How to be Mindful of What You Eat: Diets Vs. Healthy Eating

Lifestyle changes are important, but dieting is a distraction. Dieting is a technique for losing weight, and like all techniques, it has its uses, but over-used and misused, it can be harmful. Dieting relies on the idea that weight loss is simply a matter of balancing calories in and out. It’s a technique for weight loss, not a way to live.

Calories come in many varieties. Some are naturally occurring in the human body, some are produced by food, and some are consumed as liquids, like water and soda. When you are trying to lose weight, it makes sense to focus on reducing calories from food, because that’s where most of the calories go. But dieting treats calories as a fixed quantity, and treats all calories the same way. So people who go on diets tend to eat fewer high-calorie foods, like sweets and sandwiches, and more of them so-called “nutrient-dense” foods like fruits and vegetables.

This is fine in principle, but in practice it doesn’t really work. Calorie counts are not fixed, and “nutrient-dense” foods can be as caloric as high-calorie foods. If you are on a diet, you hear about people who eat a lot of cookies and lose weight.
In reality, it’s much easier to lose weight if you eat whatever you want, as long as you don’t overeat. So most people on a diet end up nibbling on carrots while eating an enormous plate of pasta.

There are two reasons dieting doesn’t work. First, because calories are not fixed, it is easy to get more calories than you need. Second, because calories are not fixed, if you eat fewer calories than you need, you lose weight.

A healthy diet is an approach that includes all aspects of nutrition and lifestyle that contribute to health. A healthy diet is based on sound nutrition science. It includes a variety of foods, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. It limits the intake of saturated fats and added sugars. It focuses on eating at regular intervals and avoids overeating. A healthy diet also includes physical activity, managing stress, and other aspects of lifestyle.

Susan Kowal
Susan Kowal is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor/advisor, and health enthusiast.