On the surface, dieting and a healthy lifestyle may look similar. Both can lead to weight loss, changes in eating patterns, and a change in activity levels. However, there are major key differences to these two when you look under the surface at the behavior, habits, and most importantly the difference in mindset. So let’s get into it.
While the behavior changes that you need to make for both may look the same, they are some key differences. Changes like cooking more at home, eating out less, getting more active, hitting the gym more, planning meals, and reducing screen time may be required. There is often a difference in intensity, urgency, and sustainability of these behavior changes.
When diets are the prime focus, there can be an increase of urgency. For example, say you want to lose 10lbs in 3 months to be beach body ready by the start of summer. This increases the intensity in which you drastically change your behavior, and therefore more often than not decreasing the sustainability of the behavior changes. Often these changes are “all or nothing”, where everything changes all at once, you burn yourself out, then you go back to living as if nothing changed. This causes the Yo-yo dieting pattern.
Now, when the focus is on the development of a healthy lifestyle, changes come slowly through a step-by-step process, whereas you learn more you change more. You try things out see if they help, reflect, and either add them into your lifestyle or move on if it didn’t have the effect you wanted. This process can mean that goals are not met quickly but the changes that come with the change in behavior are often more sustainable.
Habits are the driver of long-term success. It is the routines and daily habits that in reality lead to the long-term success of the goals you set. If you want to get in shape, you have to make it a habit to eat well and work out more. Eating only salad for a week or going to the gym once is sadly not enough. It’s the consistent and long-term habits that will lead to achieving your goals.
With diets being the focus, more often than not the behavior changes don’t become habits as they are too much too fast, leading to burnout and the mindset that you are a failure if you mess up (more on that later). Whereas, when that focus is on the development of a healthy lifestyle habits are the focus, and you slowly build routines and habits that help you reach your goal while not disrupting your life in such a way that is overwhelming.
This is the area with the biggest difference between dieting and a healthy lifestyle approach to reaching your goals. The mindset behind dieting is often an urgency to meet the goal and perfectionism. Whereas lifestyle is more so a growth mindset where gradual growth is the goal, an understanding that all perceived failures are lessons, and that you’re in it for the long haul. There is an ebb and flow of life with celebration and stressors, that healthy lifestyle changes can be flexible with. Diets rarely allow for flexibility, which can lead to the perfectionism I mentioned. Speaking as a perfectionist, this mindset can lead to a fear of failure, therefore, preventing us from even starting or getting so wrapped up in the diet rules that our social and mental health are impacted.
Of the three differences between diet and the development of a healthy lifestyle, the key is whether you are looking for long-term sustainable results or are you looking for short-term results that might not last and might burn you out in the process. Both have pros and cons. Diets can yield fast but short-term results resulting in the yo-yo dieting cycle. While developing a healthy lifestyle is a longer slower approach, creates longer-lasting results as you learn along the way and changes with you.
If you are interested in developing a healthy lifestyle and don’t know where to start, or have started on your health journey but have reached a sticking point. I’m here to help. Check the link below for a FREE 30-minute Health Assessment with me to get you started today.