Once upon a time – going back to the 13th century, actually – the word diet meant much more than the food we consume. It derived from the Greek word diaita, which signified a way of life that comprised not just food but the entire gamut of healthy living, including exercise and other healthy habits. Fast forward to the 21st century, when the word diet is more popularly used as a verb and now typically refers more to the foods we don’t eat than those we do. How did this happen, what are its implications, and how can we change this mindset?
Unlike in our grandparents’ time, we live today in an age of excess, in which food is all around us all the time. We eat more and move less. And so we gain weight, plain and simple. To reverse the effects of weight gain, we occasionally restrict our food, until we lose some weight. We either meet goal or give up. Either way, we eventually resume our “normal” mode of eating, and the weight we lost soon returns, often in spades. And the cycle inevitably resumes, so that dieting becomes a yo-yo activity with no end in sight.