Thinking Differently About “Diet”

When I say diet vs. when other people say diet.

In the field of Nutrition, the word “diet” means something different from what it means to the average person, and I think this is a major source of confusion. When I say “diet” I am referring to all and any foods you consume, everything that goes into your body through your mouth really. When people hear “diet” they think the word refers to a specific constrained, often temporary, way of eating that prescribes what can and cannot be eaten and is usually followed in order to achieve something specific like weight loss or weight gain; for example the South Beach Diet or the Paleo Diet. So I use diet as a noun (referring to anything you eat) while many people use diet as a verb (meaning something you do) or a proper noun (referring to some specific type of “Diet” with a capital “D”). People also think every “Diet” with a capital “D” is healthy. This is simply not true.

I have spent the last few months breaking down nutrition basics. Now I want to give you some basics on healthy ways to think about food and about your “diet.” The first thing I want you to understand is that there are no “good” or “bad” nutrients. Your body needs all the nutrients I spoke about in the nutrition basics series along with others. All of these nutrients can be good for your body but can also be bad if consumed in excess. All the foods we eat contain at least one or two of these nutrients. Some foods contain more of them in combination and are therefore considered to be nutrient dense or “healthy” foods. At the end of the day (literally) we want to be sure that what we have eaten over the course of the entire day contains a balance of all these nutrients we need in healthy amounts. This is essentially the key to a healthy diet (in the nutrition sense).

The next thing I want you to understand is that, although there are no “good” or “bad” nutrients, there are “good” (healthy) or “bad” (unhealthy) diets. This is when the sum total of what you eat does not contain all the nutrients your body needs, or contains an unhealthy excess of one or two nutrients without balance. Unhealthy diets contribute to causing many of the chronic health issues that affect us (such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension). By an unhealthy diet I mean a sustained, long term habit of eating unbalanced and excess foods. Healthy diets often contribute to the prevention or delay of many chronic health issues. So a sustained, long term habit of eating balanced foods in moderate amounts is the key to a healthy diet contributing to wellness.

Dieting, the verb, can often be an unhealthy practice. Specific Diets, the proper noun, can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what they specify that you eat. Understanding nutrition basics and your body’s needs can help you figure out if a specific “Diet” is healthy for you. But in the end, the diet (in the nutrition sense) that you maintain over a long period of time, that is, your eating habits and the sum total of everything you put into your body is what decides whether or not you achieve your health goals in the long run. Your diet is not a quick fix. Your diet is a window to your health, and consciously or unconsciously, you create the view over time.

© 2015 Kelene Blake, All Rights Reserved