Weight Loss

Is Lifestyle Change just another Diet?

I’ve heard this infuriating statement or something similar too many times not to respond:  “I’ve tried many diets, I even tried the lifestyle change once.  Nothing works.”

I think there are a lot of people who aren’t sure what the difference is between a diet and a lifestyle change.  Eating healthier foods, eating less, counting calories, getting exercise- sounds like a diet doesn’t it?

Making a lifestyle change isn’t about the actions you take, it’s about your intentions and state of mind.  The Diet mentality says “Follow this plan to lose weight.  After you lose the weight, you can go back to your normal life.  Don’t worry if it’s painful, it’s only temporary.  You don’t have to like it, just stick with it until the weight comes off”  The Lifestyle Change mentality says “I need to change my life for good.  I need to find a way to eat and live that will work for me and won’t leave me feeling deprived and miserable but will also allow me to maintain a healthy body weight.”

I can’t tell you exactly what a Lifestyle Change looks like because by definition it must be different for each person.  We all have our habits, good and bad.  Chances are you already know what some of your bad habits are and what you should change far better than any stranger could ever tell you.

This is another thing that makes a lifestyle change different than a diet.  It cannot be a plan given to you by someone else.  It has to come from you.  You can’t just follow something by rote, you have to educate yourself and understand why it’s important to make changes.

There are a lot of people who have lost weight and are maintaining their weight yet are still stuck in the diet mentality where everything is a difficult struggle.  They are still feeling upset and deprived that they can’t eat the way they used to.  They are still holding on to the idea that eating in a way that doesn’t cause weight gain has to be strict, inflexible, and generally unpleasant.  They are addicted to the struggle.

I know I have made a true lifestyle change myself because I am happy and content with my new habits.  I don’t miss my old life one teeny tiny little bit, and there’s nothing anyone could say to convince me I would be happier if I went back to eating huge plates of nachos and getting no more activity than walking from the couch to my car to my desk.  Those things don’t make you happy.  If you’re looking for happiness and contentment in food and television, it’s time to rethink your definition of happiness and contentment!

If I posted this on a diet forum, without a doubt, I would be attacked.  There are quite a few people who take offense to the idea that one can keep weight off without it being difficult and miserable.  I understand this illusion.  It seems too good to be true to imagine that you can change your mind.  But only you can change your mind and the only way you can do it is if you acknowledge that you are in control of your own actions and reactions.  So many of us are all too willing to give up our power.  When I hear someone say “But I CAN’T have just one cookie.” it sounds absolutely ludicrous and a bit insane.  Do you mean to tell me the cookies force themselves into your mouth, one after the other, without your consent?  If you believe this, it’s no wonder you find weight maintenance miserable.

The truth is, cookies don’t make you eat them.  You choose.  If you cannot choose, you probably need a psychiatrist or maybe Over-eaters Anonymous, not an overly restrictive diet.  You can choose only when you choose to choose.  When we give away our power to food (or any other inanimate object/substance), we lose an incredibly amazing thing about ourselves: our ability to make informed, rational decisions even if they are different than what we’re used to.  Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.

Making a lifestyle change isn’t simply about losing weight but dieting is only about losing weight.  When you change your lifestyle, generally the primary concern is health and well-being, coming from a place of respect and love for yourself.  Weight loss is a pleasant side effect but it isn’t the end-all be-all of everything.  There has to be a better reason than simply wanting to lose weight.  Wanting to lose weight is pretty much universal in the US, but it’s a false goal with a false promise of reward.  We equate thinness with success and happiness, but being thin will not make you happy or successful.   If you expect it to, you’re in for a rude surprise.  This is something else I notice among some people who have lost the weight and are keeping it off by being strict and stressed about it: they are miserable.  They’re thinner, but they are terrified of gaining the weight back and they freak out at every fluctuation on the scale.  Often times they feel even worse about their bodies than they did before the weight loss.  Living life in fear and misery is no way to live.

Some people are going to read this and agree wholeheartedly.  Others won’t get it.  They will insist that they must be super strict and vigilant or all hell will break loose.  They will insist that all or nothing is the only way.  They are stuck in the Diet mentality.  It isn’t easy to escape because it is what our world presents to us.

But I am positive that for all of us, there is another way if you open your mind to it.

13 thoughts on “Is Lifestyle Change just another Diet?

  1. Bravo…Thanks K8yk, I especially love these words :”When we give away our power to food (or any other inanimate object/substance), we lose an incredibly amazing thing about ourselves: our ability to make informed, rational decisions even if they are different than what we’re used to. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right. With love, Lisa Online

  2. Hey Girl – Great Blog! How many times in life do you suppose you’ve heard the expression… “I’ve changed my mind” ? We do it all the time. And we say it all the time. Just rarely about food. Unless of course it is to say I’ve changed my mind…I’d rather have Rocky Road instead of Choc Chip Ice Cream! LOL!!! But Seriously – Changing Mindsets is where it’s at! It’s not even so much (to me) about changing my ‘lifestyle’ as it is in changing my ‘thoughts’. Once upon a time I paid no attention to what those thoughts and mindsets were producing in me on a daily basis… now I pay close attention. They affect my life daily – and the more I pay attention to them the more I affect my life daily. Keep up the great insights… love the FB page and your Blog! Much Love.

