Diet: Do We Need To Rebrand What The Word Has Come To Mean?

Why Are We Saying No To Diets?

What does the word diet mean to you?

A recent survey has revealed that 44% of slimmers say they previously saw fast weight loss as a priority when choosing a diet, only 7% still feel that way in 2014, according to the survey by Slimming World.

Clearly, the word diet as we have come to know it - restriction, the subtraction of food, isolation due to being unable to eat out or drink - is falling out of favour.

About time, too.

Diet has increasingly become a byword for a state of dysfunction that we find ourselves in, where we follow regimented eating plans which inevitably fail because it becomes too hard to stick to for a number of reasons.

First, because some of us quite like the occasional pie or ice-cream cone, and - like smoking - once you've deviated from something strict and uncompromising, you might as well give in to temptation.

Second because it involves a lot of forward planning which isn't always possible depending on work commitments, and thirdly because eating to a specific diet (for example, mono meals, where you eat a bowl of only one thing such as papaya) can have a big impact on your social life because eating out then becomes a hellish minefield.

A spot test which almost invariably works, is to tell your female friends you're on a diet, and then sit back and watch the reaction.

The majority of them will veer between telling you that 'you don't need to lose weight' to trying to derail your diet by coaxing you to order the most indulgent thing at a restaurant. They aren't necessarily doing it to be bitchy: it's just a sign of what the word diet has come to mean.

So do we need a new attitude to what diet really means? Judging by some of the comments we've read on these pages, we should just live and let live. But based on what we've learned in 2013, that period of living may not be a very long time.

The hard facts are that obesity is an an epidemic in this country, and that conditions and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are preventable by putting the right types of food into our mouths.

There have been a number of surveys and studies that reveal we overeat when we go to the gym regularly to reward ourselves for our hard work, undoing all our hard work. Some of us lead extremely sedentary lives which is steadily killing us. Others are consuming far too much food labelled low-fat than if it has been full-fat.

For many of us who choose to diet for a *insert name of event here*, it carries deep-rooted associations of unpleasantness and, ultimately, inevitable failure.

Dietitian Priya Tew agrees: "The word diet has so many negative connotations that I think it would be better to move to a different word altogether. I definitely agree with encouraging people to eat healthily and to avoid restrictive and dangerous diets."

So we'd like to champion a new makeover for the word diet. To us, this comes down to a very simple principle: eating healthily and continuing to make healthy food choices for life, not just for an occasion.

But why has the word diet developed such an unsavoury association?

Celeb diets aren't without blame, but it's the responsibility of magazines in how they disseminate the information. Celebs aren't like us - they occupy a very specific body image-led job, in a small bubble of society. Yet we are told about celebs who eat baby food to lose weight, as if that would be a perfectly normal undertaking for a HR manager from Scunthorpe.

"A healthy lifestyle," says fitness and diet expert Francesca Fox of Francesca's Fit Kitchen, "is finding what works best for you not what magazines, celebrities or the latest fad diet promotes. We are all unique and we need to indenting and establish a path to health that reflects our own goals and lives."

She adds: "Giving up "dieting" is the first step to a truly happy, mind and body."

HuffPost UK blogger and dietitian Chloe Phillips says that the problem also lies in the definition of the word.

"In the Oxford Dictionary unfortunately there are two definitions. The first - 'the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats' - is of course what I refer to, but the latter sadly involving restrictive eating is generally the one that the general population relate to.

"Even the term dietitian gets a bad rep because it includes this word. Diet should be associated with anything that involves our normal or recommended way of eating for health, and anything restrictive or unsustainable needs a new word or must always have the 'fad' prefix in front of it!"

While fitness author and expert Sam Feltham doesn't feel the word needs a rebrand, he says: "You can think of the word diet as being positive or negative one depending on your way of thinking but also on your experiences.

My advice would be if you have had negative experiences with diets, try a scientifically sound diet. Then your experience will be a positive one and your own personal definition of diet will change into a more positive outlook."

Sam may be right in that for clinically obese people wanting to lose weight, the word diet is a very real, reassuring term. When we spoke to Cacia Griggs who went from size 24 to size 10 on the Cambridge Diet, a meal replacement plan was her last hope because she'd tried and failed at so many others.

However, for those of us in the middle who do want a healthier approach to eating without resorting to such extremes, it is high time we take a look at what this word actually means. And it's nothing to be scared of.