Diets for Life

Get Off The Merry Go RoundCan you just quit? Is it possible to just get off the diet merry-go-round and stop dieting forever. I’ve seen lots of ads proclaiming that you can quit dieting forever and be the ideal weight and sized just by taking a supplement, or joining an expensive program. Is it true? Can you just quit? Well, that depends on your definition of diet.

According to Websters, diet is most commonly defined in four ways:

a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed

b : habitual nourishment

c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason

d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight

In our blog world, we mostly focus on the last one. We go on a particular regimen of eating to try and reduce our weight with the long term goal of improving our health and fitness. What if we took that definition out of our vocabularies and focused instead on the first definition. Our diet is food we regularly consume for nutrition (and sometimes fun.) How does changing our definition of diet help us in moving from the “diet mentality” to the diet mentality.

I believe it gets us off the diet merry-go-round. Instead of whirling around trying to find some perfect idea for weight loss, we can focus on a healthy diet for our bodies. We can focus on a healthy diet for our families. And we can be part of a growing grass roots movement committed to helping reduce childhood/adult obesity. By removing the last definition from our minds, we are able to learn to eat a diet that is good for us and one that we can follow for a lifetime.

There was a sweet woman I knew back in Florida who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They removed the cancer, but it quickly returned. The doctor’s couldn’t even find the source of it, but told her she only had a few months to live due to the extensive nature of it. She went through the cancer treatments and tried to prepare the best she could. Along with the medical treatments she completely changed her diet. (The first definition.) She cut out most white sugars and flours. Ate whole foods and vegetables, reduced the amount of meat she ate, and cut out the majority of processed foods from her diet. To the doctor’s amazement and her family’s joy, she seemed to get stronger rather than weaker. Year one passed, year two, year three. No one could believe it. She often told me it was her faith in God, and the change in her eating habits. She said she realized that everything she put in her mouth could help or hurt her. She told me, I’m not dieting, I’m eating a diet that’s good for me.

In the end, she survived six years longer than the doctors told her. Now I’m not saying the food made all the difference, because we will never know that. But my point is that she wasn’t eating that way to lose weight but rather to stay alive. And that’s what we need to do when we think of our diets. Our food is the fuel for our bodies. What kind of fuel are your putting in it, and is that fuel appropriate for your health in the long term?

Are you learning how to plan your diet for life, and not just diet for now. What changes have you made to get off the merry-go-round, or are you still circling one day at a time?  Diane

44 thoughts on “Diets for Life

  1. Kat says:

    I have been thinking about diet vs healthy food choices/lifestyle quite a bit lately. For me it comes down to making the right/healthy choices as much as possible… Definitely a process. I have something for you over at my blog…:-)
    .-= Kat´s last blog ..The Deborah Award and update =-.

  2. Deniz says:

    How interesting that your post echoes so closely the attitude with which I started for my weight loss journey this time around. The second blog post I ever wrote said…

    “This will not be a diet – they just don’t work for me, as the last twenty years have shown all too well. By calling something a ‘diet’ it suggests this is a temporary state and that business as usual will return at the end of the dieting period. Every time I’ve dieted and lost some weight before, this is exactly what has happened at the end of the diet and the pounds (and stones!) have just piled back on later, usually bringing their mates along too. This is re-training pure and simple, and should shape me and my habits for life – no more quick fix disasters.”

    I still hold to this view – I’m not dieting, I’m changing my life. Six stones in weight lost to date, and I do not intend to undo all that hard work.
    .-= Deniz´s last blog ..A working week’s walking =-.

  3. Hanlie says:

    Excellent post! This has been my philosophy for a long time. I have taken the focus completely off weight loss and am instead learning how to live fully, healthily and vibrantly by eating well and exercising regularly. The weight is taking care of itself, just as so many other health niggles are.
    .-= Hanlie´s last blog ..Recipe: Vegetable Paprikash =-.

  4. Laura says:

    I liked very much this post today, Diane.

