What is the difference between a diet and a food lifestyle? In short, permanence.
Typically a diet is a temporary and often extreme change in the way you eat, in an attempt to reach a specific goal or weight. However, when choosing a new eating lifestyle you are committing to a long term mindset shift surrounding the food you let into your life. The biggest question out there is what is the “best” diet (or lifestyle)? There is no shortage of options these days.
Atkins, South Beach, Keto, Intermittent fasting, Vegan, Paleo, 5:2, Zone, Vegetarian, Weight Watchers, Raw, Mediterranean, Western, Low-Fat, Dukan, Low Carb, pescatarian, Nutrisystem, Monotrophic, Cleanses…
Seriously the list goes on and on…
I’m going to let you in on a secret… There is no such thing as the perfect diet or food lifestyle.
Sorry to burst your bubble but on the bright side there is a lifestyle that works best for you!
Every person/family is going to have different needs, desires and complications so it makes no sense to compare ourselves to others. What works for you also changes over time. So a lifestyle that has worked for you for many years may not work anymore. Be flexible and reassess!
If you are looking for a change in the way you eat there are some things you need to consider before jumping into something new.
- Medical Conditions – Do you or someone in your household have a medical condition that may be affected by diet? Maybe there are restrictions or inclusions you can make to help improve their condition! Talk to your doctor about how medications may be affected by diet changes. The food we eat affects literally everything! That saying, “you are what you eat” is absolutely true. You may not realize that your body needs to consume fat in order to absorb necessary vitamins or that studies show that too much protein feeds cancer cells. Do your research and make sure you understand the specific needs of your body so you can properly accommodate those needs.
- Time Constraints – How much time do you have available to put into your diet? The fuel we put into our bodies is extremely important and I encourage you to try to eat less processed food and include more real whole foods. But with more real food, comes more time requirements. Planning, prepping and batching can all help reduce the pain associated with cooking more but you need to analyze how much time you are willing to dedicate to the lifestyle you choose. Changing your eating habits is a great idea but if it takes more time than you have available, it’s not going to stick long term.
- Favorite Preferences – Can you live without cheesecake? How about Steak? Maybe for you it’s bread? We all have favorites and they can be really important to us. My family gave up meat a year ago and honestly didn’t miss it. But I have friends and family who could never even think about giving up meat. We are all different and you need to decide what is most important to you, why it’s important to you and what life changes you are hoping to make. I suggest trying different styles too. If a certain lifestyle like vegan or keto or paleo interest you, give it a try. If you hate it then stop and try something else. Keep trying new things until you find the one that is right for you! or make up your own new food style!
- Outside Influences – It might feel like what you choose to eat is entirely up to you, but it’s not… Outside influences are everywhere! If you live alone that is one hurdle you don’t have to worry about but if you live and cook with others you will need to take that into account. Unless you plan to cook a different meal for yourself than you do the rest of your family (which is a little crazy) you will need to find some common ground. For example if you want to go vegetarian but your family “can’t” give up meat, you can make a vegetarian main dish for everyone to share and have some little carnivore bits on the side they can add to their plates. A great way to accommodate different eating styles within the same home is to have “build your own” meals. Buddha bowls, burritos, baked potato bars, individual homemade pizzas, etc. Everyone gets to add what they eat and everyone is happy! Plus it’s fun!
- Monetary Cost – Let’s face it, eating healthy will be more expensive than a grande meal at Taco Bell. I promise you it’s worth it! But just like how much time it takes, if you can’t afford the change then it won’t stick long term. If you can’t afford to switch to locally grown, organic, high end foods all at once that’s ok. Make the changes you can, that fit your preferred lifestyle. If you buy a little less fast food and a little more fresh produce, your health will already start benefiting! If you can afford it maybe try a subscription for one of those meal prep boxes to get you started. Maybe start saving for future food gadgets that will help make healthy choices easier, like a food processor or an instant pot.
Especially if you are looking to make a drastic change, I suggest you talk about it with your doctor or a nutritionist. In the end though, only you can decide what you should be eating and what is right for you and your family.
The food we choose to eat doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice. If you find you have an interest in a specific eating lifestyle but it doesn’t fit just perfectly, tweak it! It’s your life! If you decide to go vegan with a side of bacon, no judgement! You do you!