaged and highly processed choices. You’ve saved more still. 

Seriously, doesn’t a lifestyle change seem like a better approach? We know habits are, well, habitual. But we have the option, the choice, of deciding what we “make” habitual. We get used to doing things a certain way, and then it’s not an effort to continue doing them. We just have to decide what’s important and where we place our focus. For example, getting into the habit of eating whole grain products instead of refined grains. Getting into the habit of drinking more water. Getting used to less salty food over the course of several months through gradual reduction. Same for sugar. Making a fresh salad instead of thawing out the frozen pizza. Moving away from screen time and walking the dog around the block, several times. You get the idea.

Suddenly, your healthier choices become new habits, and you have a new food-lifestyle relationship. You’re not “dieting”—but look at the result! And, look at who is now in charge.

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