Lifestyle Change Vs. Diet… a cheat sheet

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As we roll into the new year, you are probably being bombarded with commercials for all those “lifestyle changes”.

That’s awesome! You might be saying. No one is dieting anymore. Everyone is lifestyle changing!

Here’s the thing, remember that quote by Shakespeare about roses? It’s not the word rose that’s beautiful, a rose would be a rose whatever we called it.

And so would a diet.

The problem is that lifestyle changes are often actually just diets renamed, but guess what, they suck just as much.

So in case you’re wondering how exactly you can tell the difference here is a little cheat sheet for you.

How to tell if It’s a Diet

1. Asks you to cut out a food group, such as starchy carbohydrates

2. Focuses on avoiding hunger like it’s the devil

3. Talks about also never letting yourself get too full

4. Prescribes only X number of calories (often very low, and does not consider your age, gender, or activity level)

5. Talks about drinking water/eating vegetables/broth/something low calorie for the express reason of filling up or avoiding hunger (see #2)

6. Vilifies certain nutrients like sugar or fat (and tells you to Never Eat Them Again!)

7. Talks about “stages” or “phases” – as in cut out carbohydrates for 5 weeks then add it back.

8. Gets you to give yourself shots of hormones that mask your hunger

9. Describes you (the potential client) as “out of control around food”

10. Blames all your problems on either food, your eating or exercise habits or your weight

11. Talks in extremes; you are either dieting and healthy or not dieting and binging (Hint: these are actually different sides of the same coin)

12. Has you drink 2 shakes and eat one meal a day

13. Doesn’t ask what motivates your eating habits and how healthy habits around eating, exercising (and simply living) fit into your life

14. As continued from number nine – talks about how all your life problems will be fixed when your BMI is xyz

15. Describes itself with words like “detox” or “fast”

16. Asks (or requires) you to buy their special meal or supplement products

17. Promises amazing, unbelievable results (but has fine print saying results not typical – and yet still puts the blame on you if you don’t lose the weight/keep it off)

18. All the people in the commercial talk about their multiple failures… but THIS DIET is THE ONE and suddenly all their food issues are solved.

Or a Lifestyle Change

1. It talks about your life and what else might need to change other than your eating or exercise habits

2. Asks about how food, exercise, and health fit into your life – and how they can enhance your life.

3. Wonders if maybe your life problems are related to, well, your life and not your weight (ie working in a toxic environment that sends you right to a comforting bowl of ice cream or a calming glass of wine after work? Yeah dieting won’t fix that…)


I’m not against new years resolutions. I’m not against changing your health habits. But this year, instead of just aiming (again) to “lose those last 10lbs” consider what is really bothering you in your life… and make a lifestyle change in that area. If it turns out your health habits do really need an overhaul then that’s fine, go with it, but avoid the diets disguised as lifestyle changes if you can. And if you’re avoiding the real issues and trying to tame your life through food, then have a sit down and get honest with yourself. It’s not easy to really look at what’s bringing stress into your life, but it is the only way to truly bring permanent changes into your life.


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