by Jennifer Pleimann
“It’s Not a Diet, It’s a lifestyle.”  We have heard the phrase a million times and hear fitness enthusiast use it over and over again.  I am victim to using it myself.  While I do feel this phrase holds some merit, I also feel as though it can be used and abused.  And for me, it gets personal.
The problem with the phrase lies in the word “diet*.”  I think it is safe to say when most people in our culture hear the word “diet” they automatically refer to Webster Dictionary’s second definition, “the special course of food to which one restricts oneself.”  As we all know, conventional “dieting” and feeling restricted rarely works long term so we now use the phrase, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” But what happens when your diet**, the food you habitually consume on a daily basis, is responsible for changing your lifestyle, the way in which you live?  Is our diet not a part of our lifestyle, a part of who we are?  While I would love to throw the term diet out the window because of the negative connotation automatically associated with it, I also think at some point, we have to stop running from the word and make ourselves more accountable and aware of the effects the food we consume has on our lifestyle.
Until two years ago, I had never followed a formal “diet.”  I had never counted calories, kept a food journal or followed any of the fad diets.  Growing up, I was very active, overall ate healthy and never had issues with my weight (sure I paid attention to it but never needed to lose a significant amount). My parents were always health conscious and so was I.  I enjoyed food but was not obsessed with it and even though we were limited on the amount of soda, sugary cereals and other treats allowed in our house, I didn’t consider our family to be on any kind of “diet.”  Then things started to change during college and quite drastically a year or two after.  My ‘healthy’ diet began changing my lifestyle.  Chronic fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headaches and dizzy spells (just to name a few symptoms) became an everyday occurrence for me.  I was no longer able to live the active, full of energy lifestyle I was so used to.  As I began seeking help, the food I was consuming became the number one culprit of my problems and it was then that I was forced to follow a strict “diet” for the first time ever.
Over the course of the next few months, I will share my story of how I tried every  “diet” out there recommended for individuals with food sensitivities (a dairy-free diet, a gluten-free diet, the elimination diet, the paleo diet and so on) and how I progressed from feeling deprived, restricted and everything else that goes along with “dieting” to redefining my diet and taking full responsibility for how “the food I habitually consume” affects me on a daily basis.  Food no longer makes me sick unless I choose to eat the foods I am sensitive to.
While my story may be very different than yours, you may find we have a lot in common.  Everyday I have a choice and so do you.  We can run from the word diet or we can take full responsibility of how the food we habitually consume is affecting the way in which we live.  For me, personally, it is a diet, a diet that I sometimes feel restricted by but that allows me to live the lifestyle I choose to live.
*”diet” (with quotation) refers to Webster Dictionary’s 2nd definition of diet:  a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons
**diet (no quotations) refers to Webster Dictionary’s 1st definition of diet: The kind of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats.