Is “Diet” a Four Letter Word?

What do you think of when you hear the word “diet”?  Deprivation, hunger, tying to lose weight, struggle, forbidden foods, frustration.  Or do you think of a way of eating, a lifestyle?

I think the word has gotten a bad rap.  The associations with that word are so often negative.  And the implication is often that a diet ends when a weight goal is reached.  We are almost doomed to fail just by virtue of the label society has placed on our eating!

But the word itself can have other meanings.  Meanings that have gotten lost in the masses of us who are fixated on the scale.  The word diet can refer to a way of eating for life – a lifestyle.  Food in general.  Whatever you eat – having nothing to do with an attempt to eat less or weigh less.  My diet is made up of what I eat on a regular basis.  Coincidentally, I am trying to eat healthy foods.  But that does not have to be the case for that word to apply.  One person’s diet might indeed be junk and fast food.  Not healthy.  But a diet all the same.

So why am I writing about semantics?  Because I think many of us are focused on what appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel but is in fact just a light on the wall a short way in.  The tunnel goes on and on and on.  If we “go on a diet” we also eventually go “off” the diet.  And I want to propose to you that we instead think about how we want to eat for life.  Call it your diet.  Call it something else.

Many of you already have changed your terminology and your paradigm.  You write and talk about your “way of eating” and “lifestyle” and the like.  Certainly more positive ways to look at it and typically with a long-term connotation attached.   And I use those expressions too.  Because I do indeed believe that I am on a journey that doesn’t end and in the past all my diets clearly came to a conclusion.  (Some better than others.)  But I also think it is okay to use the word.  Diet.  Diet, diet, diet.  It doesn’t have to be a dirty word.  It can stand for something great and healthy and powerful.  My diet is simply how I choose to eat and I choose (mostly, hopefully) to eat healthy.  It’s not the word that is the problem – but potentially the intention and purpose of the person behind it.  So take that Garfield!



Filed under dieting

51 responses to “Is “Diet” a Four Letter Word?

  1. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did you read me yet??? We wrote about the same thing AND used the same pic!!!!!!! Are we on the same page or what!!! How friggin funny!!!!! And I write in advance so I had this a waiting for today. I think you said you do too! I LOVE IT!!! Let’s, the both of us, push that bad word out of people’s vocabulary!!!

  2. Agree, “lifestyle” is just giving “diet” another name. Even the word “journey” is just giving “do the right thing” another name.

    I think people who get hung up on this either need something new to talk about, or just have their priorities out of whack.

    • Karen

      Well, bear with me because I am very into semantics. Not just about this stuff either! So I am sure I will be writing more about all this word stuff.

  3. Genie@dietof51

    Diet is right up there with H-E-double-hockey-sticks for me. Although an eating-deprivation plan by any other name would stink just as much!!

    That’s my opinion, and I’m stinking, I mean “sticking”, to it!

  4. It doesn’t really matter too much to me what other people say. I let them do/say what they want. I do and say what I want. It’s awesome. And less work.

  5. I think the mental association with deprivation and a certain amount of suffering, dooms people to failure before they begin.

    Weight issues, for the vast majority of people, are always going to be down to their mindset. Relationships with food and eating habits, have more of an impact on waistlines than food itself.

    Great post 🙂

    • Karen

      I think you are very right about that last part and I have been working on a post about something very similar. But my take was it is about the eating for me and not the “weight.”

  6. I agree with you. It’s not necessary the word that needs to be reformed, it our way of defining that word. “Diet” is quick and easy to flow off the tongue, but depending on who you are talking to, or who is saying it, it takes on different meanings. It’s all about healthy lifestyle for me. 🙂

    • Karen

      And I am guilty of adding to word confusion since I have sometimes used that word to mean exactly what most people use it to mean, and sometimes not. I am trying to be more precise in my word choice now.

  7. Agree, agree, agree. “Diet” has the connotation that there’s an end, a finish, a point at where you “diet no longer.”

    Way of eating seems much more in line of how things are for the rest of my life!

  8. Diet – it’s what I eat. I agree, not a bad word, just a word. Diet might be a 4-letter word to those who think it means depriving one’s self – but to me, it means I am no longer malnourished; yep, obesity is America’s version of bad nourishment. Now I eat healthy with some caloric restrictions but that will not be forever.

  9. Amy

    I couldn’t agree more. I avoid the word diet only becasue of other’s people’s feeling about it. I also aviod it because I want to make it clear this is not a short time thing. This is my life, journey, passage.

    Heck, I think I almost eliminated the word diet from my vacab. I will try to use it again and maybe we can slowly change the negativity around the word.

    • Karen

      Yep. You probably missed my whole “journey” post. I think that is a word I am using a lot now. Maybe too much. But then again, this whole darn thing (journey, diet, lifestyle) is a bit too front and center in my mind.

  10. Ann

    Love this post. It goes back to what I’ve been homing in on lately. The challenge is how you look at things, how you feel. It’s all upstairs. A word is a word.

  11. I think diet is a four letter word because it implies deprivation for a short period of time that feels like you are about to keel over! The word has gotten a bad rep, but as you advise, it really is about eating for life. 🙂

    • Karen

      As a long-term maintainer, what do you call what you eat? Your diet? Your eating plan? Or does it never even come up any more?

      • That’s a great question. Most of the time I call it my eatng habits, food parameters or something of that ilk. But people invariably ask me what my diet is, and I never blink before answering. BTW, I think this new reply feature is really cool. 🙂

        • Karen

          Thanks for letting me know Shira. I wondered since I had not heard a peep about it and assumed it was working because I even get them if YOU reply to my comment.

