The definition of “diet”

According to Merriam-Webster, the word diet means the following:

“a) Food and drink regularly provided or consumed

b) Habitual nourishment

c) The kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason

d) A regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”

Notice how one of the definitions of the word diet means “habitual nourishment”. Now think about how often you actually hear the word diet used that way. I know that I hear it most commonly used in place of “weight loss diet” or “restricting x,y,z food to lose weight or for perceived health”. Sometimes the word isn’t used necessarily to describe what one does to lose weight, but describe all the foods that someone has decided to remove from their diet because of their views on “health”. 

However, out of all the ways the word diet is used most commonly today, my favorite definition of “diet” is from Urban Dictionary submitted by someone named Claudia: “a four-letter word that often leads to deprivation, frustration and, ultimately, failure.” I think Claudia nailed that definition.

My Urban Dictionary definition for “diet” would go something like this: “a word that people use so they can profit off of your insecurities”. 

The issues with the modern use of the word diet

When I completed a systemic literature review for my master’s program on weight-loss diets, I found that there is an awful lot of weight-loss diet based research funded directly by the companies who are selling the diets in the first place. If you are a science geek like me, then you know how big of a conflict of interest this is. It was not surprising at all when I was able to pick out all the ways they were able to make their diet product look not as terrible as it actually was by using inappropriate statistics models, glossing over their huge drop out rates, or even glossing over the fact that in order to keep people in the studies, they had to lessen food restrictions to the point where the participants were technically no longer even following their programs! 

So yeah, companies who sell “diets” to people do so for their profit margin and not for your so-called “success”.  

In fact, many studies show that weight-loss diets don’t even work long-term and aren’t sustainable! These studies are finding that most people gain back all or more of their weight within 2-5 years after dieting.1,2,3 Also, studies are showing that weight loss with subsequent weight re-gain, also called “diet cycling” or “yo-yo dieting”, place people at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. 1,2

Additionally, remember how Merriam-Webster used “habitual nourishment” to define the word diet? Think of how often the word “diet” is used today to refer to something “habitual”. In fact, “diets” are commonly quick fixes and things that promise you results within a few weeks or months. Well, guess what? Diets are supposed to be longterm and they are supposed to be habitual! Sure, someone may need to temporarily adjust their diet to account for health issues, or a change in where they live, or what they can afford. However, the basis is that diets need to be habitual meaning that they need to be sustainable. A sustainable diet is certainly not the one with a label like “30-day fix”.  

The current use of the word diet has a negative connotation

Actually, the word diet has such a negative connotation that the first principle in Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S is to reject the diet mentality. Diet mentality y’all! People are so caught up in fleeting hopes of changing the way their body looks that there is a term for it!

This is exactly why we need to take back the word diet. If we want to promote sustainable and habitual health then it’s time to free the word diet from its negative connotations and give it a more neutral meaning that can be thrown around and easily digested without all the extra baggage it currently has. 

Let’s take it back!

Here are some examples of ways that you can use the word diet the way it was meant:

“My diet provides my body with the energy it needs to be active.”

“I try to get plenty of fruits and vegetables in my diet.”

“My diet doesn’t include certain foods, because I have a food allergy.”

“I have a chronic illness, so sometimes my diet changes to prevent or heal it.”

“I have a good relationship with my diet.”

If you would like to work one-on-one with me to free yourself from diet mentality and work on taking back the word diet, then book a free discovery call with me here.