Nutritional Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Knowing the Difference
A diet consists of temporarily changing your eating habits to promote a certain outcome, commonly weight loss, before returning to your previous eating habits. On the other hand, a lifestyle change consists of adopting healthy overall habits that promote long-term weight control and health. In addition, diets focus on food intake, while lifestyle changes incorporate what you eat along with other factors that affect weight and health, such as physical activity. Where weight loss is concerned, a diet provides a temporary solution and singular approach to a multifaceted, long-term health issue
What is Diet?
Diet is temporary. Diets have short-term goals with a target date. The whole context of a diet is to last as long as you can until what you’re preparing for is finally over and you can get back to your normal routine.
Dieting feels more like a punishment and deprivation than rewarding. When you start to see results, you tend to go back to your old habits of not eating a well-balanced meal and regular exercise – thus, the weight comes right back on.
When a person is on a diet, they see food as a temptation that they should avoid for now because they have a goal to reach. But, once they’ve reached their goal, they eat everything they deprived themselves of. All the hard work that they’ve exerted will all be put to waste.
What is a Lifestyle Change?
Lifestyle changes are permanent. When you think long-term by changing your lifestyle, the sky isn’t your limit. As its name suggests, lifestyle changes are for life. You are not just doing it because you have a goal that needs to be accomplished right away. Your main goal is to live longer by taking care of yourself. You’re not thinking about escaping like a prisoner. You’re looking at the bigger picture and that is to grow old healthy and happy.
The results are limitless too. When you match your diet vs. lifestyle change to your positive outlook in life and behavior, you will not stress your body out way too much. Your body will heal and be healthier instead of crashing and burning constantly.
A lifestyle change can help you enjoy your food without feeling guilty because you already have alternative guilt-free foods to enjoy. (1)
Dieting: An Overview
Most traditional diets are defined by a handful of key characteristics:
• Weight is generally lost quickly in a set period of time
• Foods are categorized as “good” or “bad”
• Eating habits are often based on environmental cues
• Calorie consumption is greatly restricted
• Progress is dependent on a number on the scale
Most of us at some point or another have tried to diet for weight-loss, especially for an upcoming vacation or important event. If your diet followed some of the above characteristics, how did you feel throughout the process? Most of us will answer hungry, tired, frustrated or even discouraged. This is because diets are generally short-term and not healthy for our body.
Switching to Lifestyle Change
So if dieting may not be the answer to weight-loss, what is? The key is to think in terms of long-term lifestyle changes that you will follow for the rest of your life. It is important to remember that weight management is a lifelong journey. No matter where you are in life, you will have to work hard and stay mindful in order to manage your weight. A short-term diet will not do this for you.
What makes a lifestyle change? Behavior that you can stick to for the long haul:
• Eating healthy, nutritious and whole foods to nourish your body
• Practicing moderation, not restriction
• Exercising on a regular and consistent basis
• Relying on your body to tell you what you need
• Losing weight at a safe and healthy pace ( 1-2 lbs per week)
• Measuring progress beyond a number on the scale
Noting the Difference
When you focus on long-term lifestyle changes instead of short-term dieting, you will note a few things. First, you are being kinder to your body. You are less likely to experience extreme hunger, food deprivation, weakness, exhaustion and mental stress. Lifestyle changes teach you listen to what your body is telling you. You will also notice that even though weight-loss may be slower, it is more permanent. Research shows that short-term dieters are likely to regain most, if not all, of the weight they lost. This can be even more discouraging.
So, if you are on the journey to manage your weight through weight-loss, try to focus on the long road ahead. It may be tempting to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time, but this is bad for your body and will likely result in weight regain. Instead, aim for lifestyle changes that are focused on overall health and wellness. You will not regret it! (2)