Diet vs. Dieting
We all know what it means to “go on a diet.” When you are dieting (the verb) you temporarily change how you eat–sometimes in ways that are very extreme–for the purpose of losing weight or achieving another immediate goal, like “detox.”

But we also use the word diet to describe normal, everyday eating patterns such as a “healthy diet” or “vegetarian diet.”

Failing to distinguish short-term and long-term eating behaviors is a serious problem though, because in reality most of us confuse these methods and try using short-term strategies to achieve goals that can only be met with a long-term approach. And describing and correcting this fallacy is almost impossible when the terminology we use is the same for both.

Dieting Is Temporary
To be clear, there are a few cases where dieting (short-term) can be beneficial. Sometimes an athletic event or other performance requires temporary weight loss or a special training program. But if your goal is long-term health or permanent weight loss, you won’t find much success with this approach.

Sure you can lose weight if you go on a diet. In fact, you can lose weight on almost any diet (I’m still skeptical of the cookie diet, but I would not be surprised if someone has lost weight on it). What you must remember is if your changes are temporary, so will be your success.

Worse, most temporary weight loss plans encourage rapid weight loss that ultimately destroys muscle and lowers your metabolism. This makes future attempts at weight loss even more difficult and may result in a net weight gain, once you have fallen off the bandwagon. In other words, you achieve the opposite of your goal.

The Maintenance Illusion
Deep down you probably know all this. Yet still we love to rationalize this behavior by telling ourselves that once we lose the weight, then we will switch to a healthier diet. We tend to associate “healthy diets” with weight maintenance, and we keep this idea in the back of our brains for the mythical time when we finally achieve our perfect, ideal bodies. But this strategy is backwards.

To lose weight and keep it off, to prevent chronic diseases and stay fit and active into old age, we need to permanently change our daily eating habits. We must learn to make healthier choices and gradually shift our behaviors to those of a healthy, thin person.

To change our bodies we must change our habits. And habits are created in our minds. We need to stop thinking of dieting as a way to achieve permanent weight loss. Instead we need a term that emphasizes our set of personal habits we adopt for long-term good health.

This is the word I am choosing to describe the healthy habits that fit our own individual styles. One of the wonderful things about health and weight loss is that there are countless ways to get there. And what works for someone may not work for you. Healthstyle is your customized path to health that suits your personal tastes and lifestyle. Most importantly, Healthstyle emphasizes habits and long-term health, not painful diets and temporary weight loss.

By Darya Rose