Considering Food Lifestyle Change

By Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN

Nearly 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. I think we can all agree that losing weight is a thing. What begs to be discussed, however, is why, even with so much dieting, America is the 12th most obese country in the world and when considering high-income countries, it’s number 1.

According to an NPR piece, there is a peculiar history of dieting in North America, highlighting a dysfunctional attitude towards food. Throughout history, there has been a cycle of falling prey to countless quack diet “gurus.” Each time a massive fad would take over, the diet's creator would turn into a celebrity millionaire. Time eventually reveals the sham; still, this phenomenon persists. If you haven’t read Fork the Fads: A Scientific Reality Check, I suggest you do.

Introducing “Food Lifestyle”

Transforming eating habits is undeniably challenging, but doable if you begin by reframing. And that starts with some new vernacular: At WTFork, we steer clear of using the term “diet.” While its official definition involves regular food and drink consumption, it tends to come with some serious baggage. Instead, let’s look at reframing the big “D” and using "food lifestyle" instead. 

A food lifestyle considers eating habits, cultural touches, attitudes, nutritional needs, and access. It's about making perpetual choices that keep you feeling good. And, because it’s a lifestyle, it is about the way you live, not a quick fix with a start and end date. 

Ditch dieting for good, and instead shift how you approach your edible everyday.

During my two-decades-long stint in private practice, nine out of ten clients reliably put "lose weight" at the top of their wishlist, whether they needed it or not. At WTFork Personalized Nutrition, we want to steer you away from the diet mindset and usher you towards a more sustainable approach to nourishment. It’s important to remember that losing weight is a gradual process, averaging one to two pounds per week, and requires a shift in ingrained behaviors and habits.

The Mayo Clinic's 6 Strategies for Weight Loss Success offers broad strokes suggestions for transformation. First and foremost, assess your readiness to shift and ensure that you are mentally prepared for the changes ahead. Uncover your intrinsic motivation, as it serves as a powerful driving force in sustaining long-term dietary adjustments. Set achievable goals that align with your aspirations, acknowledging the importance of realism in your approach. Embrace healthier choices (What The Fork Are You Eating is a great starting point). Add physical activity to your routine, even if it’s just walking daily. Alter your perspective on food, cultivating a mindful and balanced relationship with what you consume. Always remember that it’s small, consistent changes in everyday food choices that make the biggest impact over the long term.

Seven Practical Steps Towards Creating a Sustainable Food Lifestyle

So let’s get practical. Here are some everyday ways to help you ditch dieting for good, and instead shift how you approach what and how you eat:

  1. Keep a Food Diary (5-7 days of recording your food intake is a surefire way to see what you are really consuming)

  2. Identify Small Changes (go through your food diary and highlight areas for improvement)

  3. Map a Meal Plan (jot down revised breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and beverage choices and follow the plan for one week)

  4. Self-Check (if following this plan is helping you feel better, continue)

  5. If needed, seek the support of a dietitian nutritionist (vs. a pseudo health expert) to help guide you with additional lifestyle changes

  6. Add regular movement to your routine but be sure to find the right fit for you; if possible, seek the support of a qualified trainer to point you in the right direction (as a side note, be careful about taking dietary guidance from a trainer—this is typically not their area of expertise)

  7. If you are doing all of the above without success, seek the care of a medical doctor and have your hormones checked (oftentimes, problems with weight loss can be a result of hormone imbalances that can easily be corrected with proper supplementation and specific dietary shifts)

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