    It’s something about choices and what we want to eat. I have been dieting almost all my life, but now I feel that it’s different. It’s not: “I must not eat this thing because it would have many calories.” It’s just: “I want to feel better, what can I do?”

    One week ago I was late. I wasn’t wearing with me any food, because I should be at home. But I was 2 hours from home in a station where you only can go to a bar to eat… many unhealty things! So I saw an orange juice machines, the ones which make natural orange juices. And I eat it.

    And I was thinking that half a year ago, I would have eaten a kit-kat or something similar.

    For me, this is the way: try to make good choices, but not only for a year until I find my weight, that must be for life. So, it must be something that I don’t hate, like all those previous diets. If you don’t like your diet, it can’t be for life.

  5. Mia says:

    I’d like to think that I got off that Merry-go -round but sometimes I wonder. I still have to plan my food out for the day. I still eat things that I don’t plan. I still want to eat all the cookies in the house. One thing that I realized is that this is my daily struggle. That child in me who wants to eat all the “fun” foods and skip her vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains still struggles with the adult in me that says this is what’s good for you. By just accepting that this is normal for me helps with that struggle rather than adds to it.

    Thankfully, that kid is pretty well behaved and listens to the adult!


  6. Monica says:

    It’s so hard for me to get past the diet mentality and realize I’ve got to change for life. This is a great way to look at it and I’m going to think about it that way today.

    It’s depressing to diet for life until I think about the truth of the definition. Diet is our life.

  7. Sara N. says:

    This is an awesome topic Diane. You have such a great way of putting into words what I’ve been thinking about for a long time. As I’ve embarked on this journey to get healthy I’ve had to shift my mental focus to exactly what you are talking about here. Get out of the diet mode and into the living mode.

    Great post – seriously.

  8. Melissa says:

    Great topic. I know that since beginning this journey I’ve tried to develop this approach more as I go along and the more I do it, the better I feel AND I really haven’t had to worry about gaining b/c the foods seem to rev up my metabolism
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Vacation Week =-.

  9. emmabovary says:


    I find your blog inspirational and informative. I have to comment today, however, to point out something that could be misinterpreted by readers.

    Your example of the woman who lived longer with her ovarian cancer, “perhaps” because of her change in diet, is a dangerous anecdote to share with your readers. It implies, even with your comment that “we will never know if food made the difference” [in her survival time], that food/changes in diet do help cancer patients “beat the odds”.

    THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. It is also unfair to people living with a diagnosis of cancer. Their eating habits did nothing to encourage illness. We all know people who eat poorly, drink to excess, and smoke…who are cancer free. And we all know people who eat uniquely organically, live in areas where pollution-control is strictly enforced, and exercise daily, who have been diagnosed with cancer.

    Cancer is not caused by what you eat. Cancer cannot be cured by what you eat. Cancer is brought about by cell mutation. Cell mutation is influenced by environmental factors and aging, full stop.

    Implying that people are responsible for their cancer because of what they eat,or that they can cure their cancer based on a change of diet, makes them think they are responsible for their illness. They are not. They did nothing to become ill and it is essential that they know this.

    Your posts are usually great and full of insights. But this one, based on an anecdote, is completely erroneous. I hope your readers will overlook that one part, and focus on the essential message of the post.

    • Diane says:

      I’m so sorry that you took it this way. My goodness that wasn’t my intention. My dear friend in no way caused her cancer. No one does. And her food changes made her feel as though she was doing something proactive and actively fighting her cancer in a way that made her feel empowered.

      She was a close family friend of ours and she didn’t deserve that cancer – no one does. She didn’t do anything to bring it on herself. But what she did do, and something that I will always admire, was stay postive, strong, and did things to help protect her fragile health.

      Thank you for your honesty, and I hope you know I would never imply someone got cancer from what they ate or didn’t eat.

