What is your definition of diet?

The word diet has so many meanings. Is it what I eat? Or perhaps it means what I don’t eat. Today I would like to give ‘diet’ a makeover and present a new definition of diet.

Salad bowl on a wooden table with spring blossom and avocado

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Is diet a dirty word?

  1. If your definition of diet has to do with restriction, guilt and/ or reward, then the answer is YES.
  2. Also if you have the sense that your diet is separate from you, that is you are following someone else’s rules or guidelines, then the answer is YES.
  3. If you think about going on a diet to achieve something e.g. weight loss or happiness, the answer is also YES.

Definitions of diet

  1. Most dictionaries provide this definition of diet: “what you eat”. Now this definition is what I would call neutral. It simply states an action that we all do most days, and that is to eat.
  2. Some definitions will add in “substances, food, that nourishes”. This additional information starts to describe the relationship between the act of eating and our health and wellbeing.
  3. The other definition, which takes a further step towards describing the influence of what we eat on health, is “restricting what we eat to achieve a health benefit e.g. weight loss or manage diabetes”. It is a shame that ‘restrict’ is used rather than ‘alter’ or ‘modify’, because I feel restrict promotes negative feelings compared to alter or modify, which are more neutral.

The original definition of diet

The word diet comes from the Greek work, diata. This meaning of diet acknowledges that all parts of our lifestyle and our relationships impact on health and wellbeing. The focus is not just on what we eat, but also on sleep, exercise, time for quiet reflection, our awareness of life—environmental, ethical, spiritual and/or religious—our work and our relationships with others. Diata presents a holistic view of life, health and happiness.

Eating for You definition of diet

Making mindful eating and lifestyle choices to experience health and happiness.

My new definition of diet embraces diata, and promotes the role of mindfulness in making personal choices. Mindfulness encourages us to live in the moment with purpose, so this definition does support eating to enjoy better health. But rather than focussing on the potential endpoint of more energy, healthier body weight or improved digestion as examples, mindfulness encourages us to focus on matching our choices with our intention in the current moment.

Mindful eating is non-judgemental, which means it encourages us to experiment and learn from our food and lifestyle choices. It also supports reviewing our intentions, because if we find ourselves eating in a way that does not support our health we are empowered—rather than feeling overwhelmed or guilt-ridden—to assess why this might be occurring.

Most importantly mindfulness is compassionate. The first person you need to extend your compassion to is yourself. This aspect of mindfulness helps you to analyse your experiences (of eating) in a neutral and constructive way. We require health of mind and body to experience happiness, and this is why compassion is fundamental.

Making mindful eating and lifestyle choices to experience health and happiness is my new definition of diet. This definition focuses on your personal requirements in a non-judgemental and compassionate way. It builds clarity and confidence in making eating and lifestyle choices that best suit you.

The Eating for You book offers further support for developing this new approach, click below

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