Although many healthy lifestyle programs state, ‘it’s not a diet’, the belief that being overweight is unhealthy remains.
It promises weight loss? It’s a diet.
Weight loss is frequently listed as a health benefit alongside increasing muscle mass and energy or cleansing and healing your body. The insidious message is that weight loss is a possibility on the so-named program and that weight loss is healthy.
These lifestyle programs can provide a glimmer of hope that you’ll achieve a healthy weight when your health improves. If you believe that weight loss is healthy, this logic will remain: you have not ditched the diet mentality.
At face value, aspiring for health can seem to be an improvement over adopting extreme and potentially harmful methods in the pursuit of weight loss. However, switching your goal to healthy lifestyle changes can be just as restrictive and stressful.
It comes with a list of rules? It’s a diet.
Often the eating plans or lifestyle changes that replace calorie counting involve cutting out entire food groups, requiring diligent meal planning or eating substantially different from social norms.
Not only do these lifestyle changes often come with stringent rules, but they can also provoke anxiety and be socially isolating. It’s even possible that you believe your friends are attempting to poison you with their grandmother’s fruit cake or other harmful substances such as gluten, sugar, honey or, as is the case with some popular diets, bananas.
No matter how alluring the names and the stated health benefits of many popular lifestyle programs, they are typically diets by another guise.
You really are on a diet if you either think or declare:
- ‘x’ food is better than ‘y’ food
- ‘I shouldn’t eat that’ or ‘I should eat this’
- I must avoid gluten/sugar/carbs/wheat/legumes/buffets/drinks with colleagues, etc.
- I can have cheat days
- I’m not doing it right
- I need to do my 60-minute exercise session no matter how tired I am, make that 90 minutes if I’ve eaten too much
- I need to fill up on or a piece of fruit at the start of every so that I don’t eat too much
- I shouldn’t eat after
- if it’s not /paleo/raw etc., it’s not good for me
Excerpt from the book Joyful Eating (Section: The it’s not a diet, diet).
Download the FREE Chapter: Debunk the Diet Myth
Discover the physiological and psychological reasons why diets don’t work, whether for weight loss or a wellness diet that promises ‘optimal health’.
Joyful Eating: How to Break Free of Diets and Make Peace with Your Body
How harmful are diets in disguise?
Any pursuit of the ‘perfect’ diet and obsessively following food rules can lead to feelings of immense guilt and shame, anxiety, social isolation and even malnutrition.
It is assumed that the pursuit of health and eating healthy is admirable, as we are all encouraged to do so. However, as with any diet, whether the focus is on the quality or quantity of what we eat, it can lead to emotional and physical consequences or diminish our quality of life.
Food and eating shouldn’t become the central focus of our life and a cause of distress or fear.
I talk about the harms of taking healthy eating too far in my blog, Orthorexia: How it’s possible to take healthy eating too far?