The Difference between Lifestyle Changes and Dieting

Have you noticed that lifestyle change is the hot new phrase these days? You see it in magazines, on television, and in the materials for popular diets. Plastering this phrase on products and touting it over the airwaves is a great marketing tactic because science shows that long-term weight loss is the result of healthy lifestyle changes.

However, just because a diet program uses this phrase doesn't mean following the diet is equal to making a change in your overall lifestyle. Diet programs that provide you with menus you have to follow strictly often call themselves “lifestyle change programs” when in fact they're the traditional model of a diet that has been used for the last 50 years.

These diet programs haven't really changed; they've just added the phrase lifestyle change to their marketing materials.

The small percentage of people who've maintained weight loss over a several-year period have made true lifestyle changes. That's the key to success, not adherence to fad diets. However, the phrase lifestyle change has gotten so muddy lately that determining whether you're really creating lifestyle changes has become difficult. Following is a breakdown of what distinguishes true lifestyle changes from diets:

  • Lifestyle changes aren't temporary. If you follow a precise low-glycemic plan, stop for a month, go back to your old habits, and then start up again, you're not really making changes to your lifestyle.

    No, you don't have to be perfect in your efforts to follow a low-glycemic plan (that's impossible to do for long), but you do have to make the best choices from what you've picked up about your body and meal planning — each and every day.

  • Lifestyle changes are all about balance. Discovering balance is the key to making long-term changes work. Without balance, you can wind up feeling deprived and defeated, or even overwhelmed with the need to be perfect. Know that there'll be times when flexibility is the name of the game and allow yourself to indulge without losing your focus.

  • Lifestyle changes become a natural part of your routine. In the beginning, trying to lose weight requires some focus as you find ways to incorporate low-glycemic foods and cut back on the amount of overall calories you consume. Yet eventually the new actions you're taking (such as diet changes and exercise) turn into a habit.

    The most effective way to create a habit is to set goals and take action toward those goals over and over until that action feels like a normal part of your routine. Focus on the areas of your diet and exercise that can use some tuning up, decide what you're going to change, and then make that change each day.

    (Note: You may need to switch up your strategies once in a while if your current path isn't working well in your lifestyle.)

  • Lifestyle changes must be things you can do on your own. Following someone else's plan is only a temporary fix. Doing so for long would be truly difficult due to the loss of personal preference and choice. Figuring out how to plan healthy meals on your own is the more realistic option.

    When you know how to plan your meals, you can plan healthy eating anytime, anywhere, whether you're on vacation or at the office.

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