Diet is Not a 4-Letter Word

I lied–and I’m pretty good at math.  Technically yes, there are four letters…but let’s get to the heart of the matter. defines “diet” as:

1. food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health: Milk is a wholesome article of diet.

2. a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease: a diet low in sugar.

3. such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight: No pie for me, I’m on a diet.

4. the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group: The native diet consists of fish and fruit.

5. food or feed habitually eaten or provided: The rabbits were fed a diet of carrots and lettuce.

6. anything that is habitually provided or partaken of: Television has given us a steady diet of game shows and soap operas.

7. to regulate the food of, especially in order to improve the physical condition.

8. to feed.

9. to select or limit the food one eats to improve one’s physical condition or to lose weight: I’ve dieted all month and lost only one pound.

10. to eat or feed according to the requirements of a diet.

11. suitable for consumption with a weight-reduction diet: diet soft drinks.

There are 11, possibly infinite, uses of the word diet.  Honestly, most aren’t that negative.  When did the word “diet” begin to have such a negative connotation attached to it?

Diet is not a bad thing–as a noun, verb, or adjective.  It just is what it is.  It’s talking about food in relation to our consumption of it.  It drives me batty in conversation to have to choose my words carefully.  When talking about how I eat, I hate having to start out with the caveat that I’m not on a diet so the listener doesn’t tune out because they don’t want to hear about a diet plan.  Can we just knock off the negativity already?

Here’s what a typical conversation would start out…

“I’m not on a diet.  I eat any foods and all that I want to eat, but in proper portion and within reasonable healthy guidelines.  I have boundaries that I have placed in my food consumption to ensure healthy eating….” And the babbling continues on.

Here’s what I would like to say…

“My diet consists of portion controlled eating within reasonable guidelines and this is what it looks like…”  continuing on with succinct parameters that outline my healthy eating.

The problem is, in our PC culture, we don’t want to hear the word diet…it’s gotten a bad wrap.  It’s not a bad word folks!  Stop tuning people out when they use it!  When people ask what I’m doing to lose weight, generally they are genuinely interested in the answer.  If I use the word diet, I’m automatically tuned out…no one wants to hear that it’s a diet.  When I can’t use the word diet in a positive manner (ie: explaining personal food consumption as opposed to a restrictive diet plan), it makes me babble on.  I can’t get to the point.  I can’t give the honest, quick, and easy answer that people are looking for–my diet (positive connotation) is an easy concept to live with, but not if the listener tunes out because I’ve called it a diet (perceived negative connotation).

On the flipside of this, because of the often negative connotation that diet carries with it, I face statements like:

“I know you’re on a diet, so you can’t…”

“This will probably wreck your diet…”

“I thought you were on a diet…”

In conversation like this, I then have to quantify that, no, I’m not on a diet…and launch into the whole “this is what healthy eating looks like for me” spiel.  Waste. of. words.

Can we just get back to the basic premise of the word that diet is the gamut of foods we consume and embrace it for being a simple word that can be used in a large variety of ways–good, bad, or indifferent?  That would be great.  Thanks.  Rant Over.

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