The word diet seems to have been hijacked by a horde of flavor-of-the-month overnight miracle cures. You know, cures that claim some mix of obscure leafy greens from the forests of Nova Scotia, when eaten alongside fish caught in temperatures between 60-75 degrees, will result in more muscle, less fat, deeper sleep and/or better sex. And, of course, they promise that can all happen in just thirty days!
Unsurprisingly, these diets have been the subject of many a late night talk show parody. And yet, they continue to garner an enormous amount of consumer attention. Oftentimes people, who have a genuine desire to look and feel better, are willing to try whatever it takes to achieve that, no matter how bizarre it may sound. We all want to gain value out of everything that we do, and that desire is the same when it comes to our diet. We want to be at our best, but we want to do the least amount of work to get there. We quite literally want to have our cake and eat it too.
The word diet has two definitions in the dictionary, but there is unfortunately a third definition that has recently made it into our lexicon: “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” At first blush, this reads in a way where you inherently assume a diet is something that is unpleasant and meant to be endured rather than enjoyed. The idea of restricting ourselves to anything doesn’t sound particularly appealing and the goals seem narrow. Most problematically, this definition makes a diet sound like anything but what it should be: a method to feel better and live a more fulfilling life, not just to lose weight or, worse, deal with a medical condition.
The real definition of a diet that we should adhere to is the original one, which states that, “the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats.” The key word here, and the one that often gets lost when we talk about diets, is habitually. A habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Thus, what we ultimately seek to create with our diet should be a habit; something like our addiction to a celebrity gossip magazine or weekly tv show, but that is actually good for us and serves a bigger purpose. We want it to be something that is hard to give up. The right diet isn’t something that should take a significant amount of work or effort – you should look forward to your meals. If you haven’t found the diet that enables you to be excited about your next meal, then you simply haven’t found the right diet for you. It is incredibly hard to remain steadfast and committed to something you do not enjoy. It’s not impossible, but we definitely have enough challenges in our lives that there’s no reason mealtime should be one of them.