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How to Eliminate the Word “Diet” From Your Vocabulary: Tips From A Nutrition Student

We’ve all had that friend – or even been that friend – that randomly decides to go on a diet. A low-carb, high-protein, only fruit, no bagels, Special K, juicing diet to lose 20 lbs. before the end of the semester. HUH?!

Not only are many fad diets completely ridiculous, unhealthy, and highly restrictive, but they make false promises about outcomes and weight loss and could leave you malnourished and disappointed. The fact is that there is no easy way to get fit, get healthy, or lose weight besides good old healthy eating and exercise.

Here are my tips to help you eliminate the word “diet” from your vocabulary completely and to make your healthy changes into a lifestyle!

1. Set realistic goals.

Although many diets promise rapid weight loss, losing more than 1-2 pounds per week is cause for alarm. It means you’re either working out too hard or not eating enough (or both), and can see major health problems as a consequence. Think about the fact that you need a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound (that’s 500 less calories per day) in seven days. This is do-able but still difficult – and it is just to lose ONE POUND in a week. So instead of expecting to lose 10 pounds in a week like the fad diets promise, realize that 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week is a much healthier and more practical goal.

2. Don’t associate food with exercise.

Many people tend to see food as a reward and exercise as a punishment, when really they should have nothing to do with each other. Both nourish your body in different ways and are needed to keep you healthy. Whether you work out really hard one day or don’t have time to work out at all shouldn’t influence the way you eat that particular day. Binge-eating Ben & Jerry’s is not a reward for working out, nor is exercise punishment for the 6 beers followed by 2 slices of Antonio’s eaten the night before. This kind of thinking leads to thinking about food or exercise in a negative way, when really you should view both eating and exercising as positive activities.

3. Eat mindfully.

This is one of the most difficult things to conquer, and something that I struggle with myself (my sweet tooth is insatiable!). Everyone loves to mindlessly munch on a salty snack while watching TV or writing something boring for school. Food is something people look to for entertainment when they’re bored. Every once in a while it’s totally fine to snack! However, you should try to only eat when you feel hungry, which should be about every 3-5 hours.

If you find that you are hungry often, have healthy snacks between your meals: some almonds, a piece of fruit with peanut butter, raw veggies with hummus, etc. Remember that everyone is different, so do what works best for you.

4. Stop calling it a “cheat” meal.

Everybody has cravings for those not-so-healthy snacks or meals. Whether you crave pizza, ice cream (my personal fave), chicken wings, whatever it is, just eat it. It’s okay to eat things that aren’t “clean” or aren’t necessarily good for you. As long as you don’t make a habit of eating things like this it is completely fine to indulge yourself. You’re not on a diet (or at least you shouldn’t be!), so what are you “cheating” on? It’s a treat, not a cheat. Everything in moderation!

5. Make it a routine.

Planning when you go to the gym plays a major role in making it happen. If you know you go to the gym Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 and do Cardio Kickboxing at 6:30 Monday and Wednesday, you’ll find that you’ve made a habit and won’t even think twice about it. If you switch up what you do at the gym, go with friends to group fit classes, and go at different times it’ll much more interesting and you’ll be less likely to get sick of the gym or be reluctant to go.

6. It’s not always about weight loss.

Remember that your goal shouldn’t also be centered around weight loss. Eat right and exercising will make you more energized, clear your skin, tone your body, and give you many other benefits. Sometimes instead of looking to the scale to see your progress you should listen to your body – it can tell you more about how you are feeling and changing than any number on a scale can.

Take it from me: making these changes isn’t easy. Whether your goal is to lose weight or simply be a healthier version of yourself, hopefully keeping some of these things in mind can help you form a more positive relationship with the way you eat, exercise, and live your life and allow you to eliminate the word “diet” from your conversations and replace it with “healthy lifestyle.”

For additional information on healthy eating visit the UMass Wellness Center at the Rec Center, or feel free to e-mail me: brobinso@umass.edu. Happy healthy eating!

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