Diet is a dirty word

February 26, 2012

Food, Nutrition and Diet

The very word diet can be depressing to some, as diets are associated with giving up foods that are comforting and enjoyable.

by Stacy Maxwell — 

A diet should be a lifestyle, and not a special occasion. When it comes to many diets today, the problem is that you are not eating the way you will eat for the rest of your life. Perhaps the diet requires eating foods you may not like or do not find satisfying. If you are determined enough, you may stick with the diet until you reach your goal — but what happens after that time?

The very word diet can be depressing to some, as diets are associated with giving up foods that are comforting and enjoyable. Some people even believe they cannot have fun and be social while on a diet.

Studies are finding the dangers in yo-yo dieting, which is the cycle of losing weight, gaining it back — plus a little more — then losing and gaining all over again. Such wide weight swings are stressful on the body’s systems and rarely work in achieving long-term weight reduction.

So, what does work? The answer and key to success are lifestyle strategies — choosing a healthy lifestyle over temporary diets.

• Eat real food — This would include a variety of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats. This also means avoiding processed foods and junk foods.

• Participate in moderate exercise — Keep it interesting by choosing different activities or sports most days of the week. Include friends and family for company and variety.

• Be mindful of portions — Restaurant portions are typically more than double a true serving size. Use easy references as reminders: 3 ounces of lean protein is approximately the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

• Balance your plate — Divide your plate into three sections: 50 percent is vegetables and salad; 25 percent is mixed whole grains or starch; and 25 percent is a protein source — poultry, fish, beans or soy products.

• Eat frequently — Ideally, eat three small meals and two to three snacks daily. This will help to maintain stable blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as keep your energy up for daily tasks.

• Plan ahead — The key to a healthy lifestyle is planning: Make a grocery shopping list; plan your meals (at home and out); cook ahead and freeze meals for another day. Schedule time for exercise and activity.

• Drink plenty of water — Drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Increase this amount based on your geographical location, activity level and the time of year.

• Everything in moderation, including moderation — Life is to be enjoyed, so splurge occasionally for life’s events — vacations, weddings, birthdays, parties, etc. But, make it worth it.

• Rethink food and eat mindfully — Slow down, taste your food and enjoy it. Eat when you are hungry. It seems obvious, but this is really challenging. Check in with your body: How hungry are you on a 1 to 10 scale? Stop when you are full — again, obvious but challenging. Keep checking in with your body, and you will find balance.

By adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as these, you will be able to achieve your health goals while enjoying your life — and never diet again.


Stacy Maxwell is a certified lifestyle educator and a nutrition and wellness coach at the Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine Center in central Phoenix. 602-265-1774, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2010.

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