Cult Week: Why Dieting Isn't the Answer


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney.

In the spirit of Cult Week here on BTR, I want to take this time to discuss some of my personal views on dieting, cleanses, and Americans’ obsession with losing weight fast.

One of the most important and useful pieces of advice my parents ever gave to me is that being healthy is a lifestyle. I heard this again in college when my rowing coach said rowing is a lifestyle. What this means in relation to health is that, if we are dedicated to being healthy and thin, it’s a long-term decision.

Dieting and cleanses are often about the short-term. A six week diet or a three day cleanse may yield results, but what happens when the diet or the cleanse is over? In my experience, I often fall back into our old eating habits, which in turn causes me to regain the weight I just lost. This has proven especially true in regards to diets that require the elimination of an entire food group for an allotted period of time. Cutting out bready carbohydrates for a few months absolutely caused me to lose weight, but when I fell off the wagon I felt like I was gaining the weight I lost back even faster.

Instead of making short-term goals like this, I’ve noticed that it’s been far more effective for me to make long-term ones. It’s okay to make short-term goals within the long-term goal, like saying within my new healthy lifestyle I want to lose three pounds by this date or I want to be able to run six miles in less than an hour by this date.

The best approach for me has been to just focus on eating less unnecessary bready carbs, eating more slow release proteins, cutting out empty calories, and drinking more water. As you already know, I’m not into sodium as is, but it’s important to maintain the low sodium levels across the board. When I dine out, I ask that no salt is added to my meal. (Whatever they cook with is fine, but adding salt to the meal after it’s been cooked is common and something I can absolutely live without.)

Everyone knows that exercise is important, but a fair amount of diets don’t actually mention that we should be combining healthier eating habits with moderate cardio and weight training.

This is what my parents and former coach meant when they said it’s a lifestyle. I find that I enjoy my meals when I’m healthy just as much, if not more, than I did when I was less healthy.

It’s not difficult to be a healthy foodie, but for those of us that truly love food and live to eat, we have to remember that being healthy is a long-term dedication. I, for one, can’t skimp on the exercise because I spend so much of my time eating. So, next time you’re thinking about trying a new diet or cleanse, think about what you really want out of it. Dieting isn’t fun, but a healthy lifestyle can be.