  10. Amy says:

    I think this is a great post, and I have to disagree with the comment above. I think everything we do to and put in our bodies can have an effect on cancer, including food, and many scientific studies have shown this to be true. It is in fact dangerous to believe that it doesn’t matter what you eat, and that you have no control over your health, because then people have no motivation whatsoever to change their diets, or start exercising, both of which have been shown to improve our health in many ways, including preventing cancer and improving the prognosis for people who have already been diagnosed with it.
    Does this imply that people who get cancer are to blame for their disease? Of course not! But so many people could make huge improvements to their overall health, and long term well being, if they would just clean up their diets and start moving.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Interested? =-.

  11. Rebecca @ Durch Dick und Duenn says:

    This truly has been my biggest “battle” this time around.

    I can’t even say that it’s been hard, but I have been determined to not make changes that I won’t be able to sustain down the road. It’s really had me think about what I can’t live without and what I can live without.

    Soda was one item I’ve decided to cut out from my diet, I’ve switched from white to brown rice, but still enjoy my french baguette once a month.

    Overall, I’m quite confident to say that I am losing weight without giving up too much. Or at least that is how I feel now
    .-= Rebecca @ Durch Dick und Duenn´s last blog ..This is me =-.

  12. Pam says:

    The first thing I had to do was quit calling “it” a “diet”…its just my way of life now. Diet to me seems restricting, and it did for hubby too. By changing our lives this time, its working – I got the proof I needed when I got on the scale yesterday and reached 100 pounds lost. I may have a way to go, but I am thrilled!
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..A Celebration of 337 Days and 100 Pounds! =-.

  13. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    Food really is medicine. It’s amazing how much your body will respond when you put what it needs into it.

    Tastes change and people who say they don’t like ‘healthy’ food, don’t understand that. Your tastebuds get clogged with sodium and easily dissolved processed foods. Once you clear your palate, clean food tastes amazing.

    One thing in my job as a medical transcriptionist that I find scary is the majority of people on medications for diabetes or lipid disorders do not change their diet despite the doctor’s recommendations. I think they just want the pill to work so that they don’t have to change what they eat, but that doesn’t happen. You get some benefit from medication, but it really has to be used in conjunction with proper nutrition.
    .-= Lori (Finding Radiance)´s last blog ..Salad daze =-.

  14. julie says:

    I haven’t made any changes to my “way of eating” that I won’t be able to maintain long term. Seems I spent a lot of time when younger doing things that were unmaintainable, and when I could no longer do that, the weight piled back on. Now, I’m a huge fan of moderation, and my “diet” causes me no distress. Obviously, I’m a slightly restrained eater, as my previous diet was apparently too much, but it feels quite normal now. It’s a bit of a balancing act sometimes, and it may get interesting now that I’m entering normal range, where my weight will actually settle.
    .-= julie´s last blog ..the unpopular solution =-.

  15. Deb Willbethin says:

    This post is right where I’m thinking these days. I need to eat for heath, to fuel my body well.

    I choose not to be obsessed with food any longer. I cannot make food–either eating it, choosing it, planning it–my focus in life. Whether that focus involves healthy food or unhealthy food–I am refusing to continue treating food addictively.

    I realize I cannot ignore what I eat–and that for now, atleast, there are some foods I cannot eat to maintain ‘food sanity’–but I can determin to make right choices on a daily basis and leave it at that.

    I have officially jumped off of the food-obsessed merry-go-round!

    .-= Deb Willbethin´s last blog ..Who Says I Can’t Be Free?! =-.

  16. Leah says:

    Perfect timing, Diane. I have just started reading a book called “Intuitive Eating” in which the first step is to let go of the dieting mentality. I’m only a few chapters in, but the overall idea is to eat when your body asks for food and then give it what makes it feel best, and to see exercise as an enjoyable thing that makes you feel better.

    The only other time I lost a significant amount of weight was when I was listening to my body. It is amazing that when I give it only what it needs I feel better and I also find myself making some better choices.

    I truly think you’ve just hit the nail on the head for what we all need to learn. At least you hit it for me. It’s scary to just listen to your body, but I’m learning to do that and to get off that dieting merry go round and just continue the changes that are for life.
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Congratulations to Pam! =-.

