The word Diet: What it Really Means


I cringe when I hear the word “diet” being used to refer to the the way in which someone is eating.  It reminds me of a time when I counted calories, fat, and sugar intake for one or two-week periods, only to “cheat” and digress further into my unhealthy eating habits.  But many of today’s diets aren’t temporary fixes; they are built upon principles by which we, not only eat, but by which we live.  From paleos to vegans, people all around the globe are connecting through lifestyle changes that involve more than the food they consume.  For many, it has become who they are, and what they believe in.  While health may be at the forefront of many of these lifestyle changes, environmental issues, animal-cruelty, and athletic performance are key factors as well.

Every week I hear someone referring to my (vegan) lifestyle as a diet.  Living in America (home of a million quick-fix weight loss diets), this isn’t much of a surprise.  Every day, “new diets” are being used to promote “health products”.  You see, with every new diet comes a cookbook, guidebook, kitchen appliance, online subscription, training manual, or even smartphone app.  It seems America’s obesity epidemic has been propelled by the very thing that made it – Money!

Brief History

The subsidies of early agriculture, which were put in place to protect farmers from economic crisis, are still paying for farmers to produce mass amounts of corn, milk, and beef (among other products).  The small family farms that we see on the front of egg cartons, hardly exist.  They have been replaced by industrial farming, where the production of livestock, poultry, fish, and other crops has been industrialized.  Between 1995 and 2010, corn raked in $77 billion dollars from the government and the numbers are increasing.  It’s no wonder that the junk-food staple corn syrup is found in EVERYTHING.

Note: I do not blame corn syrup entirely for America’s obesity epidemic.  It’s but one of many ingredients that should be removed from the USDA’s list of safe and suitable food additives/sweeteners.

There are two definitions for the word “Diet”:

1.  The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

“a Mediterranean, vegetarian, paleo, or vegan diet”

2.  A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

“I’m going on a diet.”

The two definitions, although similar in the fact that they refer to the way people eat, mean two completely different things.  What’s really important is the way you use the word.  For example – “He’s on a diet” infers that “he” is trying to lose weight, while “He eats a diet of whole foods” assumes that “he” habitually eats this way.  But many people get this wrong because our minds have been warped by the strong message from advertisements.
Even more imperative to point out is that weight loss diets typically don’t work.  Most of them are either unsustainable or so restricting that people give up almost immediately.  Many are completely unhealthy and can cause further, and sometimes irreversible, damage to your health.  Furthermore, when participants of such diets achieve what they were striving for, they go back to their old eating habits.

The best diet is one in which you feel comfortable and allows you to flourish on a long-term basis.  If you are trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol, or improve your blood sugar level for a doctor, then by all means go for the quick fix.  There are hundreds of options: green tea, Krispy Kreme, Red Bull, baby food, or the K-E diet which suggests you can lose 20 pounds in 10 days.  Of course, I don’t advocate any of these diets as they could cause severe harm to your body; I simply listed them to illustrate my point.

Instead, I suggest that you take a look around you.  Find someone who looks happy, glowing, in shape, and physically active.  Maybe you know someone who never appears to be sick.  Ask them what they eat!  This is what I did, and I found that the healthiest people around me were eating a diet rich in plant-based foods.  I won’t push my beliefs here, but I will say that my life has never been better since making the switch to a vegan diet.  The best part is that it’s sustainable and more than enjoyable.  It has even improved areas of my life that I didn’t even know needed improving.  Plus, I haven’t had as much as a sniffle since beginning my plant-based journey.  So I must ask, what is your “diet” doing for you?

How do you feel about the word “Diet”?  Do you believe that (more often than not) it is being used improperly?

Photos courtesy:
Luigi Diamanti

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2 Responses

  1. Batyah

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