Think about a diet you’ve tried. Did you like it? Was it fun? Did you feel fulfilled? Did you stick with it for more than a couple weeks or months?
If yes, you can probably ignore this. But if – like me (and most people) – you did not find joy, fulfillment, or success in a diet… read on! Because there is a better way.
It’s called *drumroll please* … Nutrition!
I know. Mind-blowing, right? But what’s the difference between a “diet” and “nutrition” anyway? The easiest way to understand it is to look at 3 things: duration, sustainability, and goals.
A diet typically has a start and end date. That might be tied to the plan itself (like a 30-day challenge), to an event (like a vacation or life event), or to an “end goal” (like a specific body composition). It’s not meant to be done forever. This usually results in a “countdown” of sorts (ie “13 more days ‘til I can eat the foods I like again”). It can also cause stress or anxiety because “messing up” on one day of the plan can “wreck” the whole thing.
Nutrition has no start or end date. Yes, there might be a point in time where you start to think about it more, and there will undoubtedly be times where you think about it less. Ultimately though, nutrition is what you put in your body on a day-to-day basis over the course of a lifetime. Your body never stops needing nutrients, so you never stop giving it what it needs. This might sound daunting at first, but it’s actually pretty liberating. Because there are thousands of days ahead of you! So you always have the flexibility to do what feels right for you at any given time.
Because it’s tied to a discrete end point, diets are typically not designed to be sustainable beyond the initial short duration. This means they’re often very restrictive or require a lot of work on the “back end” (like more preparation or unusual ingredients). It also means that when the diet is “over,” you go back to eating the way you did before you started it. This (unsurprisingly) usually results in your body going back to how it felt before you started.
Nutrition is designed for sustainability. If you’re starting to think about or address your nutrition for the first time, it will probably be challenging at the start. This is true of any habit change. The exciting part is that once your habits do change, they become second nature and super sustainable! Nutrition involves learning – about food, about your body, and about what works best for you. There is always space to try new things, to make mistakes, to find things that work better, and to grow and change over time. Once you learn the basics of what works for you, you can adapt to anything. It’s empowering, it’s flexible, and it’s fun!
Diets are usually centered around what we call “product goals.” A product goal is a distinct measurable point, and it exclusively defines success by reaching that point. Likewise, it measures failure by how far you end up from that point. While product goals feel good at the start – and are useful in some circumstances – the outcomes are much harder to control.
For example, if we’re looking at nutrition, a common goal is a target body weight. There are so many factors that contribute to body weight – nutrition, genetics, activity, stress, sleep, schedule. Many of those factors are outside your direct control, and nutrition is just one piece of a very complex puzzle. This often results in falling short of the goal, which is then declared “failure.” And failure doesn’t make anyone happy.
In contrast, nutrition is centered around “process goals.” A process goal focuses on actionable steps. So rather than focusing on a specific outcome, the focus is on steps related to the outcome. Success in a process goal is measured in growth in skills and abilities.
Nutrition-related process goals might include going to the grocery store once a week, planning meals ahead of time, or including a vegetable with every meal. These goals are adaptable to your specific life needs and circumstances. They’re meant to be small and achievable, and when repeated over the course of weeks or months, they result in long-term sustainable change. There is a much higher rate of success, with bonus positive feelings of self-efficacy.
Nutrition > Diets
Diets are restrictions you place on yourself for a discrete amount of time. They’re short-term, rigid, and generally unsustainable. They don’t leave room for going out with friends; travel and vacation; or the natural shifts in your life, body, and priorities over time.
Nutrition is the food you eat over the course of your life. It’s long-term, variable, flexible, and sustainable. Nutrition creates space for meals with friends, vacations, shifting priorities, and the natural changes that take place in your body and your life over the course of a lifetime.
When we focus on nutrition, we’re giving ourselves space to learn, change, grow, and succeed. We’re saying “no thanks” to shame and anxiety, and saying “yes please” to feeling confident in our choices and feeling good in our bodies.
Need some help? We got you! You can chat with our nutrition coach for free by clicking here to set up an appointment, or shoot an email to [email protected] with “nutrition questions” in the subject line. We’re excited to help!