  17. Stacy says:

    My hardest challenges with food comes when I focus on it too much. Dieting is never good for you, but changing how you eat is what will make you healthier. I do think that people these days eat WAY too much processed foods. I try to cook from scratch whenever possible and this past summer I joined an organic CSA for our vegetables. I plan to do that again next summer. When you consume so much white sugar and flours, you crave it! It is like an addiction. I have seriously thought I had a sugar addiction in the past, and during Lent this year I gave up cookies, candy, cake…all sweets. I figured if I couldn’t do it for myself, I could at least do it for Jesus. 🙂 I stuck to it and that helped me consume less, and at least KNOW that I could do it.
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..{ SIX } =-.

  18. Marcelle says:

    I’m working on my diet for life…
    Sometimes its really hard, am going through a tough week eating wise, but know its hormones…am at the age my body is going through so many changes…not that nice to be honest…it feels like all I do is fight the wanting to over eat this week.
    .-= Marcelle´s last blog ..Not In The Mood =-.

  19. Tony says:

    I believe that all diets are temporary. You diet a certain way for the way you want to look. If you are losing weight, you have one diet, if you are maintaining, you have another. if you are on vacation, you have yet another diet etc.

    Nothing is permanent.
    .-= Tony´s last blog ..Calculations =-.

  20. Karyn says:

    I too learned over the years that ‘diets’ just don’t work. I tried many, and some did work (at the time), but, I always gained the weight back plus more.

    I learned through my blog friends that eating healthy was the way to go. Clean eating. Yes, my main goal is to lose weight but, that also influences my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, or be on meds. So my eating and exercise are important aspects. I am thrilled when I do lose some weight but, I am just as thrilled when I have more energy and feel less fatigue from eating clean. As an added benefit, I have noticed that I am sick less, or for a shorter length time than I used to be.

    Great post.
    .-= Karyn´s last blog ..marathon week challenge =-.

  21. Erin says:

    My body is now used to being fed good, wholesome things now. It has changed over time, and not just with the outer appearance. Internally, my body feels different. Looking at certain dishes that I once devoured, I now cringe. But I had to start small. Cutting out soda/junk food was the first step for me. Adding more green leafy vegetables and whole grains was another. I’ve played ‘trial and error’ in finding how my body reacts to certain foods, which was pivotal in my elimination of dairy, and recently eggs/meat. My body thanks me for feeding it properly and allows me to function and perform better.

    I don’t like to use the word ‘diet’ for my lifestyle change. I prefer ‘nutrition’ and ‘lifestyle.’ To me, diets are temporary and unable to be maintained for long periods of time (like life!). Other people may benefit from looking at eating habits as a ‘diet’ for the long term. I can’t make this make sense…what I’m trying to say is that the phrase “diet and exercise” might work for some people. For me, it’s “nutrition and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.” It’s just my own preference and what works for me. My journey started with a diet, and with changes over time, it became nutrition. Now it’s part of my lifestyle. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for the ever-thought provoking posts! I look forward to them every single day! ~Erin
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Goals Review =-.

  22. Michelle@Eatingjourney says:

    Diane I think that what you’ve gotten on to about eating is so true.

    1. The fastest growing cancer is colon/bowl cancer. Why? Cause of the crap that we constantly put into your body.
    2. CrazySexyCancer is ALL about a women who had incurable liver cancer and stopped it, dead, in, it’s tracks by switching her diet to whole foods.
    3. I have totally cured my body of energy zapping, life altering allergies. I have let go of white sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, anything processed.

    If we really think about it we used to never eat all of the foods that we eat now..even fifty years ago. Meaning that the milk was raw, it was real everything. Essentially we have crated a food industry that enables the poorest of conditions for our food to be produced so that it can be cheap.

    If you’ve watched Food Inc. 1 in 3 people will have onset diabetes and 1 in 2 minorities. Now..I am SURE that it wasn’t something that they deserved…but you can’t tell me that it has NOTHING to do with food.

    Food is oil. Our bodies are engines. We have to make sure that we are putting in the correct oil for the engines.

