It’s Not A Diet, it’s a Lifestyle

Heard this one before, have you?

I’ll admit I like this phrase. I used to really love it; yesssss, I would think when I read it; it is all about the lifestyle.

Sadly like many trends, it is now everywhere, and most stunningly (though not surprisingly) it is attached to a large number of what should be called diets.

A while ago I was eschewing diets with all the long term bad side effects that can happen (regaining the weight, increasing some medical problems substantial, poor quality of life, loss of connection to hunger signals, the list could go on) to a friend on facebook. She was a little surprised:

Me: love busting diet myths for people… did you know you end up eating more if you are “dieting” than if you are not?
Friend: huh, how does that happen? if you are dieting aren’t you watching what you are eating so therefore wouldn’t you be eating less?
Me: well that is the thing, how do you define dieting? and what does “watching what you eat” really mean?
Friend: i dunno eating no junk food, less fruits, more veggies and meat….less carbs
Me: and if you are going to define dieting then what is not dieting?
Friend: eating some of the other stuff occasionally once u are at the weight u want? lol i dunno

My friend’s definition of dieting is innocuous enough, and really this (somewhat vague) description might be what most people consider a diet. There are hundreds of different definitions of diet, and if so, what is the “real dieting” that leads to the studied negative (and somewhat ironic) outcomes?

Truthfully it’s the diets that cut out entire food groups. Or that have you eating very very few calories. Or has you eating all their packaged foods (as a nutritionist, all I can say is for optimal health real food is where it’s at; our body knows what real food is, it doesn’t recognize those unpronounceable words on the ingredient list either). I would go so far as to say if they are charging you money to attend their meetings/weigh in/lose weight it’s a diet.

I personally completely agree with Health At Every Size. I am glad to see that provinces in Canada, like New Brunswick and British Columbia are starting to focus on wellness rather than on weight loss being a goal of prevention initiatives. Even the Canadian Obesity Network believes that obesity management should be about attaining the Best Weight possible while living the healthiest lifestyle a person can maintain with enjoyment.

Still, wanting to lose weight is not always a bad thing, but sometimes focusing solely on the number on the scale, and focusing on it’s downward spiral at any cost is more detrimental to your health than simply allowing that number to get where it will with reasonable healthy eating and living.

I was thinking about giving a list of how to recognize if the “lifestyle” you’re looking at is actually a diet. But I figure there are a lot of those lists out there. There are many many different ways to eat healthy. And eating can change more than your weight, and it should be about more than your weight, especially if you are considering a “lifestyle change” (lifestyle does imply something beyond eating food, doesn’t it?).

I think I will draw this post to a close before it gets even more rambly than it already is.

One question I think you should ask yourself should be (before you start your next lifestyle change): if  this diet/lifestyle/health challenge/detox/cleanse didn’t promise me weight loss, would I eat like that?

Hungry For Change: Review

I recently participated in the online premiere of Hungry for Change, a documentary done mostly through interviews that looks at what may be causing obesity in North America (or the world in general). Here’s the trailer:

I can’t say there was anything new in this movie. It was the usual, too much sugar in our diet, too many processed foods.

I enjoyed hearing some of the “facts” but I wish they had given the studies that they received their information from (in one part they discuss how diet soda with caffeine + aspartame are a deadly combination that causes brain cells to die in complete euphoria) since some of it sounds interesting (and far fetched, though I have no doubts at all that sugar replacements are something we know very little about and are most likely hazardous to our health).

While I agree that we have too much added sugar in our foods, I’m tired of hearing it compared to a drug. Of course sugar uses the same pathway in our brain as heroin or cocaine; it’s the dopamine pathway, so anything that gives you pleasure or makes you happy could be doing the same thing. Here’s an interesting blog post discussing just that.

As a whole I support the idea of  whole foods and local eating as a way to live a healthier life, but I am tired of hearing the idea that if everyone bought a juicer, we could all be healthy. I do not believe that it is as simple as telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables (after all we do that a lot already). There is a lot of problems that are a little more systemic in our food system that deny in some instances access or availability of foods to areas, population or people I would love to see a film that maybe discusses the ways we can work to change our food system (though perhaps this is discussed in films such as Forks Over Knives, or Food Inc. I must admit I haven’t seen those yet).

On the other hand, I really liked that this film was not completely over the top about pushing a certain lifestyle. They discussed more whole foods (fruits + vegetables), more local foods. They didn’t vilify wheat, or meat, or even butter. I loved some of the discussion of how other areas of your life can affect what you eat. And the power of mind, the idea of visualization really interests me. I do completely support the idea of local and sustainable practice, and working to eat “a diet as a species would eat”. Some of the personal stories are really inspiring as well.

While in the end what goes in your mouth is personal choice, the road for food to get there is much more complicated than that. Ideas such as availability and access (food deserts anyone?) play a large role in health as well, and I would love to see a film discuss the food system, and it’s relation to obesity, from a corporate (and even food policy) level as well. We do have to really change what is going in our mouth, but perhaps we have to change what is being made available to go in our mouths

So have you seen the film? What were your thoughts?