  3. This post is coming at the ideal time for me and it all makes so much SENSE! I guess my real problem is that after spending most of my 42 years either “on” or “off” some form of diet (and having dealt with an eating disordered past) HOW DO I ADJUST MY THINKING?
    I’m not expecting you to “fix” me or anything, but do you have any suggestions that worked for you in the beginning?
    I can tell myself that I am changing what I eat so that I can be healthy, be a good role model for my kids, etc –but in reality I know that losing weight is my number one goal right now.
    I really am NOT clueless. I am always reading about all kinds of health-related issues (both physical and mental). My struggle is with pushing away all my old, familiar (though ultimately unsuccessful!) methods of changing myself and putting new, effective strategies INTO ACTION.
    Any advice would be so, so appreciated!

    1. Hi Tammy,
      I think you just take it one day at a time. You know what your pitfalls in thinking are far better than I can know. Be honest and kind to yourself. If you start falling into familiar unsuccessful patterns, tell yourself “No. I am not doing that this that way.” Losing weight is a good goal. It helped me to not put a timeline on it. My initial goal was to “lose 100 pounds no matter how long it takes and keep it off for good.” You can go back and read my older posts if you want to see how I’ve changed. I didn’t just wake up one day feeling like I “got this.” It took a lot of effort over an extended period of time. You can do it!

  4. The problem for me is counting…..counting anything feels like a diet. When I have to count it makes me want to rebel!

    1. Rebelling against yourself seems a little counter productive 🙂 Remember, you don’t have to do anything. Choose to do what works for you. Some people have success without counting. I needed the counting because I was so clueless about what constituted a real portions.

  5. I am 50 years young and I do understand you! I have been working towards my lifestyle change for about a year and I am very happy! I am not skinny, I am happy, I pay my grandchildren to be my personal trainers. We laugh, sweat and have fun cooking together! They are learning and we are all changing together. We love being healthier!

    I love your blog!

  6. Love it. My post yesterday about moderation, there was something I forgot to put in, and that was about things like soda, sweets, etc. For me to have a lifestyle change, those can’t be in my body. I can’t eat/drink them. Ever. It’s not just about the fact that most have hfcs which is all bad, but also because I can’t drink one soda and be satisfied. I want another, and another. On days where I don’t drink coffee or soda, I can easily consume 5 liters of water. On days where I drink coffee or soda, I hardly ever make it through 1 liter, for the WHOLE DAY.

    It’s not about a diet. It’s not about a temporary change. I will be SO PISSED at myself if I lose 180 pounds and then ever gain it back. Sure I will fluctuate a little. But if I ever gain back, say, more than 20 of what I’ve lost, I will kick my butt. Seriously. I’m not going to work THAT hard just to throw it away by going back to old habits. It’s a lifestyle change. Permanent. F.O.R.E.V.E.R

  7. The comment about how some people insist that you have to be really strict resonated with me. I’ve been calorie counting for 6 months now (quite successfully- down 25 lbs!), and honestly, the biggest change is that I’m not allowing lax eating to undo the work I’ve always put in at the gym. So when I hit a slow patch and was trying to figure out what to change, I got into an argument with someone over my morning coffee! I have a latte almost every morning- made at home using skim or 1% milk and 40-60 cals of flavored syrup (moving down over time). I love it and since I’m not much of a milk drinker otherwise, it gives me a good amount of calcium plus a morning dose of protein. I count is as part of my breakfast, so there are no added calories and the fact that someone would take issue with this frustrated me to no end! My morning latte makes me absurdly happy and giving it up would, in essence, be embracing the diet mentality. I definitely would not have lasted this long if I didn’t allow myself to enjoy my morning espresso kick – a lifestyle change recognizes that perfection is overrated, if you don’t bend, you will surely break!

  8. I agree with you. It is not a diet, but a way of living. I have decided that next year my husband and I want to start having children, but overweight I can’t or better yet I’m afraid because of all the complications that would arise. I have made up my mind to change my life to eat healthier, and to write down everything that I stick in my mouth. It makes me more conscious of what I’m eating and my calorie consumption. I make healthier snack choices. There are a lot of fun activities I want to do, but right now because of my weight and lack of activity I can not do them. My goal is to be able to do all the fun things that come across my mind that seems like fun (Surfing, mountain biking, kayaking). Now I can barely walk half an hour and then feel exhausted. My foot has not been helping, since I get pain after I work out, and the pain stays for a few days. I know I have to go to a specialist and get it checked out. Part of it is my weight that causes it. Thanks Kate for your insight and inspiration. I always look forward to your next post.

  9. Thank you for your words of wisdom and thank you for creating this blog! I have followed you since “fatsecret” – “smash84” and your words have given me hope and the strength to keep on pushing. I have been slacking lately with everything going on in my life. It has been hard to focus on dieting and what not but that is my problem…I have been “dieting” not changing my lifestyle… I never looked at it that way until today. So thank you again…

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