"Diet" Is a Four-Letter Word

I hate the word “diet.” That’s because the word diet has been twisted around to mean something you follow temporarily- you “go on a diet.” But if you “go on” a diet, you eventually have to “go off” it. And that’s why most diets are really, really bad for you.

Most diets are about eating less food or restricting you to certain kinds of food. Most of them work in the short term because if you reduce your caloric intake, your body will start to burn itself off in order to keep itself alive. Presto, you lose weight. But here’s the problem: The first thing your body does when it’s short of calories is to dump the body tissue that takes the most calories to maintain.

That’s muscle. So on a low-calorie diet, your body burns away muscle and tries to store fat. Sure, you’ll lose weight, and you’ll eventually start losing fat as well. But when you “go off” your diet, you’ll start to put weight back on. And guess what kind of weight you’ll gain? Pure fat. Because you’ve taught your body a harsh lesson: It has to be on the look-out for potential low-calorie periods in the future, so it had better store fat just in case. You’ve also used up valuable calorie-burning muscle, so you’re likely to end up fatter than you were before your diet. That’s why people who try diet after diet not only don’t lose weight but also gain it.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been going about weight loss in this way. But don’t beat yourself up: it’s not your fault. You’ve been conditioned to fight your body’s natural fat burners through diets of denial. You’ve been misled into thinking that there’s some magic bullet out there that’s going to finally give you the body you want, if only you could put up with the sacrifice and torture for a few weeks. Maybe you stepped on the scale today and were shocked to find that you’re heavier than you were two days ago despite a week of eating every conceivable variation of soy and celery.

While it is important to lose the weight, It is even more important to change the way you think about your body. You need to learn how to retrain your body to burn fat faster and more efficiently- even while you sleep- and to focus your meals around the foods that inspire your body to keep those calorie-burning fires stoked. This is not about counting calories (though you certainly can if that works for you); it’s about making your calories count.

If you follow these principles, you will definitely lose weight, and lose it fast. But you’ll lose fat, not muscle. And you will keep that weight off for life. This is because proper nutrition is about eating lots and lots of great food in smart ways. So go ahead and eat. But let’s keep that four-letter word between us, okay?