From a restrictive diet to healthy habits

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Robert Maurer
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From a restrictive diet to healthy habits

Are restrictive diets healthy? Are there other ways to lose weight? You may not know it, but making adequate changes to your daily habits can help a lot. Find out more!

Last update: June 07, 2020

You live in the perennial dilemma: to be on a diet or not? Do you feel like you've spent half your life in this state and can't feel good about yourself? You start a restrictive diet and soon after you feel overwhelmed by negative feelings, such as guilt or frustration?



We are going to give you some tools to understand what lies behind the diet culture and how to distinguish the famous miracle diets from some healthy lifestyle habits. Saying goodbye to restrictive diets and choosing to take care of yourself is the first step to breaking this vicious circle.

What is behind the diet culture?

From the etymological point of view, the meaning of the word "diet" comes from the Greek dayta and can be defined as "The set of foods that a person habitually ingests".

Over the years, this word has expanded its meaning: it has become a concept not only related to nutrition, but also to lifestyle which, at times, moves away from that of a healthy existence and takes on a negative value for physical and mental health.

It is easy to see how the word "diet" directly affects our emotional state. On a cultural level, its meaning has been built on the basis of a polarity: "the diet is prohibitive, if I am not, I eat what goes through my head".

This polarity, although it has been imposed by the media and diet culture, can negatively affect our emotions and our lives, preventing us from changing or maintaining healthy eating habits, as well as a healthy lifestyle. But why?



Taking care of yourself is more than just choosing healthy foods

Taking care of yourself does not only mean choosing healthy foods, it also implies discipline, harmony and the ability to understand the physical and emotional dimension as dependent, on a general level and specifically on eating habits.

For example, when a person is overweight and wants to lose weight, instinctively the first thing they do is limit their food intake, because he thinks smaller portions equate to reaching your goal faster. However, following a restrictive diet, in addition to being harmful to health, does not take into account important aspects, specific to the individual, such as emotions.

Several recent studies have shown that in cases of necessary weight loss, the results are better when integrating psychological elements, such as a food guideline, to the diet, compared to when working only on a restrictive diet.

Thus, in the combined programs it is observed an improvement not only in self-esteem, but also in the perception of one's own body and self-efficacy (Villaalba, 2016); levels of motivation and acceptance of change also improve.

Characteristics of the restrictive diet mentality

To put an end to this erroneous belief that reduces weight loss to simple food restriction, the first thing to know is how diet culture works, but also to know the set of negative thoughts and emotions that can arise; that is, what they are the characteristics of the diet mentality. Below, we present the most common:

  • Presents start and end date.
  • Requires to shrink, eliminate or prohibit the consumption of certain foods, which induces states of anxiety and negative feelings, such as guilt or frustration.
  • Incompatibility with social events. The human being is a social being. Any meal plan that is incompatible with social life will act as a patch and cannot go on for long.
  • Promotes rapid weight loss, which is not equivalent to body fat, but to other physical aspects, such as muscle mass.

Moreover…

  • È effective in the short term.
  • In many cases, the diet you follow has a boomerang effect.
  • Body weight is the only indicator of the progress made.
  • It causes negative feelings and low self-efficacy when you fail to achieve your goal, which is generally a certain body weight in a specific time frame.

From a restrictive diet to healthy habits

For some time now, the concept of health has no longer been associated with the absence of disease, and has taken on the significance of a state of overall well-being, both physical and psychological. Following this line, we can define a healthy habit like that behavioral pattern we make our own and which, if repeated over time, will produce a positive effect on our health.



The main characteristics that define healthy eating habits are the following:


  • They are guided by concrete objectives, which help to enhance the small successes achieved.
  • They imply gradual changes in diet and lifestyle.
  • They involve gradual weight loss, the latter being one of the consequences, and not the only goal.
  • There are no restrictions or food impositionsbut through the acquisition of adequate knowledge, common sense in the choice of food increases little by little.
  • They allow to reach profitable goals for health, which are maintained over time.
  • Levels of physical and psychological well-being increase.
  • Guilt and frustration no longer predominate.
  • They are compatible with social life.

Concluding reflections: from a restrictive diet to healthy habits

Once the main differences between the characteristics of diet culture and the change in eating habits have been reviewed, doubts about time and immediate effectiveness can easily arise.


It is important to keep in mind that changing habits takes time. Before haste takes over and you start to follow any restrictive diet again, it is good to stop and reflect on the years invested in this cycle of beginning-abandonment or end-starting again.

Is it possible to take care of ourselves by focusing only on what we see, punishing ourselves with prohibitions and endless cycles of restrictive diets, which cannot last over time and which affect our self-esteem?

The answer is clear: no, or at least not in a healthy way. So, what do you think about changing the lens? and to invest in something different, like learning to take care of ourselves without diets? 

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