  12. I embrace the word diet. To me it is what I eat – not a short term plan. When I talk about my plan, that is my weight loss strategy. But my diet is what I eat, my nutritional choices.

    Saying lifestyle includes all things related to health and more – exercise, emotional health, how you spend your time, your outlook, etc. it is too large to consider when I am just talking about my actual diet.

  13. sunnydaze

    I don’t really like the word “diet” either and chose to think of it as my new healthy lifestyle. Diet makes me think of deprevation and that it will eventually end and that the weight will come back on.

  14. lol love the comic- yes Diet is DIE with a T at the end!

    The reason I say “lifestyle change” is because when I say diet I always hear “well you can’t keep that up forever” but when I say LC people seem to nod, specially when I say my doctor recommends it for my condition.

  15. The word “diet” makes me think of my mom telling me that I really needed to do something about my weight. It makes me think of restrictions, deprivations, and carrots with celery.

    So any of the other words I routinely use help me remember that this is my choice for my way of living and I don’t have to feel deprived.

    • Karen

      I think that it is smart to think of it as a choice. Too often we (myself included) think of this as something we have to do. Or suffer through.

  16. You and I are WAY to much alike. No really. Everything that you have ever written has resonated with some part of my being. GOODNESS. Could it be? Could I really have a twin somewhere in this world?!?! I love it!!! Thanks for being you!!! By the way…hooray for feeling back on the wagon as well 🙂

  17. To me “diet” is what you eat. Just whatever is going into your body.

    “A diet” is restrictive. It’s usually pretty rediculous (super low calories or far too restrictive – and unhealthy – to be able to maintain longterm).

    In general, though, I try to avoid using the word diet because I think too many people think of it as the latter description and I don’t want to deal with people’s “But you don’t NEED to be on a diet!” etc etc.

    • Karen

      I tend to tell people I am trying to eat healthier. Since I am pretty close to my goal weight, I don’t want to deal with reactions or comments from anyone about me choosing not to eat something. Of course I tend to eat a lot more around other people:(

  18. That’s another great post! I think it’s so important to think of this as a positive thing that we’re doing instead of deprivation. This is life affirming and exciting. Yippee!

    • Karen

      Well you are putting a very positive spin on it. I admit that I did not see it that way. Sad, since I am trying to be more optimistic about life. Hmm.

  19. Oh thank goodness this is the way you think! I hate when people always think diets are deprivation! No, diets are a LIFESTYLE you choose to live. It’s an outline of what you eat on a daily basis. You can alter it in any fashion, it’s UP TO YOU!

  20. I think it was Richard Simmons that said that about the word diet. The emotional attachment we put on that word it what we need to work on changing.

    • Karen

      Richard Simmons! I saw him on TV this past year and am amazed that he is still doing his thing. With the same short shorts!

  21. This is sooo true. It’s like it’s not ‘politically correct’ to say “diet.” But when it comes right down to it, it’s diet and exercise, just like they always said.

    • Karen

      Calories in and calories out. Of course the math doesn’t seem to always work for me… but it all comes down to that, doesn’t it?

  22. I use ‘diet’ to describe my way of living. I always laugh when people ask, “Are you still on your diet?” I’m still breathing, aren’t I? Because as long as I’m drawing breath, this is “my diet.”

  23. Bravo to you and this post! This is how I feel too!

    I don’t consider myself on or off a diet. I live a healthy life style, eating healthy food. Some days are more healthy than others but I can’t go “off” my healthy life style.

    It might just be a way of thinking about it but it has kept me from doing the all or nothing thinking.

    I use to be either very rigid “on a diet” or I would “blow it”, “fall off the wagon” and eat everything in sight because tomorrow I was going on another “diet.”

    The healthy lifestyle and eating in a way to treat my body well is so much easier. I am so much happier.

    • Karen

      You made a key point there Tami. If we are on a diet, we can fall off a diet. And I know for me, that still does all too often lead to that binging all or nothing mentality and behavior.

  24. Guess I’m “weighing” in on this post a little late. Oops.

    Diet. It originally meant….whatever you eat. Now we live in a culture when diet is associated with juice fasts, jenny craig, and other “fads”.

    I think the meaning of the word has changed in the minds of most people. I hate the word diet because when most people use it….it implies following someone else’s ridiculous food rules. Lifestyle has become a nicer word for diet.

    It is really just a word, but the original meaning has been completely lost in today’s society.

    I think people should eat however is best for their body. “Diets” are forever changing and heavy laden with do’s and dont’s.

    I would love for diet to once again only mean what a particular person eats. I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen though.

    • Karen

      I think the other problem ties into what you have been writing about. The term “diet” as in weight loss is often associated with rules and it is hard for many of us to feel that restriction. I think you are smart to be finding your own way.

  25. Personally I do not like the word diet. I think it deserves the bad rap it gets since for so long it was a short term way to get to a short term destination.

    for example, Need to lose that weight for a special event? Oh, I’ll go on a DIET.

    I just can’t shake that meaning so I try not to use it.

    • Karen

      When I think of you and your blog, I never in my mind think of you as a “dieter.” First and foremost I think of you as a monster in the gym:) And I think of you as someone who is doing what it takes to be healthy, all around, eating and everything.

  26. what a great post! i totally agree: i don’t mind the word “diet” and believe it refers to one’s lifestyle. but at the same time, i don’t refer to myself as a “dieter”, i refer to myself as a “health nut”. “dieter” insinuates one needs restrictions, while a health nut chooses to eat well because that’s who she is. it’s something to be proud about. imho 🙂

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