As always, it depends.
It depends on how you personally define the word diet. The two dictionary definitions perfectly highlight the two prominent views that people typically perceive a diet to be. The first definition is “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. This definition suggests that diet represents the long-term eating habits of an individual or group. The second definition is “a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”. The two important words in this sentence are ‘course’ and ‘restricts’. These two words imply that a diet is limited to a specific time and that a person will be moved away from their typical eating habits for this specific time period. If you want to know how to lean up by dieting, the definitions below will help you understand where a lot of people go wrong, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Diet Definition 1
I like definition one. Healthy, consistent, long-term habits is what drives good health. Consistently consuming the appropriate calories, exercising, and getting enough rest will ensure that you remain in great physical condition. Consistent doesn’t mean perfection either, it just means that you are doing the right things more often than not.
Diet Definition 2
Definition 2 is a perfect representation of where a lot of people go wrong, they consider a diet to be a short term struggle with a light at the end of the tunnel. Restricting your intake for a period of time will 100% help you lose weight in the short term, but are you really going to be able to restrict yourself forever? And what happens when you bounce back to your previous habits?
Before making any adjustments to your diet, consider whether the change is sustainable. If the answer is no, it is not going to help you get to where you want to be. In a world of readily accessible food, good nutrition needs to be almost effortless. We are designed to seek the easiest route and therefore we need to make healthy eating convenient.
I should mention that there are specific times where short-term dieting can be used effectively. In sports that require weight cuts such as boxing, MMA or bodybuilding short-term dieting is essential. That being said, extreme weight cuts are in no way healthy and most competitors will bounce back to their pre-competition weight as soon as possible.
Actionable lifestyle changes
We want you to build healthy habits. The most effective way to build a habit is to start extremely small. I like to start people off by changing one meal. Whether that is breakfast, lunch, a snack, or dinner it doesn’t matter, it is about getting the ball rolling. Once you have successfully improved one meal for 1-2 weeks, try another and see how you go. Remember that it must be sustainable, don’t force yourself to eat chicken breast and lettuce, make sure you actually enjoy your food. Meal preparation planning is a great way to plan what you’re taking in, and most importantly, create long term habits.
Never feel guilty about your food, just understand what you are taking in. If you eat something that you shouldn’t (processed, high energy) just know that you may have to cut back at a later meal. This is especially useful on the weekends. If you know you are heading out for dinner and a few drinks, cut back at breakfast and lunch to ensure you don’t go wildly over your calories.
Overall, definition 2 of dieting is something a lot of us should steer away from. Short term, fast change is unlikely to bring you closer to your goals, long term.
Christopher Dalmau (Masters of Exercise Science, Bachelor of Science) is a fitness author based in Melbourne Australia. Co-founder of The Clean 5, a popular Australian fitness program, and longtime owner of a sports performance studio, Chris uses his scientific understanding, coupled with industry experience, to provide real outcomes for his clients.
Chris is driven by making the science of fitness ‘sexy’, driving the masses to seek valid information, rather than trusting someone simply because they look good.