Healthy Eating vs. Dieting

dietvshealthyHealthy; what does that word mean to you? We will all forever have a different idea of what healthy means and that’s okay. Our bodies are naturally different and we will determine what foods work best for us based upon our specific needs, the way we metabolize and the way we absorb nutrients.


Healthy eating is a huge contributing factor of our overall health. In fact, it is the largest contributing factor of most diseases we may develop overtime. There is a lot of confusing information out there about which foods are healthy and which foods are not. That’s a discussion for another time. However, I do want to talk about our motivation to improve our eating habits.


I notice time and time again that weight loss is a huge motivator for eating healthy. Somewhere along the lines, we have determined that healthy eating is synonymous with dieting. This needs to stop! What about disease prevention? Energy? Strong immune system? Positive outlook on life? Longevity? Properly nourishing our body?!?!?!


Don’t get me wrong, weight loss can have benefits to your body if you have specific health concerns. However, the majority of people I encounter want to lose weight for aesthetic reasons.


I am the anti-diet dietitian. And if you understand what the term “diet” really means, you would understand! Dieting does not mean healthy eating. Diets are short term solutions to lose weight; that is the main goal. Dieters restrict their calories and at times develop extreme unhealthy aversions to food. Then 2-4 weeks later, results are noticed and the dieter goes back to their original habits. This process is typically repeated multiple times with no real change in their relationship with food or how they look at their overall health.


Habit changes should be the main focus when trying to improve overall health. Whenever I speak to a client, I change the conversation from weight loss to nourishment. It is important that we understand how food really effects our bodies and our overall health. Not to be thin but to live a long and fruitful life. We can eat all day everyday but if you’re not giving your body the vital nutrients that it needs, you are depriving your body of truly good health.


What are the healthiest foods we can eat? I have asked this question to so many groups and I get the same answer: Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans/legumes….so let me ask this: why are the healthiest foods on earth always our side dishes? The way we have constructed our plate is backwards; think about that!


Every time we eat, we feed our bodies. But ask yourself, how often are you truly nourishing your body? When you sit down to a meal or snack, what else besides calories is that food giving you? Think about fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemical (nutrients from plants)—nutrients that are known to improve your health. How does your food make you feel?


When it comes down to it, living a healthy lifestyle is all encompassing; all about balance.  It’s not about short term solutions but rather lasting lifestyle changes. Habit changes are the first step towards meeting health goals and those habits should start in the kitchen.

Author:  Angela Dennison, RD, LDN