Why ‘diet’ is a four-letter word

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In search of a healthy ‘good food’ philosophy
A friend recently asked: “What’s your eating strategy?”
Funny, I hadn’t thought to put it in words. 

“Nutrient-dense and delicious!” I said.

Of course, “nutrient-dense” carries a depth of meaning: healthy soils, no pesticides, no harsh chemicals, real whole foods, ideally organic, local, sustainable, yadda yadda. “Nutrient-dense” also implies a wide variety of foods.

“Ah,” she said, “no keto or paleo?”

I laughed. “Nope. No strict keto, paleo, vegan, pescatarian, etc, etc… It’s just gotta be good.”

The exchange reminded me of when a server asks “any food allergies or sensitivities we need to know about?” I’ll gratefully – and jokingly – say: “Bad food. I’m ghastly allergic to bad food!”
Sure, an observer might swear I adhere to a certain eating style (perhaps the Mediterranean or Mind diet would come to ‘mind’)… But I don’t stress over it – beyond finding the ‘good stuff’. Finding ‘the good stuff’ can take a lot of work sometimes!
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve tried “all the things”, all the diets before! 
Remember any of these? 
Atkins diet
The Zone diet
The South Beach diet
The cabbage soup diet
The ’sugar busters’ diet
The Maker’s diet
Slim Fast
Eat-for-your-blood-type diet
The lemonade detox diet
The veggie ‘detox’ diet
Lean cuisines / Healthy Choice microwave meals
Weight watchers
Yes, at one point or another I tried each and every one of the above, and then some.  I always considered myself ‘healthy’, and some would even joke that I was “too healthy”. Oh, the irony!
At last in 2007, I discovered the strategy of eating real good food and haven’t looked back since.
That’s not to say there’s never an appropriate time for a protocol or specific ‘diet’. A temporary cleanse, low-FODMAP diet, or food-combining approach might indeed help with specific clinical needs or conditions. In these scenarios, the intent is for a short-term intervention, not a long-term strategy. That’s a separate topic altogether though – not what we’re talking here.
By and large, I personally find “diets” at best – ineffective, and at worst – detrimental.

Here’s why I think diet* is a naughty four-letter-word. 

*in the context of strict rules and restriction for weight loss
  • The psychology and mindset of restriction. Emphasizing the foods we can’t have can cause us to obsess over food and develop unhealthy attachments. We start to feel deprived as a result. This reinforces the unhealthy attachment in which eating itself is a system of punishment and reward. The result is not a healthy or positive feeling.
  • It can readily induce overeating. The restriction-mindset sets us up for overindulgence. The moment we run out of willpower, we slip, ‘go to town’. We “cheat”.
  • The shame that comes with “cheating”. We feel all-the-more guilty when we end up “cheating”, reinforcing all of the above. We move forward in shame and may take even more drastic restriction measures. Or give up altogether. (Ever heard or said, “oh I BLEW it!”?)
  • Not getting the needed wide-variety of healthy nutrients.
    Say you’re on a ‘diet’ that uses a special soup, shake, or beverage to help cut weight. Think that’s a long-term healthy solution? Think again. Or what about cutting or eliminating categories of foods, like starchy vegetables and carbs, or cutting fat to a very low, nominal percent? When we take such measures, we run the risk of not getting all the daily vitamins and minerals we need. We set ourselves up to become weaker, lose muscle, or get sick. No bueno. And keep in mind – if your body perceives itself to be ’starving’, it’ll hold on to fat and body weight for dear life – good luck with that!
I’ve known ‘low carb’ fanatics who won’t eat carrots or beets, never mind lentils or beans, all because of the carbs!
  • Or worse – actually causing gut irritation, inflammation, or illness. Many ready-to-consume diet protocol ‘foods’, shakes, supplements and the like are counterproductive when it comes to our health. Sure, they may yield short-term “weight loss”, but at what expense? Artificial sweeteners and food additives have been shown to cause endocrine disruption, metabolic impairment, gut inflammation1, and even increased risk of stroke2 Highly processed foods – even diet foods – are key culprits for triggering inflammation, illness, and worse. Sugar might be added to compensate for lower fat. More often, artificial sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives are added. And don’t get me started on the gut and health-destroyer that is high-fructose corn syrup!
At the end of the day, you must reconcile: Are you in this for short-term weight loss – or long-term health promotion?
Have you jumped off the ‘diet train’ and dropped the incessant yoyo effect?
In the coming posts, we’ll explore a healthy mindset and philosophy when it comes to “good food”.
Let’s all take a deep breath, and work to end the vicious cycle of diets and shame once and for all.


  1. Paula Neto, Heitor A et al. “Effects of Food Additives on Immune Cells As Contributors to Body Weight Gain and Immune-Mediated Metabolic Dysregulation.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 8 1478. 6 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01478
  2. Gardener, H & Elkind, M. “Artificial Sweeteners, Real Risks”. Stroke (American Heart Association) vol. 50,3 (2019). doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.119.024456 
  3. Trasande, Leonardo et al. “Food Additives and Child Health.” Pediatrics vol. 142,2 (2018): e20181410. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-1410

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