When you begin to discuss issues such as personal health, wellness, diet plans and weight loss, the important issue of semantics crops up. I am of course referring to the very definition and comprehension of the word ‘diet’. For many, a diet is quite obviously what you do when you want to lose weight. You ‘go on a diet’ or use the verb ‘to diet’ when you restrict your intake of calories. For others, it's about wellness; simply the way you lead your life. You may refer to a diet of sunshine and exercise just as readily as a diet of fruit and vegetables.
And herein lies the problem. If you begin your diet for the purposes of losing weight, it will inevitably be different from that diet you follow to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Presumably, if you continued a successful calorie restricted weight loss diet, you would eventually die of malnutrition. So if you ’go on a diet’ and successfully lose weight, are you still ‘on a diet’ after returning to your normal way of eating… whatever that may be?
Introducing a healthier way of eating
If, as I believe, your ‘diet’ refers to a healthier way of eating, then although you may go on a more extreme version of that diet to lose weight, you will need to alter your eating lifestyle for the long-term if you want to maintain that new slimmer look.
So for the purposes of this website, I will try to always refer to a diet as part of a continuing, everyday lifestyle. And when speaking specifically of weight loss, the terminology will sometimes be 'double-barrelled' but hopefully for that, all the clearer, namely a diet regime (see derivation on the right).
US guidelines 2013... showing more veg in this Harvard version, but still featuring industrial Canola oil!
No longer the way to go... The American Food Pyramid - 1992: Built on carbs.
Are you going on a diet?
One definition of the word 'diet' considers it a ‘regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight’, and that process is called in ‘going on a diet’. It inevitably means eating less food or only particular kinds of food in order to lose weight, as in ‘I have been dieting for 2 months’; or, ‘I drink diet coke wand avoid sugar’.
Yet a diet can also be defined as, ‘The food & drink you regularly consume', meaning your habitual nourishment.
Interestingly, the origin of the word diet comes from the Greek diaita which means literally, ‘manner of living’, and from diaitasthai, ‘to lead one's life’.
... or adopting a regime?
A 'regimen' on the other hand is described as a ‘plan or set of rules about food, exercise, etc., which makes someone become or stay healthy. It can be a systematic plan (as in diet, therapy or medication) designed to improve and maintain the health of a patient such as a regular course of action (as in the daily training regimen of an athlete)’.
Its origins come from the Medieval Latin regimin, meaning ‘position of authority’, direction, set of rules, and also from the Latin verb regere, meaning to steer, direct or control.
Just to complete our language education(!)…the French use the word regime when referring to a weight loss diet. Dr Pierre Lukan’s famous protein rich weight loss approach is referred to in English as the Dukan Diet Regime but in French, simply as Le régime Dukan.
The word regime has similar origins to regimen and means a system of management as in… ‘He was put on a strict exercise regime'
Whatever you call it, traditional diets represent a form of starvation. They're based on the simple idea that a few hundred calories per day will add up to several kilos of weight loss if you can stick to it for a few months or maybe a year or so.
And apart from the fact that they don't usually work (because your body works against this supposed process), they also mean that you return to your traditional eating habits once you have finished your 'diet/regime'.
An LCHF Lifestyle
Low-carb/high-fat diets are different because thay represent a lifestyle in which you decide to restrict your intake of carbohydrates - for life. It doesn't mean there will be no exceptions but it does mean that in general, you won't be eating many potatoes and bread may be something you choose for special occasions, if at all. #lchf