    As far as the comment from emmabovary, I understand where she is coming from in that these people don’t deserve cancer. However, we as human beings and those raising children have the RESPONSIBILITY to be raising and feeding our youth and our families with wholesome food. It’s what were intended to eat. And you wont get as sick.

    .-= Michelle@Eatingjourney´s last blog ..Trilogy =-.

  23. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, always such great info!!!! It took me years to figure out that eating practically nothing was not the right way to lose weight or keep it off. Once I figured out how to eat healthy & how much more I could eat by doing it right BUT by knowing what is right for me, portion control & just not depriving my bod of essential vitamins, mineral & nutrients which can happen to those that eat way too few calories.

    Plus, like that lady I talked about on my blog the other day.. she just changed her focus from dieting to changing bad habits to better habits. I think changing the focus can help so many. Of course, you have to find the right focus for you!

    PS: Love your snowman at the top!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Butt Workouts; Giveaway Winners! =-.

  24. Andrea@WellnssNotes says:

    I think it is so important to always remember that what we eat affects our bodies in so many ways: our health, our emotions, our energy level. The food we choose should never be only about weight loss (if that’s our goal) but about how to best nourish our bodies. And we all are different and have to figure out what works for us. That’s why I think finding a way of eating that works for each one of us forever is so important.

  25. Susan says:

    Have you ever seen “Crazy Sexy Cancer?” Your friend’s story reminds me a lot of the woman’s story in that documentary.

    I think part of the reason why I was so successful at losing weight this time around is because I saw it as a “life long diet change” instead of a “temporary diet change” until I lost the weight. However, even then, it was still focused on foods that would progress weight loss. What really changed my perspective was training for the triathlon. Food all of a sudden became a very important source of fuel for me, and I wanted to make sure I was feeding my body the best foods I could to get the best performance possible. I’ve kinda hung on to that mentality. Although, as you know, I still let some M&Ms in there for my mental health 😉
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Peek-a-Boo! I’m Back! =-.

  26. Carla says:

    I generally don’t like to use the word “diet” because whatever changes I make, I do it for the long-haul – not temporary until I reach a goal. I rather say “way of eating” though I know its more of a mouthful than diet. No pun intended. 🙂
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..Body Image Confessions =-.

  27. mackattack says:

    This is something that changed significantly from my last time to this time. I’m now eating real food and eating what I love, in moderation. Last time it was all fake sugars and unreal stuff, this time it’s mostly real food, limited portions and deliciousness!
    .-= mackattack´s last blog ..Not what I planned =-.

  28. Gina Fit by 41, Maybe 42 says:

    I’m on the misery-go-round. I want to replace the junk with healthy choices and actually acquire a taste/pleasure for the healthy stuff and a distaste for the poisons. I know what’s good and what’s bad, but when the sugary drug is in front of me it’s like I can’t think, and I just do.
    .-= Gina Fit by 41, Maybe 42´s last blog ..Gina aka Cookie Monster =-.

  29. fittingbackin says:

    this is a wonderful post!

    I personally know I have work to do on the processed to whole, more veggies/fruits/etc. – but know that it’s something i’m working on. I feel like it’s a lifestyle change not a diet. The idea of living to eat is appealing to me, but I know sometimes life stresses come about and I need to live to eat/stress eat! So when this happens I’m trying to be prepared to have things on hand that won’t hurt me. If this makes sense at all! One thing I am excited about – healthy food tastes better every day and I’m learning more ways to cook with it!
    .-= fittingbackin´s last blog ..My 15th Month: November 2009 Monthly Assessment =-.

  30. Debby says:

    I’m on the merry go round, but I’m seat belted in. I want to be anywhere but on that horse! If it starts spinning just a tad bit faster, I just know I’m going to go flying off into the ozone!

    I know what’s good for me and that’s the only thing I should be putting into my body. It’s not what I want…simple as that. I need to keep thinking moderate amounts and not mass quantities.

    I’m tryin to learn.
    .-= Debby´s last blog ..The hardest thing in my life =-.

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